Wednesday, April 30, 2008
By seven, the lights and sounds permeated my sleep at Sanjeev's and half an hour later I was up and showered and toileted and then there was chapatis and mango chutney for breakfast plus a digestive lassi prepared by Geeta.
At 8:30 we left Sai Baba Nagar on Sanjeev's car and drove all the way to Andheri through side lanes. On the way, Sanjeev asked "Howz the traffic in Portugal?". I was caught off my tracks because I couldn't start to explain the diffrences between normal traffic and the chaotic scene which I had been enjoying from our AC cubicle. Hesitantly, I started by saying there were usually no people on the road. On this, Sanjeev's wife remarked in Hindi something to the likes of "There are no people over there only because of their loss of population". To which I answered, well, there are people but they tend to stick to the sidewalks, wherever they are available.
From Andheri, I took a rather peacefull train to VT i.e. CST, Sanjeev being an expert in finding less crowded ways to reach Bombay. In the reservation office of VT i.e. CST, everything went so smooth thanks to my Portuguese passport. I was in and out in 10 minutes and no queues and a ticket for a train that was long over-booked - but still had a couple of tourist quota berths.
Then, I made my way to the Sassanian coffee place to meet Dr. Rao, specialist in the history of Bombay police and himself an ex-inspector. An hour past and I was in a tiny cybercafe in the by-lanes of Marine Lines, writing a letter to the Home Secretary of Maharashtra asking for permission to visit Thane jail.
With this letter and my OCI passport, I made it inside the Secretariat building and after 45 minutes of ping-pong between offices on the 5th and 6th floor, I was talking to Madam Anni, principal secretary of prisons.
I left in possession of a "I'll see what I can do and we'll get back to you".
Rambling aimlessly through the area aroun Nariman point and Dhobi Talao for about an hour, I remembered I could kill some time at the Heras Institute - being too early to return to Sai Baba Nagar. But somehow, the Xavier's college iluded me. So I went back to walking around without a direction. Then, after 10 minutes of this, Xavier's presented itself, but the priests there being busy, no work could be done.
So I had some Bhaji pao (pao not pao) and a chikoo shake at a pure veg place and started to the Gateway.
The beer licence was down at the Strand's terrace restaurant. Still, this being one of the best and most affordable views of Bombay harbour, I enjoyed my sweet lime sodas untill 8 p.m.
From Churchgate was the usuall crunch up to Borivili.
Coming back to Sanjeev's, I reflected on the various thresholds of the day.
No kidding, Dr. Rao (29th April)
Today, Dr. Rao told me quite emphatically that riding the local trains without a ticket was an insult to the Republic of India and that he had witnessed commuters unleaching violent blows on ticketless travelers caught by the police. Now, him being an ex-commisioner from the railway police and all, this was nothing short than a curse. He went on lecturing me for a good half-hour. At the end, I told him, "Please, Dr. Rao, I promise I'll always buy a ticket from now on...
Permission (30th April)
Today, I got permission from the powers that be to visit Thane central prison. I pulled this one out on my own...thanks to nothing but my OCI passport and a whif of decadent personal charm.
Now, the Story (2nd May)
Yes, you're right again. The main reason for visiting Thane jail was to have a story to tell. But, somehow, in my view, my visit also gave the place itself another story to tell. Call me self-conceited, but I believe Thane jail became richer with my visit just as I became richer by going to Thane Jail. Our stories have thus intermingled and I could have spent decades studying the fort sitting in an office...but going there was crucial.
Even if it was just to assert that there is nothing on the site that goes back to the Portuguese times except the stones in the walls, behind the layers of plaster.
The story worth telling is not of my visit to the jail-fort but the story of the Maratha heroe imprisoned there and who was sentenced to be hanged but managed to escape. Being a war heroe, he enjoyed popular support amognst the Indian troops, which led the British to keep his surveillance group a white only body. While he languished in his cell, with a small opening for ventilation close to the ceiling, the barracks was surrounded on all sides by white guards. However, everyday, a young servant brought horses from one point of the prison to another, and passed twice daily close under the opening of the heroe's cell.
As usual the servant sang a melancholic marathi lullaby while leading the horses.
Little did the English soldiers know that, now that the heroe was kept in the cell, the servant cleverly changed the lyrics of his song.
Now he sang parts of an escape plan, divised with the help of the seepoys.
Everyday, the heroe thus got to know one or two more sentences of the escape plan.
