Goodbye, Mumbai

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Here it comes. My heartfelt tribute to Mumbai as I bid goodbye to the city after 21 months. If you think am going to whitewash my time here, well, you should read another blog for imaginary fairytales. We didn’t do that here. Don’t worry, this isn’t another rant either. After 11 years, am finally done with my complaints against the city.

Is that a collective sigh of relief from Mumbaikers?

Mumbai is the hardest city to live in. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. When Mumbaikers claim they love the city, it is because they haven’t seen life anywhere else. Mumbai was the first city I wanted to spend the rest of my life in. That, and Bangalore (not anymore, of course). Which is why the betrayal is so hard to get over. I moved to this city with the intention of falling in love with it. It’s like when you have sex for the first time and it sucks. You assume sex is overrated until one day, it is fabulous with another person. That is when you realise there is much better sex out there but you had no idea. Until I moved to Gurgaon, I assumed that is what life is like in any city. 4 hours of daily commute, bad health, loneliness, no hobbies, friends only in suburbs close to yours etc etc.

No matter what my rent budget was I never found the perfect house. Whether I paid 13k or 25k or 31k for 300-500 sq feet of space, I always settled for the least horrible one. That is what house hunt in Mumbai is like.

Sure, there is more diversity. I live in a building with Sikhs and Muslims around me (very, very rare in Mumbai), travel through an area with fisher folk, cross a road with Muslims on my left and Hindus on my right and reach my office in a Jain Gujju dominated area. Delhi doesn’t have that.

The only way to survive in this city is with blinders on. You have to be able to ignore the dirt, poverty, zero civic sense, rude locals, lack of open spaces, traffic woes etc to the point where they become invisible. Sometimes Mumbaikers come across as zombies.

Them – Mumbai is awesome. We love the city.

Me – But you don’t even have a balcony in your house. Why are the beaches so dirty? Can’t you see the plastic hanging from the trees at Bandstand? The sea is choked with trash at Worli sea face. Why is Aarey, the green lung of the city, being replaced by buildings? Why isn’t there better connectivity between suburbs on the trains? Why aren’t there better trains? Why is there traffic at 10 pm? Why does the city get flooded every year during the rains? Why are the rents so high?

Them – Who dis? New phone.

DS and I were discussing this today. He is from Navi Mumbai so he hasn’t been zombified yet. He can see the problems like any other outsider. The apathy of Mumbaikers for their city is appalling.

Living here is a leveller. No matter how rich you are, you will get stuck on the road in the rains. Some auto or taxi wala may be kind enough to charge you double and drop you to your destination or he may leave you stranded on the road without a cover. You never know what a new day will bring. Kindness or cruelty, you need to be grateful and thick skinned in equal measures.

It is the only city where rains bring people together. Friends and acquaintances will throw open their houses for the stranded. Twitter will have a 24/7 helpline. Every person in the city will offer help. Adversity brings the city together for a few hours after which everyone goes back to the business of earning a livelihood like nothing happened.

But there is one reason why Mumbai is special and I have and will always keep coming back. I have always lived here on my own. Every decision, every friend, every battle, every house has been mine. I like Delhi but am not a Delhite. It isn’t a category of people I would like to associate myself with.

But when I hug Mumbai, our bodies fit together. No matter where I come from, there is 300-500 sq feet of space somewhere I can call home that is mine and mine alone.

I, me, myself.


From darkness to sunlight

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Last year this time was one of my lowest moments in a long time for many, many reasons. I didn’t mention it on the blog because when you are living a nightmare, the last thing you want to do is talk about it. Any distraction was most welcome then.

It would be unfair if I didn’t mention the upward swing in my life. I have spent a lot of time ranting about so many things. It would be ungrateful on my part if I didn’t acknowledge the good things that have happened or are happening.

It is amazing how we are aware of our sadness but happiness goes mostly unnoticed.

Don’t get me wrong. My shift to Gurgaon has very little to do with this change in my demeanour. Last year I was at the point of quitting. I had the choice of giving up and becoming complacent or fighting back. I chose the latter. My ego and pride were not happy.

