Was Thinking

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We get tangled in the twisted roads,
We are crushed between the people’s goal;
Don’t see anything because we are running so fast,
The metal in us becomes rage at last.

Ego as high as skyscrapers,
We do anything to reach the sky.
Luxury becomes our goal and
money as steps on which we roll.

Ignorance as character
devil our friend,
And friends become enemy
and enemy as partners of game

Crush all who comes in our way,
Rush all the way to the top;
Reach where no has reached,
Achieve which no one imagined.

What law, what culture,
What rule, and what society,
The theme is capitalism
And the props as greed, kill, rape, loot and plunder.

Once there was peace and, it was just once,
Why we think of this although it never existed,
The world is based on violence
And history as proof.

But as human we have changed,
And I believe we will once again,
And that will be for good
But we need to know who’s good?

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The Visible Ghost

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One Saturday on a cold November morning I came to office to finish some work. The ten storied glass and cement building looked uninviting and deserted. Not a single person other than me was on the floor I worked on, it being a weekend and an off day for all.

It was also a first for me to be in office on an off day. Usually I came in to work early mornings and observed the office fill up as people start trickling in according to their schedules and the schedules of the company provided buses on their route.

This day was special though, as the large office was entirely my own. I could have played music at my workstation or put my feet up on the desk or do whatever I pleased without any interruptions or bothering about codes and etiquettes.

But I needed to complete some important tasks and I was thankful for the peace and silence that enveloped me. Everything was silent except the whirring of the refrigerator’s compressor in the cafeteria on my floor and the slow wheezing sound of the AC vent, but those are consistent sounds that we become almost immune to over a period of time.

A few hours into working, my concentration was broken by a sound of frequent clicks as that of clicks on a computer’s mouse. I was using a Wacom tablet, which means, I was rather quiet, except the occasional tap on the keyboard. Therefore, I wondered if contrary to what I believed was there was someone else in office too?

To save energy on the weekends most of the lights are switched off. So the floor was rather dimly lit with daylight streaming in through glass walls in remote corners of the large office floor – so large that about three tennis courts could fit into it. Only my workstation was lit by a tube placed right above it. Sort of like a spotlight.

Which is why I wondered if out there in the dim but large room was there someone else beyond the umbrella of white light?

I grew curious about the clicks in the dark. I decided to go seek out whoever it was, I had keeping me company on this dreary foggy cold morning. I reached a corner of the office with four workstations squeezed in together, but there was no one there and none of the machines were switched on either. I wondered if some part of the machine was left switched on by any chance, but that too was not the case.

The sound was loudest at this spot, but I grew more curious and wondered if I had not followed the sound to its exact location so I walked around this corner of the office again. I was a bit nervous now and all my senses were on high alert, as I imagine we’ve evolved from our days in dark caves and forests while trying to locate the sound of precious water trickling somewhere. I was almost certain that no human was in the office, though this certainty could have only come from some evolutionary sense like a sixth sense.

I returned to the familiar corner with the four workstations. I gathered some courage to look under the table – an even darker, wiry mesh, from where I don’t know what would spring at me. But there was nothing there. And yet, I discovered that as I stooped down, I felt the sound of the clicks seemed to have lessened. I quickly stood up and could hear the sound again clearly.

That is when I looked up and noticed that apart from the spot light like tubes above the workstations, there were small dim/low wattage light bulbs throughout the false ceilings of the office. One of those tiny bulbs seemed to have been at the root of this noise. It seemed to be making desperate attempts to light up and make itself useful.

This tiny bulb is what was keeping company on this cold dark floor.

Right becomes wrong, the left becomes the right

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Chakravyuh on the set (Source: moviezadda)

Its a Chakravyuh for the political arena here in India.

Chakravyuh the most recent film by Mr. Prakash Jha released on Vijay Dashmi, pleasantly surprised us with its narrative (more than its cinematic) accomplishment. Not publicised as much as most other Bollywood offerings, it would have not been an easy pick on the first day of its release for such a sudden plan as ours to go to the movies.