And, on the arranged day, he famously escaped back into his homeland.
My Best Indian Story (3rd May)
"A curious incident that happened to me in the toilet of the Mandovi Express"
You can believe it man, it's true - while taking a dump, my chapal fell down the loo. Fortunately, we were stopped at Thane. So I managed to go under the train and collect it back again.
Monday, April 21, 2008
I'm happiest in the sate bus
And you ask me why
Cause they're sleeping in the West
And there's a fort in Mumbai
I'm happiest in the sate bus
And I'll tell you why
Cause Arima is in Pondy
And there's a painting in Chennai
I'm happiest in the state bus
And they don't ask why
And they'll never kiss in the movies
They'll tell you many lies.
Just another bindaas on the vine
Atypical day here (24th April)
Bear with me: I got up and worked in the drawings of the Cunchelim church for VM untill two in the afternoon. After, I took the kinetic and had lunch at the Vihar followed by the usual drop at Fundacao for the free net commodity. Next, I would say a quick shower back home and was off to Porvorim, to hear PVG talk about Old Goa and Old Gold. The point being made, a genial one, that within the genesis of Goan Nobility and its fundational narrative is the deliberate abandonment of Old Goa due to its connotations with overall decadence, white religious activity, a reactionary past, etc, etc...
At the end of the presentation, I was so happy to meet friends whom I hadn't seen yet. Next, was a ride home...too late to pick up my clothes at the laundry. Oh well, I'll make it to Bombay with this on only. A dinner of pao (pao not pao) with chicken sausages and a brief goodbye to the poster bed made way into the first hours of early morning.
One more train (25th April)
At around one in the morning, I left Pangim in the company of LV. The Karmali station was almost deserted and I had to negotiate my way in diplomatically through a bunch of defiant stray dogs. I honestly don't recall the name of the train that dropped by at four a.m. and that brought me to Kurla, in Mumbai. But can you imagine smoking a cigarette at the door, enjoying a thunderstorm along the Konkan coast, and feeling a pre-monsoon shower on your hands and face?
Kurla station is teaming with eager taxi drivers and one of them picked me up in the middle of the caos. He insisted always how everything was crystal clear with the meter running, even though it was a hell of a long ride up to Borivili. Leaving the caos of the station, it was scary to see how the Maharashtran drivers, who hadn't picked up customers, launched piercing stares and a few abuse on my U.P. driver.
All that talk about being straigt and honest could only mean one thing. When we finally arrived, the driver said "38,20" and pointed to the equivalent in the chart: "830". I said "Really?". I got out of the cab and checked the meter. It read "28,20" and that meant "582" in the chart and that was what he got. And I do hope some Shiva Sena people slap him around a bit. The point is, if you're going to be dishonest, just please don't brag about how honest you are.
Arriving in Sai Baba Nagar Road is always like coming to the most cozy place in Bombay. Swastika started teaching me Hindi right away, and I messaged up my friends. No one is in Mumbai but I don't care. I'm here for the city to take me in once again.
Anyways, Sanjeev informed that I had still been conned by the driver, the maths not matching up and he probably used a "personalized" chart.
They call it the Monsoon Express
And there'll be thunder everywhere it goes
It stops only to pick up the lost souls
Everyone inside pretends to be sleeping
But they're not
And they're all in the wrong berths
The t.c. alone snores
And I heard a stray dog is at the engine
Now just bear with me through this
And I'll bring you home safe
Wherever home may be
Even if it is a Mango tree
You will see me
Smoking at the door
A cancelled ticket in my heart.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Meeting AS in Panjim (14th April)
Close to where I stay is the confusion of the market. AS calls me up to the "Susegad" just around the corner. I can't help myself but to feel slightly emotional meeting him after so long. AS is a lighthouse shining on the two sides of every Goan story..."Don't forget, it's a dual society...and what was peaceful segregation sometime back became contempt and animosity in the 50s and 60s. There is a strong undercurrent of violence beneath..." He didn't say it but could have easily. We eat the fish, drink the beer and catch up the missing time: Howz your father? Howz the university? Do have a scholarship?...from FCT? Do you still have the Fiat?
AS is there to remember people like me that, most of the time, when we are in Goa, we naturally hang out and interact with one side of the story...looking towards the other side, the one we have difficulty in understanding, will broaden our perspective on Goa.
"This time I came to India specifically to get myself dispersed...not to focus on any particular project or research or undertaking..."
