Days of our Lives!

January 17, 2008

Salaam Bombay

Filed under: Travels — Santhosh @ 11:59 PM

My first look at the actual capital of India (Delhi has always seemed like a Manmohan-size figurehead to me) was the Santa Cruz Domestic Airport from the air. Having been used to the Madurai airport where the Bangalore-Madurai flight, an ATR that looks like a KPN volvo with wings, lands right next to the car parking, the Mumbai airport really looked like the ones in books. Huge aeroplanes (why doesn’t anyone use this word any more?) lined up for take off row after row after row, baggage carriers ferrying all over the turf, a pair of flights taxiing for take-off on two parallel strips. But otherwise it was all the same : the checked-in luggage was late, the restrooms were awful, the administration was pathetic, and no airhostess looked at me.

The autokaarans are a dream though; they even ask you to get in before asking where you want to go. For example, there was this guy who drove me from the airport to Venks’ place. All I had to do was get into the auto, tell him the destination and off we went with the meter chugging along. We even had a wonderful conversation in Hindi where he kept talking about the finer points of East Andheri traffic and I kept encouraging him with “Haan, Haan” and “Theek Hai“! Such fun you know! After a drive of about 30 mins the auto meter showed 6.80 at the destination. Yes sir, I swear. However, when I asked him “Kitna rupiah bhaiyya“, he gave me a number in Hindi that was out of syllabus (I can count only till 10). That day I also learnt that we have a Saat(7) and a Saath(60) in our Hindi number system. In the end we went to our basics with “chae dhus aur saat rupiah“(67) which was pretty much what Venks had told me the auto fare would be. And since I’m such a good-natured guy by heart and because the autokaaran had the body of a Vijayakanth padam northie terrorist, I didn’t want to get into the funda these Mumbaiwallas have worked out, and handed over a 100 rupee note. The autokaaran suddenly got out of the auto and just when I thought I was going to become part of the Mumbai landscape, he went and got me the change. Yeah, HE, the autokaaran, went and got the change for ME, the passenger. For which I, with all of my high-school 3rd-language Hindi, told him a “Dhanniyawaadh”. I think he was impressed. He even gave this rather strange look at me as he drove away.

Two years and a bit in Bangalore have also made sure I’ve lost touch with reality. Nair came over on Saturday night around 10.30 and when it was suggested we go out a bit, I came out with the now immortal line – “But it’s already 11 now”. We went to this Aura place that had all these old audio cassette covers in mounted frames in the name of ambience. Well, to each his own and all that; but I still think that’s a pretty dull bit of imagination. The things that one can do in a pub in general are :
1) Drink
2) Talk
3) Listen
Even if I don’t drink, I’ve been in enough pubs as one of the better drinking-companions around. There always is something soothing about the atmosphere with the dim lights and good music, there is always Pepsi and people can just have a good talk. Not to mention all the OC side-dish I can eat. But here, when I asked for a Pepsi, I was given a look that we usually reserve for a guy wearing pink undies. See, in Mumbai you don’t drink Pepsi. You drink Red Bull (for the drinkers, it’s the Taurine liquid even for the mixing).
And then a couple of Nair’s friends joined us and suddenly the good conversation that was supposed to happen was happening in that Hindi language. It was like a proper engilees padam watching session while I tried to be intensely interested in the TV where a guy with a beard and cap was hollering away. To add to all this, there was a group of 3 guys nearby who were slowly getting themselves into a major high. And suddenly I discovered what Mumbaikars do when they’re drunk – they stand up and start dancing. They were at it non-stop for the 3 plus hours that we were there and one of them even accommodated me by shoving his elbow right up my nose every few minutes.

The Monday night was also spent with me and Venks in a wonderful restaurant by the Juhu beach catching up. It really does make a difference to know that you don’t need to hurry through your food with the clock nearing 11.

For the first time though, I understood what the papers mean by there’s no space in Mumbai. I predict that in the next 5 years people will be living in their new Tata Nanos with sleeping bags. However, I couldn’t quite see the famous ultra-fast Mumbai life. From the tales that we’ve read I half-expected the roads to be smoking with bicycles reaching 100kmphs and 90 year old gujju aunties footboarding. If I was blindfolded in Bangalore and set loose in Mumbai, I would still have thought it was Bangalore. The burgeoning economic and IT booms have made sure the cityscapes all over the country have become the same.
However, the Mumbaikars and the Mumbai Cars have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about when they tell their traffic is bad – 11kms took me 20-25 mins at 9am and 5.30pm. Now try that even on the dedicated lanes of the outer ring road here. True, there are way too many cars in Mumbai (almost as many as the number of stray dogs in Bangalore), but I personally found the traffic to be pretty organised.

More on why I came to be in Mumbai for the weekend in the next post.



  1. Bombay’s traffic is defnitely more desciplined than Bangalore’s. I keep telling this to my cousins who have never had a taste of B’lore and who think Bombay Traffic sucks. To me it rocks.. After B’lore everything does rock, doesn’t it.Btw, did u try the VadaPav and the yummy pani poori’s of Bombay?

    Comment by Bhavesh — January 20, 2008 @ 4:59 AM | Reply

  2. Ha ha ha ..i cud nt stop laughing after reading ur “saat,saath,dhanyavadh,kithan ru….”:-):-):-)…Dude u left ur fav”kya bath hai?..:-)….n ur “choli kae peechae….:-):-)u cud hav tried all these with tat autowalla bhaiya na?BTW….ur bhaiya wud hav told u “peinsat”(65)..and FYI…60 is saat and 7 is sath …..Kya hindi malum nahi?ohh…Thoda thoda malum..:-):-):-):-):-)Reminds me tat” Ek gaav mein ek kisan rahthatha..raghu thatha…”Thanks for making me laugh….

    Comment by Anonymous — January 21, 2008 @ 6:19 AM | Reply

  3. dommy!!! “Saat(7) and a Saath(60) ” its the other way around….Good stuff machha..brought the curve on my face..

    Comment by : --> Mind it or not this is by Shishir — January 21, 2008 @ 7:18 PM | Reply

  4. @bhaveshYeah, definitely. But for the climate, nothing beats Bangalore.And no, couldn’t find the time for the said pani poori’s.@anonahem ahem@shishirWell, yeah. Now, just wondering if that autowalla has a blog. Just imagine what he’d have written about that fare who got in….

    Comment by santhosh — January 22, 2008 @ 1:04 AM | Reply

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