The movie based on the internal conflict which has inflicted itself upon the “modern and developing nation” such as India, has various dimensions, points of view and layers to it. Despite being a burning issue and supposedly considered by the current government as the topmost threat to India’s democracy and sovereignty, the complexity of the issue is something most people (the so called intellectuals and aam admi alike) tend to shy away from engaging with and finding a practical solution to it.
On “Ground Zero” (namely nearly 200 districts of India) where the real action is, it’s assumed to be between the Indian police force and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on the one side and on the other side the Maoist.

Both parties are citizens of India having equal rights under the constitution. But what makes them so different that they are ready to kill each other? Could it be unequal power? Unequal opportunity? Different perceptions of what development means?

The film is very well balanced; it shows the different power dynamics and challenges in both camps. One police officer whose efforts are solely to uphold the sovereignty of his country. He wants to use his might to uphold peace and justice.
And on the other hand are Maoist leaders who too want to ensure sovereignty of the people of India, namely the tribals who inhabit the mineral rich lands of the country and constantly facing threat of forced evictions and loss of their way of life.

Both the teams also have rogue elements who take advantage of their power and position.

Step away to the city centre or power centres and you see there’s another lever of senior officials who are in direct touch with the Ministers, and you see they all think or rather claim that what they are doing is for the good of the people of India.

Another element that many may want to add is that of corruption – the nexus between Corporates and Politicians, but Mr. Jha has skilfully only hinted at it and not allowed it to divert attention from the more elemental dichotomy of development vs human rights. Its actually almost as if he’s playing to such counter-arguments that say that the “development” of the tribal belts i.e. building schools, hospitals and other such infrastructure is a crucial need of the hour – no matter how the politicians fill their own coffers while they do this or how some poor tribals will be forced out of their lands and forests.

The film however establishes in no uncertain terms the cause for trouble is crystalised by capitalist powers.

Mr. Jha has handled the issue very well, managing to show every point of view and raising important questions like whose development we are talking about? Scenes of the Minister and also the Maoists celebrating the tribal culture and tradition juxtaposed with the violence that leads to more loss of innocent lives than of the Maoist or Police forces.

The film was interesting and a must watch for all Indians, despite the lack of cinematic brilliance, wooden and plain bad acting. Though there are glaring gaps in the plot; for eg the character backgrounds that seem very hurriedly explained away. The plot line over all and script was very well thought out and it managed to handle a very complex issue very carefully. We did lament the loss of brilliant actors such as Manoj Bajpai and Om Puri in a few badly directed shots and scenes that lacked ‘gravitas’ that it COULD have achieved. But Mr. Jha has in this film remained more loyal to the issue than perhaps any other would have. But of course he has it seems been forced to play the Kundi Khol item number for the desperate many who would start cribbing “kya yaar koi masala nahi hai is film mei”.

Also kuddos to film lovers to point out this:

Here’s an interesting comment on an article about the film on
zeenews.india.com/entertainment/movies/chakravyuh-review-naxalism-the-inside-story-through-prakash-jha-s-eyes_121588.htm

OBVIOUSLY the co-writers name ANJUM RAJABALI wasn’t mentioned in the review since writers are completely IGNORED in the industry regardless of how much they give to a film…..HE is the one who shared this concept with Prakash Jha and did research on it for a few years while writing the script…Then Prakash Jha came on board and together the wrote another draft where Prakash Jha gave his inputs…. The critic mentioned the music composers and of course the actors, but why not the writer without whom this story wouldn’t have been made into a film? Damn these people…. – ankush bhatt – Mumbai

thekambattu

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The house at thekambattu




Here I am, in Thekambattu near Karumandurai, Attur district, Salem, Tamil Nadu.
 I am here to make a small documentary on urbanisation. Most who heard of my proposed trip to this village outpost did not understand why I was coming here at all – not when I was actually working on an issue which is the complete opposite of anything ‘rural’. There were two reasons for me being here. First, I am meeting a family who had the opportunity to stay in a metropolitan city, but instead, chose to settle as far away as possible. So I wanted to know the why and how of it. Secondly I wanted some time out, a place where I can relax and think and do nothing, and this was a perfect place for that. 