Everytime I feel a connection with someone I have to remind myself that this person may or may not be in my life a year later. Relationships have to be nurtured. It amazes me how beautiful a relationship can potentially become in 8-10 years. When you first meet a person you can’t imagine how much value they can add to your life. How little steps taken in the right direction can create a lifelong bond.

Most people are selfish and afraid. They are so scared of getting hurt, they won’t take a chance on another person. They are so afraid they assign motives to everyone’s actions. It is exhausting dealing with such self involved people. Sometimes I want to yell at them, “Nobody cares. Seriously, nobody does. You aren’t important enough for me to hurt you”.

Then you come across someone who holds his heart in his hand and gives it to you. “Do what you want with it”, he says. If you are careful with it, it will be the best thing that happens to you. If not, well, it is your loss entirely. Who wouldn’t want unconditional trust in their life?

I may sound like am rambling. Maybe I am. But the person am writing this for knows what I mean.

Cheers to good conversations. You never know which good conversation or connection will last you till what stage in life. I always, always seek out good comversations. With strangers, acquaintances and friends. Whether it is with my ex’s ex or a random stranger on social media. You never know where it will lead.

Cheers to little things we can and should do to make someone feel special. Friends, acquaintances, strangers. What is life if not for the little, thoughtful things we can do.

Cheers to being made to feel special. Especially when deep down you feel like a crappy person.

Cheers to people who take a chance on others. Even when they’ve been hurt and betrayed, they wear their heart on a sleeve.

Cheers to being open to new people, their lives and their experiences.

Cheers to new chances and some goodbyes.

To new beginnings.

To some endings.

To the shutting of a few doors.

To the opening of new ones.


The Bohri Thaal

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On Holi I had been looking for things to do and came across The Bohri Thaal on bookmyshow. For Rs 1500, you get to eat an authentic home cooked meal. It sounded fantastic. I was surprised the Kapadias were hosting a meal on Holi. I booked tickets for KC and myself a day prior. Of course, we were the only ones who didn’t have plans on Holi and the meal was cancelled. Nafisa (junior) was kind enough to contact BMS and initiate the refund.

This weekend I spotted their event on insider.in, booked the ticket and promptly mailed Nafisa inquiring if they had enough people for the meal. She assured me that the lunch was on. Whew!!!

Mrs Kapadia’s son Munaf wanted to keep his mother busy and away from the television and he invited 30 people for a traditional Bohri meal at home but at a cost. 10 people turned up and that’s how the Bohri Thaal started. Now they cater at events, deliver food across the city and have pop ups at restaurants like the one at Kaitlyn’s in Bandra on 31st March. They catered at Hrithik Roshan’s birthday where guests shared food from 2-3 thaals.

I received the address and the menu yesterday on WA. The meal would start promptly at 1 pm and I was to wear expandable pants. I arrived at 12.30 pm in a leafy part of Colaba, climbed 2 flights of wooden stairs and was welcomed into a large, airy, well ventilated house by Nafisa (Jr). I met Munaf and the other guests started arriving soon.

There was a family from SoBo (not very different from South Delhites) who now lived in Bandra and their friends, a young couple, another couple with a kid and a bunch of colleagues from Nashik, two of who are firangs.

I was offered a welcome drink which was coconut water churned with malai. It was simply brilliant and am going to make it at home soon.

Every course would start with Munaf briefing us about it and then us digging in. A big Thaal with different chutneys was placed in the centre of the room. Traditionally, people eat from the same thaal. At weddings, you may end up sharing food with absolute strangers.

The thaal had boondi pineapple raita (yummy. Must try this), dates chutney, bhavnagari stuffed mirchi etc.

The first course were the smoked mutton kheema samosas. They are supposed to be very famous in Mumbai.

For the vegetarians there were hara bhara kebabs and corn cheese kebabs. This was a departure from the norm since it’s a purely non vegetarian meal.

