Shaken and Stirred

This was actually supposed to be a continuation of my Travelogue to Mumbai. It is uncannily horrendous that the places I visited were the exact same spots that were subject to the gruesome terror attacks recently. I spent the saturday evening hanging around Gateway of India and admiring the beauty of the old Taj building. The last time I had been there in 1999, the new one was under construction.
The presence of elite and super rich people surrounding me with swanky cars, exquisite clothing and armed with the latest cameras was a totally different scenario from the foreign crowd one usually encounters in Goan beaches. Dressed like hippies, mostly doped or high on beer and wearing an odd assortment of clothes with extremely bad skin, freckled and dirty hair colour is the sight that greets you in Goa. Nah, it wasnt that at all in Mumbai. There was a wedding reception underway at the Taj and the wedding parties were bedecked in diamonds. A long line of curious onlookers and horse-driven carriages welcomed the baraat. Everyone was anticipating some celebrity. Loads of street-hawkers selling chana, fancy keyrings and jelly snakes, mobile photographers thrusting their pictorial accomplishments right under your nose and the snaky crowd of people rushing to get a place in the jetty to book a place on a boat to get to see the coastline were spread in the quadrangle area near the Gateway which was itself under renovation. There is a board with Mumbai written next to it. I thought of the famed city-spirit, the fact that this is the very region that pumps money into the rest of the country. I was just looking around in awe.

Curiously enough, my reason to visit that part of Mumbai was the fact that my exam center was in Colaba. I drove around the causeway, excitedly looking at Leopold’s having read about it in many works of fiction. I also read the engraving on the Nariman house ‘Chabad Lubvitch Movement’ and asked my dad what it was about. The whole area was full of old Parsi buildings and one could see many travellers around it. I did not know then what it actually was. But the names being funny, I was pretty sure they were Jews. The place was crowded, hep and happening. Regal cinema, Metro cinema, the numerous shops, all filled with saturday evening shoppers. Leopold’s was extra full and mostly filled with foreigners.

The sunday was rather uneventful with my exam finishing in the afternoon and the two of us headed to Bandra to do some shopping. The rest of my mumbai trip was spent in the bandstand and Powai with me heading for Goa the next day. What I was about to read on a thursday morning, shook me pretty badly, as it did to the rest of the country.

I was welcomed by a string of “WTF Mumbai “, “OMG TERRORISTS”, “FUCK TERRORISTS” gtalk status messages on thursday morning as I logged in. As I keyed in the link to the news site, the news I read seemed right out of a hindi movie. To see the very same places ( including CST, I had reached Mumbai from Goa by train and was recieved by my dad in CST on Friday morning), burning in flames and under fire from terrorists was too much to be true. As news poured in the situation only got worse. The rest we all know was updated minute by minute on blogs, newschannels etc.

So the question on everyone’s mind is “How much is too much?”. This time the terrorists have chosen not to hit the common man, but the very elite, housed in grand luxury hotels, often the source of huge businesses running into millions of dollars. They have chosen to fire point blank at our economic hub, the financial captial. Not only us, but also irked the ire of the Jewish community killing their priest and hundreds of other innocent hotel staff. Clearly, we are not going to tolerate another series of statements, just figures printed in bold about the death toll and strong words of reassurance from the government. I know, my sentiments are being echoed around the country in hundreds of reports, websites, twitters, blogs and forums. It is anger, it is extreme hate.

I personally think it is high time we stop being diplomatic and actually point fingers irrespective of consequence. Our security needs to be beefed up to the par of countries surviving in terror zones. We are no different from the war-raved countries anymore. Surviving in constant fear and threat of attacks is no longer permissible. As Indians, we believe in “Sab theek ho jayega” policy. But this has clearly crossed the limits. I think the testing times for the people of the country, the goverment and the security forces has started. Only results will tell how successful this administration is. How successful and strong the people are in rooting out terror from amongst their midst by constant vigilance, lookout and care.

The terror has not ended. It has just begun.

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Travelogue: Pune

The last month has seen a lot of travelling on my front. First to Pune and then to Mumbai. It has been hectic with back to back weekends spent in these two cities. This post is about Pune, the place where I visited to give the CAT. (Do not ask me how it was btw).

I spent an uncertain evening waiting in Vasco waiting for the Cozy Nook travels bus to take me to Panjim. I stood waiting near the bus on which “Cozy Nook” had been painted in bold red paint, only to be told half an hour later by some man to board the bus on which “Laxmi travels” was written. Uncertain to believe him (he looked scary and had been staring in my direction for sometime), I continued to stand where I was periodically glancing at the bus he mentioned. I finally found someone from college, one of the dc-regulars-but-never-met-in-person friend. He turned out to be another novice at bus travel and we stood there uncertain about which bus to board. Finally when the Cozy Nook travels bus showed no signs of movement we boarded the bus shown by that man. He was the driver!

The rest of the journey was pretty uneventful apart from the numerous drafts I wrote in my head about complaining to the Panjim authorities about drilling some traffic sense into people. I kept dodging cars as I stood in the bus stop waiting for my bus to arrive. Once into the bus, I slept off almost instantly. The a/c felt so comforting after the long hours in the electricity-less sweaty campus.

The nip in the air was just about pleasant as I got off the bus at the Swar Gate bus stop. The car took me to my destination. Surprisingly the drive was very short, less than 15 minutes long which is rather unusual for a defence organization because usually they are located on the outskirts of the city.

The day I spent catching up with my sleep. The weather was pleasant and the occasional TV kept me entertained though the day. The next day was all the action.

Pune is a beautiful city. I liked the fact that it was small, takes no time to travel from one end to another, has loads of old british buildings and is not too polluted. My exam center, Nowrosjee Wadia College was one of the most pretty colleges I have been too. Huge stone arches, an imposing library and the British architecture appealed to me. After the exam, I went to meet a college friend at a popular theatre complex, E square. Being a sunday afternoon, the crowd was immense and no tickets to any show were available. We killed time talking about various things right from future plans to campus stories to personal lives. It was refreshing.

He took me to Fergusson College in Pune, the place where he did his 11th and 12th from. Again, it was extremely pretty with lots of empty spaces, trees, a unique structure “Kimaya” which served as a stage for plays and campus hangout. We spent a lot of time there walking around the place and then settled down at the Kimaya catching up with each other. It was nice to have a personal conversation unlike the electronic ones we have everyday. Somehow those are so soothing and enjoyable. Something that this cyber age simply cannot replace.

After a huge family pizza at Papa John’s, I left for Goa. Pune had brilliant weather. Not hot, not cold and not smoky or dirty. One was perfectly comfortable riding pillion on a bike even in the most crowded roads. Something unimaginable in places like Chennai or Delhi.

I reached college early morning next day. It was a short, fun trip to a place Ive always wanted to go. I felt that one way this place beats Bangalore is that the city is not stretched to its limits. It seems just about full and has the perfect amount of everything. Of course, Bangalore is much bigger and commute within the city takes longer than it takes to travel from Chennai to Bangalore itself, but there is something about Pune that makes you feel at home.

I would love to go to Pune again. Sometime, hopefully. 🙂