Coming to the point what is thekambattu – one of my professors’ batch-mates from IIT Bombay has made a home here with his family, a small, beautiful house on top of a small hill, surrounded by more hills called Kalarayan. This is like an ideal village away from a very small town called Karumandurai, which is about 67 kms from Salem –the steel plantation town of Tamil Nadu in South India. 

I had not given much thought to the process of getting there, I’d rather spent more time thinking about how I’d whip out my camera and start talking to the couple about their unique and rather heroic choice. I was stressing over the discomfort that a camera always succeeds in generating among adults. It’s not so bad with young children – they’re rather open about themselves – but adults are usually guarded – not out of suspicion but perhaps the fact that they know things can come out looking quite different than what was.
 
So there I was, with a ticket that was not confirmed, which had me scampering back to book another one that I luckily managed – and turned out that I saved a few hundreds I’d have to spend on a hotel room once I’d have got off the train late in the night at Salem.
 

Salem Buses

So I ended up taking the Coimbatore Express from Mumbai, LT Terminus at 10:35 pm on a Saturday night; the train reached Salem at 2:45 am the next night rather early morning on Monday. I was instructed by Sunder sir (my kind host) to get a bus at 5:20 am – the first bus, which would ensure that by 7:30 am I’d reach Karumandurai. I didn’t know at the time whether the train was on time or late. I thought to myself it’s Indian Railways, anything can happen, so I put an alarm on my cell phone for 1:30 am, so that I won’t miss the station. I wanted to make sure that I valued the 3 precious minutes that the train stops at the Salem station. So at 1.30 am I took all my stuff and went to the door to get some fresh air, so I won’t feel sleepy again. I was at the door for one and a half hours – I could manage that only because I was very excited I’m sure. Finally the train arrived at my destination and I got down and I decided to while away my time for a little as it was still too dark to move out and the new bus stand was hardly 10 minutes away by auto. Like any other railway station in India, there were a lot of people sleeping on the platform and inside the station.

I sat there at the platform near a snacks counter and waited. I don’t listen to music on ear phones as after a while it starts hurting my ear and I get a headache too. So I bought biscuits and a bottle of water and coffee from the regular railway counter and had a short chat with the guy at the counter. I had a feeling that he was feeling sleepy and my inquisitiveness was bugging him, although he didn’t quite indicate it all too clearly. So I went back and sat on the chair next to the stall and started having biscuit and coffee. 
 

open kitchen of thekambattu

At about 4:30 am I stepped out in search of the bus stop. Sparkling yellow autos with all kinds and colours of lights around them – they hit me like a flashlight in a dark cave – they seemed to me like the very first impression this place had impressed upon me. A dark man with big mustaches and a bright white shirt standing next to an auto was looking towards me. I got a little scared, there were a few others like him, all of them looked similar much like the stereotypical villains of the Tamil films. The moment they saw me they started speaking in Tamil, I hoped they were asking me where I have to go. I went to one of the guys and asked politely “New Bus Stand?” The guy became excited and energetically said something in Tamil, I asked “How much?” He said Rs. 70. I was instructed that they take Rs. 40 and if you can’t speak Tamil they will charge you Rs. 50. I started bargaining but nothing came of it and I gave in and said “Ok” and got into the auto. He took off with loud Tamil music blaring through the deserted streets of early morning. I asked him politely “Can I smoke?” he turned around, took a cigarette from my pack and said “yes, yes”.
 
He dropped me at the new bus stand, I gave him a 100 rupee note, he didn’t had the right change, so he gave me Rs.40, and said something in Tamil, but I don’t understand the language at all. Perhaps he was telling me that we’re smoke-buddies now and he’ll give me a discount on the ‘Not Knowing Tamil Tax’.
 