The meal is a mix of kharas (starters), meetha (sweet) and jaman (main course). Malai khaja were served as a palate cleanser and that is what am going to call my dessert next time.

Next came the hero of the evening. A rann in red masala marinated in spices for 2 days and cooked for 3-4 hours. The meat was so soft it was falling off the bone. It was sprinkled with salli. My favourite dish of the day. I sucked at the bone like I’ve never sucked a dick

The dirty jokes are necessary for the hits

This was served with rose sherbet with sabja seeds.

Next was beetroot halwa as the “palate cleanser” before the main course.

And then, after an hour of eating we embarked on the main course – chicken angara with rotis and mutton kaari (has coconut milk and tamarind) with jeera rice.

I didn’t think I could eat any more at this stage. The buttons on my loose shorts were threatening to pop, the afternoon breeze was making me sleepy but out came the sanchi/hand churned ice cream with mangoes and magai Jodi paan. My stomach expanded and I had 2 servings of the ice cream.

Absolutely love this new concept of eating regional home cooked food in someone’s house. So much better than eating at a restaurant. While there is lots of diversity in food in Mumbai, Gurgaon/Delhi food has a dearth of regional food. Like, Malvani, Parsi, Gujarati, South Indian food is very accessible in Mumbai; one needs to search for Bihari, Rajasthani food in Delhi. And I prefer Indian food over non Indian food any day.

If you are in Mumbai, you must try this place. They will even bring the experience to your home for a group of 10+ people.

(This is not a sponsored post).


The making of the caramel custard

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There are certain things in life you treasure once they are gone forever. Like, being so skinny you can feel every bone in your body when you were 18 years old.

On Holi, KC and I went for lunch to Cafe Military. To end the sumptuous Parsi meal we ordered caramel custard because that is how every Parsi meal is supposed to end. He gobbled it up in one go before I could even taste my share. We had to order another one so I could get a few bites.

In Mumbai, if you don’t order caramel custard at Gajalee it is considered a crime. If people are sent to prison for a food related crime, this should be the ONLY one. Actually, if people could get arrested for food choices, can we start with the vegetarians? They are such a repulsive group of people. Eating the green cover of this planet.

On Saturday, we went for lunch to Sodabottleopenerwala. Something is wrong with their chicken salli. It tastes overly sweet. Caramel custard wasn’t on the menu GASP. We ordered the laganu custard and it tasted like shit. That is when it hit me. I have taken the presence of caramel custard in my life for granted. This was going to be one of those things I sorely miss when I move back to Gurgaon. And there is no restaurant in Delhi or Gurgaon that will satisfy my craving.

For a moment I found it hard to breath. A world without 24/7 access to caramel custard? Do I even want to live such a life? This isn’t what I bargained for. This isn’t how I imagined life would be. I had taken Caramel custard for granted for 2 years and would now be punished by never being able to have it. This is why you must not turn away from the desserts brought to your table at Gajalee once you are done with your meal. If you don’t respect dessert, it will be taken away forever and ever. And then what are you going to do with those abs? Do they even matter if there is no caramel custard?

I did the only thing I could. Learnt to cook it at home. As long as I have the ingredients and 6-7 hours (30 mins for cooking, 30 mins for baking and 4-6 hours to chill in the fridge), I can eat caramel custard. Recipe taken from bawibride.com. I skipped the pistachio and nutmeg powder in the recipe.

 

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One day at a time

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On Saturday, I was organizing my wardrobe in Gurgaon. I brought along a lot of my stuff but there is so much more that is still in Mumbai.

(If anyone is travelling from Mumbai to Gurgaon next week and willing to carry one bag, please let me know).

There was some unmentionably embarrassing music playing on my Amazon Prime app. And finally it hit me. It is over. I didn’t think it would be but it was. Sure, I had hope but there was a chance it wouldn’t happen and after a few disappointments, I had stopped focusing on it. When KC asked me in January when I would shift back, I told him “I don’t know. I don’t see it happening till June, atleast”.

