Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Common Man Is Everywhere

I watched the 100th show of the 'R.K. Laxman's The Common Man', a one-man play based on the life and times of The Common Man; quite literally the mascot and the representative of India's middle class man. Ajit Kelkar plays the part of the common man. Through audio-visual slides that show select Laxman's cartoons of the Common Man, Kelkar chronicles the journey of Laxman right from the time he started and gave birth to the common man all the way through various socio-political changes the common man has seen.

His daily cartoons on one tiny corner on the front page were as looked after- or probably more- than the stories.  He is India's best known and widely respected cartoonist and has aptly chronicled- apart from Behram Contractor (Busybee; The Afternoon's founding editor)- the life and times of the Indian mass through changing times, political and economical, in India as seen through the eyes of the common man; his chief protagonist who is present in many moments that define India. It's political satire at its best; perhaps matching or even better than Yes, Minister; the classic British comedy. Laxman spoke through his cartoons that appeared on the front page of the TOI for years and years and Busybee wrote his legendary column 'Round and About'.

Coming back to the play, it was a good play. The performance was great and the message was as simple as Laxman's depiction of the Common Man. The idea to tickle our funny bone and it is also to provoke the society to not be mute spectators but to stand up and be heard. I loved the concept of the play, but I got this weird feeling towards the end that all the political bashing and lessons and preachings on the way India's bureaucracy works, is nothing new. Been there, done that. As glad as I was to have watched an original concept, I came out of the theater on a Saturday evening feeling like I have watched a rerun.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Courts or Governments?

Haven't you wondered sometimes that what if our Courts- the High Courts and the Supreme Court- were to rule us, instead of the Governments? Sure, Government is government, after all, but perhaps when it comes to protecting our civic rights and ensuring that the basic quality of life is not compromised, the courts have time and again did what the government ought to have done long time back. The recent Bombay High Court order to the municipal corporation to notify Shivaji Park as a 'silent' zone must have come as a welcome step to hundreds of residents of this area. Sure, a government without corruption is not much possible anywhere across the world. Even the US governments have had a fair number of critics; what the Bush administration did with Iraq can be unpardonable. But one thing you've got to admire about developed nations is that when it comes to civic issues, like infrastructure, better roads, noise pollution, your right to live and such matters, the governments ensure your voice is heard and your needs are taken care of. Somehow the corruption doesn't much impact your daily life. My uncle in US tells me that when a housing society has to come up there, the civic authorities do not give the permission to the real-estate developer unless s/he can ensure basic facilities like a seamless power and water supply. Here, we buy homes and do not get water supply for 20 years; let's not even get into frequent power (electricity) cuts. Sadly, Indian governments seem to pay more attention to the aura of 8% growth rate and forget the basic quality of life.

Over the years, Shivaji Park has been violated by various political parties who hold several rallies throughout the year and ruin the place. Putting up pandals, stages and gathering thousands of people to watch them have created unnecessary nuisance to the residents of this beautiful area, lest of all damage the ground that should have been otherwise used to play by Mumbai's youth to play cricket matches.

Shivaji Park is one of Mumbai's most beautiful places to be. If you just take a walk along the periphery of his historical park, you'll find bliss. Old people- mostly Maharashtrians- and couple (again, young and old) sit on the parapets and chat and make merry.  Young children play with one another, people take their regular walks and even an occasional photography class goes on in the evening, as the sun can be seen in the distance setting, throwing its last rays of the days on the surrounding age-old buildings, some art-deco, others just old but yet nostalgic enough to remind of the old Bombay and also the beautiful Siddhivinayak Ganesh Temple, one of Mumbai's most revered and respected places of worship, which is some distance away from Shivaji Park but whose top can easily be seen from the park. You have to sit here in the evening or just take a walk and take in the magnificent energy that can be felt all over the place in the evenings, to know what I am saying.

Thank you, the Bombay High Court :)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Motormen Strike Down

Thank God that the motormen (train drivers) strike in Mumbai is finally over. It's been a harrowing 24 hours for many Mumbaikars. Yesterday, 3 May, I left my office in Dadar for home at about 7.15 pm. Station is a stone's throw and I got a train (Churchgate-bound) in about 2-3 minutes. Unfortunately, the train chugged its way to the next station, Elphinston Road and just stopped. I waited for another 15 minutes before I lost patience and got off. Other people were also losing patience and we were all getting quite restless. It's just a horrible feeling to get stuck inside a stationary train, I can't quite explain it. I decided to walk to the main LBS road, near IndiaBulls Centre One complex if I can catch a taxi. Buses too, though there isn't a single bus from there that comes to where I live. 


I tried hailing a cab, but taxis were not stopping. That's a surprise. Whenever some public transport such as trains or BEST buses goes on a strike, taxis usually make a killing. Most of them refuse to ply by meter and fleece passengers by charging way above normal rates. I saw one taxi doing that yesterday, but many taxis were running empty and just refused to run. I guess most of them must have got intimated by the heavy traffic. There was a sea of people on the street and it was completely chaotic. Whenever any taxi stopped, hordes of people flocked towards it, like a bunch of homeless people in flood-hit areas gushing towards food packets being air-dropped. The taxi driver would listen to each of them- where each person would like to- do a quick mental calculation, faster than the speed of light (or is it sound?), then bless one of us with the sacred place in his esteemed chariot. Mostly, it's a khatara taxi, but atleast yesterday it seemed like a luxurious chariot to those fortunate few who could successfully hail one. 


Anyways, I could not hail one. Atleast from that area. So I decided to walk. And before I knew it, I was walking on the road that connects Elphinston and Worli. After about half an hour of walking, I came to Worli, Doordarshan tower. There weren't any empty taxis going past by, so I decided to wait at the bus stop. Thank God a bus came after sometime and i hopped in. The bus was not the one that would go to my home, but atleast it would drop me in my neighboring locality. Some 2 hrs, 15 mins after I started from office, I came home. On a normal day, it takes me 45 minutes. 

DakshinaChitra @ Chennai

An ordinary work meeting with an acquantaince in Chennai led to a beautiful discovery, called DakshinaChitra. DakshinaChitra, which literal...