I had reached the bus stand, and could not locate the way in when I saw a policeman sitting outside; he was quite helpful and guided me to the entrance. Inside there were lots of shops like we have in Palika Bazar in Delhi. It was pleasant in the morning, a little cold rather, I saw people smoking in a corner so I went to a coffee shop and asked for coffee and went away to smoke, as soon as I had a sip of coffee, it reminded me of my last visit to Tamil Nadu. How the hell do they maintain a particular taste of coffee, it was the same when I had it 5 or 6 years back, and it’s the same all over again, after smoking I went to the coffee vendor and asked as instructed by my hosts for the bay for the bus to Attur. He directed me towards a place, again in Tamil. Now I had to find the bus which goes to Karumandurai, I asked an old man directing the buses around, I just had to say “Karumandurai” and he said something in Tamil.
 
It was 4:45 am by now and I was told that there is a bus which leaves at 5:20 am, I sat near the Attur bus bay, suddenly a white bus with bright colourful lights all around sped in to the bay I sat by, and whenever the driver used to apply breaks the lights would glow. It was what we call a private or chartered bus in Delhi, with all kinds of jazz on it, wheel cover, neon head lights, antennas, tube lights inside the bus and what not. I was not sure if this was the bus I was supposed to board – perhaps I even hoped not – hoping to have a very nondescript bus that would allow me a short nap. But as soon as it stopped, people sitting next to me started boarding it, somehow I felt compelled to ask the ticket collector and he confirmed my suspicion. The whole place seemed kind of stuck in time – the ticket collector was wearing a bell bottom style of pants which was in fashion when my dad was young. I asked him again to make sure I was boarding the right bus and picked a window seat for myself. 

There were 2 television sets in the front of the bus on the wall just behind the driver’s cabin, one on the left and the other on the right. And as soon as the bus started, it was switched on. For a while they played some devotional songs, of course in Tamil, but I could figure out by the tune. After two such songs the playlist moved on to films songs, followed by a film. Everything was loud! I asked the ticket collector to wake me up when the bus reaches Karumandurai, he assured me he would. I could only try to sleep to make up for the lack of since waking up at 1.30 am on the train. The wind was cold and as soon as I would doze off a loud song in the film would wake me up and jar my eyes with contrasting colours, amazing locations etc. 

Karumandurai Bus Stand


I was beginning to feel like I am high on something like cocaine, my eyes were transmitting psychedelic, colourful images, I feeling damn sleepy but somehow I could not, everything was moving so fast, loud colours, loud music, colourful lights inside the bus, it felt like I am in some Tamil disco bar or something. The wind was so cold that I had to wear my sweatshirt. So basically I was kept awake all the way, I couldn’t see much outside because it was dark still. Somehow time passed and it was 6:30 am, now I could see unassuming old huts in a quaint old village nothing very new – much like what I have seen at my grandma’s place in Nalanda inBihar. So I started checking out the people around me, they were all enjoying the movie. From what I could see of the movie I figured it was not based on any logic – it was appealing to people’s funny bones rather than the heart or the mind – there were people flying, jumping 3-4 floors, the story was based in Tamil Nadu and the song sequence was shot at the Taj Mahal, yet people were laughing at the jokes, crying if the lead actress was crying, they were completely involved in the movie and I kept looking at the people around me.

In the meanwhile Sunder sir called to ask me if I managed to get the bus as directed and I got a couple of other calls – but I couldn’t recall anything who said what and who asked what. I was so sleepy. 

After a while the bus stopped. It was 7:30 am and I saw people getting off at the stop. I was instructed get off where most of the people were, so I hoped that this is the place. And I sighed a relief when I figured it was. I also confirmed it with the ticket collector. Now I had to take a leak, I looked around but couldn’t find a washroom anywhere and everyone at the stop was looking at me with great suspicion an outsider is often greeted with in any small town in India – perhaps even the world. I asked the ticket collector about thekambattu, he directed me towards a road. So I was at Karumandurai which is a small town – almost still a village. I went in the direction of the road I was pointed towards, there was a small market there, so I thought I would find a place on the road side or hill side to relieve myself. As soon as I moved closer to the market, I could see Mr. Sunder on his bike. We greeted each other and soon enough I had to seek his expert advice as a local on a suitable place to take a leak. He simply suggested that we get away from the town then I could take a leak wherever I wanted to. But before we could head out we had to pick up some vegetables from the market as this was a rare visit away from home on the hill. Soon enough we were on our way. I found an apt spot and relieved myself on the way and it was a long ride back home – about 6kms from Karumandurai. We sped past huge fields, small houses and fewer and fewer people but the road was pretty well maintained. From quite a distance still my host started pointing a proud finger towards his house, or the general direction of his house, for I couldn’t see anything except trees. “I can’t see a house on the hill, I only see trees,” I told him. In fact, even he hadn’t realised that now the view of his house is covered with trees, earlier you could see the house from quite a distance but now you can’t. He parked his bike on the slope and we started climbing the hill, before I could see anything I was warned about a few things like, over excited loving dog, cats and her kittens. 

