Monday, April 02, 2007

Bombay trilogy !!

I have finished reading Suketu Bhatt's Maximum City. In some sense the trilogy is complete. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra and now Maximum City. Its all about one thing and one thing only Bombay or Mumbai.

All authors give us a glimpse of this Country within a City . A nation state where despite all its problems people from every corner of India come in search of fulfilling their dreams.

Shantaram is the author's story. He is escaped convict from Australia . Here we learn about Slums , people living in it, their dreams and aspirations. We understand how foreign national people here survive forever. We learn all the illegal business conducted by the mafia.

Sacred Games is a fictional story about a Mumbai cop and a underworld mafia don. We see Mumbai through the eyes of these and more characters. We get the glimpse of the underworld , wars among various companies. How the cops are all integrated into this. How each cop works for either of these companies.

Maximum City is a first person, non fiction story where the author meets all sorts of people . People involved in killing muslims in the riots, people who are shooters for the mafia, gangsters, bar girls, bollywood people,politicians, business men et al.

I have learnt that there are two cities Mumbai for the Maharashtraians , for Shiv Sena and Bombay(Bambayie) for the cosmopolitan,the “other state” people doing business; how these two worlds clash and it can get bloody at times. But when it comes to Business , it doesnot matter whether you are in Mumbai or Bombay, whether you are a Hindu , Muslim , Sikh or Christian. Its just business as usual.

I learn that , there is nothing right or wrong. We all live in the grey area . Thats what Bombay teaches .

Bangalore !!


Its almost three weeks now , that I am in Bangalore now. Its obvious that a lot of people will ask me how do I feel ? How is Bangalore? . So here goes......

Bangalore ,by and large is like Pune's elder brother . Its bigger in terms of pollution ,population , traffic and sizes of malls compared to Pune. Rickshawallas equally loot you here. Two things worth contrasting here are the roads and the traffic sense . Almost all the roads here are in good condition if not the best . The traffic sense among the people is much more better. Its much more civilized than Pune. Very rarely will you find a Schumacher here driving at the speed of light cutting across traffic as opposed to Pune where every second one is a Schumacher.Traffic in the evening is bad as expected. Also there are many one ways and no U turns allowed here , that one wrong in the evening and you are stuck forever.
One of the most peculiar things about Bangalore is the names of restaurants . All of them end with a Sagar. Shrindhi Sagar , Shanti Sagar , Shree Sagar. Every area has its own “New Shanti Sagar” . I am not sure whether its a franchisee or not. Also , here one will find a juice centre in every corner of the street. Most of juice centres have only two names Shree Ganesh or only Ganesh Juice Center. Whatever be the name , the food and drinks that you get are delicious and cheap.
So for people with a large appetitie and a light pocket , hoarding with these names are a sight for sore eyes. As it is with every big city , you will find KFCs,Pizza Huts, in every area.
Bangalore being the home town of Cafe Coffee Day. Almost Every major road will have at least two. No room for a Barista here.
Bangalore has shortage of multiplexes. Only three to cater to this Mammoth population. Although the ticket rates are high (150 and above), the movie viewing experience is great. The seats have head support and lot of leg space. The screens are big. You feel “paisa vasool” especially after going to E-Square in Pune.
Pubs/Discs here dont have cover charges. Yes you read right no cover charges and the ambience is awesome. We had been to “Legions Of Rock” an amazing pub in Koramangala . It has three floors. All with really screen , constantly churning out videos of rock concerts complemented with an equally mind blowing audio system. The food was also good.
Here again you bound to find a lot of “Mall Rats” . Mall Rats are people like you and me who have nothing better to do on weekend and neither have the money to blow , so we just roam around in the Air Conditioned Malls enjoying the AC, enjoying the crowd. This species consist of people like software profs, BPO employees , college students etc. A Saturday evening in Forum Mall will be like 9am at Dadar station. Same is the story about of Brigade Road or Commercial street.

Language can be barrier at times. Many lower class people dont understand Hindi/English . But keywords are sufficient. Learning Kannada is one uphill task.
“Bangalore is a happening City !” , one friend in Pune told me once. I saw the papers and said “Yeah!” . Lots of bandhs , torching of buses etc over issues like Cauvery River dispute Karnatak has with Tamil Nadu and Belgaum issue with Maharashtra.

I am bound to miss Pune. I miss the mountains being so close to my house. I miss “pohe” which you get only in Maharashtra. I will miss the potholes too......happily.

So now I hum the song “ Here I am , This is me ,theres nowhere else on Earth I rather be !”