"If you can do it, that's excellent!"
AS is a very young spirit...he only turns the lights on, he'll never tell you where to go.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
DN dropping science at Ernesto's:
"Women think they're clever: they'll fake an orgasm to have a relation; But men outsmart them: they'll fake a relation to have an orgasm."
Meeting ES at Corlim (13th April)
The Merc is parked outside next to the Zens. Mango and cashew trees scent the air...I hear the laughter of young children and ES waves at me from the front porch. Somehow, this is a sanctuary. The presence of a very great man resting upstairs and all he did for the children of Goa is more than enough to keep this house aloof from the evil misdoings, the corruption and all the bad things which are happening in Goa. To the Goans and to the people who have Goa close at heart.
The german shepherd is quieting down...he has smelled me in. I ask the children to teach me some Concani. And the remnants of Portuguese language are flavored like drops of a magical potion.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Are you still my swedish friend?
We were eight maybe ten
I remeber way back then
You had all the cool toys
And your mother was spanish
Or maybe not but still
You were my swedish friend
Are you still my swedish friend?
How about meeting your swedish friends?
But do understand, this is a tribute to you
You wanted to fly planes
Now you probably do.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Although dead tired, I couldn’t fall asleep until after midnight…The creative sounds coming from the car and truck horns kept grasp on my consciousness and some even made me smile. Almost falling into slumber, I heard a horn so portentous and deep that I thought that a ship was pulling in just bellow my hotel room. And then, already dreaming, I distinctively heard a truck that boasted a horn just like the Nokia ringing tune on my cell. That clever truck driver passed the street three times…a strange background to the ensuing dreams…
Things to do
In my dreams, I realise that I had forgotten about the exam of some subject, therefore rendering my degree unattainable. The subject is usually Descriptive Geometry and the scenario is me arriving at the classroom, where all the other students are well into the exam. being completely unprepared, I panick. When I wake up, I take a few seconds to recollect that I have already finished my degree and am an architect. Maybe the message of this dream is something like: wake up and smell the coffee! – There’s work to. Or it could be: relax and consider all the things you have already achieved…don’t pressure yourself so much. Either way, I took a late breakfast at the Riverfront and there’s no work to be done here in Ahmedabad anyways.
After buying my ticket out of here, I had lunch at the Raj Kamal and went for the tour of the Calico museum. Feeling oppressed with the heat, I returned to the Riverfront, refreshed before dinner and retired early. At four a.m., I got up to take the Bhuj express towards Vapi.
Too long in Daman (25th March)
"Stay into the house of a Portuguese lord at prices you can afford" is the motto of the Marina hotel, at small Daman, where I engage a room. The place is quite neat…but having declared myself a Portuguese citizen at the reception, I didn’t have much of a chance bargaining down the daily fee. Somehow, I was still kind of part of the old aristocracy of the place. After lunch, I visited the fort of St. Jerome and then retired early. I fell asleep after watching some old Tamil talkies…those were the days Indians girls could really shake it!
Big Daman (26th March)
The place known as Moti Daman, or big Daman, is home to about fifty families and at least an equal number of government headquarters and offices. The whole administration of the Union territory of Diu, Daman and Nagar-Avelly appears to be seated here…all around are old ambassador government cars, lazy policemen and then a few school children also. The rest is ruins and a horticulture garden (Government of India, for sure) where I got some chikoos for a gift. The place is a kind of an Indo-portuguese Chandighar…with a 17th cent. backdrop. Most of the old Portuguese buildings have been reused and only the new secretariat palace spoils the scenery.
The Public Prosecutor of Daman (27th March)
Is called Orlando Miranda and sits just next to the court’s sessions hall, in a building maintaining its Portuguese origins. After devising a way to allow me to photograph the building with the tacit permission of the judge, he took me in his government jeep all the way to Silvassa, where he had some business to attend. I took the opportunity to confirm that Silvassa is a characterless place, with a few buildings of Portuguese origin caught in the middle of the mess. Still, lunch was pleasant at the local veg place and the tribal museum was worth the free entry.
Jesus Sai Baba and the profit.
Jesus Sai Baba and the profit
Mumbai, mirchis and pan
I’ve never been to Mahim
I stayed too long in Daman
Jesus Sai Baba and the profit
Jesus Sai Baba and the profit
Jesus Sai Baba and the profit
A side-tracked train in the night
They sit together at the dashboard
They guide me all through the night.