Their house was beautiful – fashioned like the old ones with a sloping, thatched roof and big windows and doors. It reminded me of our place while we were in Goa as well as my grandparents’ place in Nalanda. There too we had a similar house though not as isolated as this one. This was something else. The house is amazing on the outside and on the inside as well. Aesthetically done up; everything in the house felt like it belonged there. Nothing in the house looks like it does not belong there or is from somewhere else or that it shouldn’t be there, the wall colour, doors, wall texture, curtains, lamps as well as the ornamental items. They all added the earthy feeling to the house. Everything seemed to have a purpose in its existence in the particular place. There were lots of paintings and small artworks adding on to the beauty of the house. Sitting in the veranda makes you feel that you are not at all away from Mother Nature.

An amazing spot they go to often has been named the “Hippo Rock”, the kids, Badri and ___ have named it that because it looks like the back of a hippopotamus. It is the edge of the hill which they own and sitting there and having tea has its own bliss. You can see the whole Thekambattu village as well as the whole of Kalrayan ranges from this spot. All you see is different shades of green and blue. Green of the fields and the cultivations and various colours of sky from morning to night.

All the while I was there, the only thing I did was just roam around, read different books, have tea on the rock, play with the dog, eat, sleep, have long conversations and shoot a bit of the discussion and a little bit of farming.
 
Mr. Sunder and his family gave me a critical material for a documentary I am making about urbanization. I wanted to meet various people who had an opportunity to work in the metros but left it intentionally because of some reasons and I was there to explore the reasons why this family had decided in favour of a village outpost over the obvious “opportunities” that the megacity offered them. Millions look towards the metros to fulfill their desires, mind it “desire” not the needs, and this family desired that which Mumbai could not offer.  

Metropolis Facet

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From above

From Above


We get tangled in the twisted roads,
We are crushed between the people’s goal;
Don’t see anything because we are running so fast,
The metal in us becomes rage at last.

Ego as high as skyscrapers,
We do anything to reach the sky.
Luxury becomes our goal and
money is steps on which we roll.

Ignorance is character
devil our friend,
and friends become enemy
and enemies partners of game

Crush all who come in our way,
Rush all the way to the top;
Reach where none has reached,
Achieve what no one imagined.

What law, what culture,
What rule, and what society,
The theme is capitalism
And the props are greed, murder, rape, loot and plunder.

Once there was peace and, it was just once,
Why we think of this although it never existed,
The world is based on violence
And history is proof.

But as humans we have changed,
And I believe we will once again,
And that will be for good
But we need to know whose good?

The Mechanical Life

It all started when I started questioning my conditioning. Though born in Bihar I grew up in various parts of India due to my dad’s transferable job. In due course I was introduced to various Indian cultures and sub-cultures which led me to think about the society we live in. At every stage in life the society tries to tell us what we are and what we are supposed to do. It’s like a concrete wall all around us with the text written all over it. We are not allowed to think differently at all. We are constantly made to think that we are in this world to do a certain kind of work in a certain way. Like I have always been told by my friends, relatives that, if we study well we get good paying job and we can live a happy and comfortable life. We’ll have a house of our own a luxurious car to drive and we can have a vacation in some exotic place in the world. We are taught in a certain way so that we can do certain job properly. The society tells or governs us by laying out the dos and the don’ts. The society further divides us with a very thin and invisible line around us, like religion, sect, caste, jati, varna, rich, poor, upper class, lower class, workers, labourers, managers, so on and so forth.