I sat down on the bed surrounded by piles of clothes and sobbed. When you are halfway through your trek and extremely tired, you focus on putting one foot in front of the other. You stop focusing on how much distance is left to your destination. A smart trek leader will refuse to tell you the distance because 5 km on an uphill trek takes as much time as 10 or 15 km. One step at a time and when you least expect it, the destination is looming ahead of you.

When I was informed about my movement from Mumbai to Gurgaon, I didn’t react the way I expected I would. Sure, I was suffering from swine flu but at no point since then have I been deliriously happy or felt like I finally got what I wanted. Instead I realised that it is just the end of one set of problems and creation of entirely new ones.

The last few months in Mumbai have been fairly good. I am so comfortable where I am. My life has a routine. I have created my own space at my workplace. I have worked hard at creating a certain equity with all my team members. And people around me can predict fairly accurately how I will react to any situation. I have to leave all this and work from the bottom all over again. Just the thought makes me exhausted.

Sure, the rules remain the same.

One step at a time.

One day at a time.

One battle at a time.


Things to do in Mumbai

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In the next 3 weeks.

Of course, there is a list. Duh!!!

  1. Hot chocolate and crepes at Suzette (I am so predictable. Kidnapping me will be easy peasy)
  2. Night run from Haji Ali to Peddar road to Walkeshwar to Hanging gardens to NCPA
  3. Short run at Juhu beach
  4. Chill at Bandra reclamation
  5. Visit Bandra fort
  6. Shop at Crawford market
  7. Shop at chor bazaar
  8. Watch one goddamn movie at MAMI screening. *Rant starts* MAMI organizes screenings of soon-to-be-released movies for its members once or twice every month. Despite replying to the mail within 30 mins of receiving it, am always waitlisted and never get a seat. It gets booked out in 30 mins??? How many seats are there? *end of rant*
  9. Check out the art thing at Sasoon Docks

That’s it. It is a very short list.


Handover

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“Handover” is that elusive term in the corporate that nobody has seen but keeps hoping to bump into someday.

I haven’t seen it’s face ever but still complain the lack thereof every few years when I move to a new role.

Few years back when I was moving cities for a new role, a colleague called me and asked; “Why do you want to join X’s team? You know how miserable all of us are”. My career decisions are completely based on the role, new skills I will develop, value on CV and the future opportunities. Who I have to work with is never a criteria. Sure, all the other criteria do depend on who I have to work with. But that is beyond my control.

On 29th June, when I joined work in Mumbai almost 2 years back, I had hoped that my counterpart would hand hold me through the new role in the fairly new channel. The hopes were dashed when I realized 30th June was his last working day. I had hoped for some gyaan to help me navigate the new responsibility. The hopes were further churned to dust when he spent the next few hours telling me how miserable and frustrated am going to be within a year.

As I move to a new role again, I wish there were rules followed during a handover:

  1. Leave the role better than when you joined

If you are leaving, nothing much that be done at this stage. There is a difference between doing the job well and making the role itself better. Few people do the latter. And it isn’t all that difficult. I can get a job done but can I ensure I have put in a system that ensures the job gets done well automatically? When I worked in field sales, one year into a role I was bored and didn’t have work. Because everything moved on auto mode and didn’t require my day to day intervention. Where is the challenge otherwise?

  1. Give positive vibes about the role

I will have enough and more time to rant about problems. Hell, 99% of the time will be spent in being negative. The least that you can do is talk about the positives. I disagree that there are no positives but if there aren’t, just make up stuff. People should look forward to what is coming next even if it’s a speeding train that will kill them.

  1. You are negative only when you are dissatified

It is hard to be negative when you are satisfied with the work you have done. So all that negativity may be a reflection of your dissatisfaction with yourself and not necessarily about the role. Just because you are not happy does not mean the next person will be unhappy too.

The least you can do is give hope. Even if it’s false.

It is ok to lie, as long as the intentions are right.

My entire life’s foundation is on lies. But that’s a topic for another post.