After experiencing this spectrum of division in society in my own life, there was a fight within. I posed questions, questions which were an integral part of the society. When I don’t get answers from others, I try to find them on my own. When I joined IIT Bombay, it was my first interaction with the city. Everything which was at the back of my mind came back up in my consciousness when I saw the extreme opposite realities of the city. The multilingual, multicultural society that people take pride in held within it multiple class divide, multiple economic divide. All of these were in Mumbai together (yet keeping their distance from each other) playing their respective roles. Class struggle is a constant fight, economic equality is in extremes, space is one of the major problems which also give birth to various other problems.

Everyone seemed to be very busy. No one had any time for anything in this world but their daily routine of home to work and back. And its true, the situation and condition of the city is so different from any other city, travelling is one of the major occupation of the people here, home to office and back itself is a struggle, Ignorance is what people accept as their daily emotion. People see inequality everyday but it has become a habit, people themselves have so many problems in their lives that the problems of others are negligible. In pursuit of happiness they have to earn money for which they travel three to four hours daily (some more than that), They sacrifice their family life, distance themselves from their ‘humanity’. Ignorance becomes the key to survive, money becomes a way to escape reality, a particular kind of transportation system becomes their lifeline. The idea of “me” and “I” overpowers their social responsibility, and a human is no more human here, they submit themselves to the condition and convert themselves into a machine without feelings and emotions.

Like in other metropolis, I see these amazing buildings, roads and hotels in Mumbai. We are trying to become a developed nation with good infrastructure, easy transportation, international cars and gadgets etc. But to build all this and to help our country compete with other ‘developed’ nations we need lots of money and lots of labour. Money is easy. People have created various ways to gain it, produce it and multiply it.

Now Mumbai is one of the most populous urban regions in the world, with a population of approx. 21 million according to 2011 census, Mumbai is also the richest city in India, and has the highest Gross Domestic Produce (GDP) of any city in South, West or Central Asia. Mumbai is also called the financial and commercial capital of India as it generates 6.16% of total GDP, it serves as an economic hub of India, contributing 10% of the factory employment, 25% of industry output, 33% of income tax collections, 60% of customs duty collections, 20% of central excise tax collections, 40% of India’s foreign trade and Rs. 4000 crore in corporate taxes. This is the land of opportunities. It has been for many years. People dream of coming here to try their luck… to be one of those who enjoy life to the hilt. It also lures them to do anything to be here and enjoy the endless pleasures of life.

But what about labour? Did the whole of Mumbai’s population contribute equally to build the city? Who actually contributed their sweat (and blood) to build this city?  So then who’s GDP are we talking about? After adding such huge amounts of revenue to the Indian economy, why are there so many poor people in Mumbai? And why in this city of skyscrapers do we have the world’s largest slum, Dharavi? And the people who work night and day to provide the city dwellers like us comforts of this city cannot afford the ridiculously high property prices so they live in the city but in patches of inhumane conditions that are called slums and theyare called the “Urban Poor”. Now what does urban poor mean? This was the question I was asking myself. according to the standard definition.

There is no consensus on a definition of urban poverty but two broad complementary approaches are prevalent: economic and anthropological interpretations. Conventional economic definitions use income or consumption complemented by a range of other social indicators such as life expectancy, infant mortality, nutrition, the proportion of the household budget spent on food, literacy, school enrolment rates, access to health clinics or drinking water, to classify poor groups against a common index of material welfare. Alternative interpretations developed largely by rural anthropologists and social planners working with rural communities in the third world allow for local variation in the meaning of poverty, and expand the definition to encompass perceptions of non-material deprivation and social differentiation (Wratten 1995; Satterthwaite 1995a).

More than half the 21 million people living in Mumbai, the commercial capital of India, live in slums. Over a period of time, policies and programmes for slum-dwellers evolved from “clearing” them to recognizing them and providing some basic amenities on a subsidized basis and then to granting tenure of land and offering services on a cost-recovery basis. In recent years, plans to rehabilitate slum-dwellers either in situ or at alternative locations by granting incentives to developers, have been drawn up and have begun to be implemented, albeit on a small scale.

Yet, until as recently as 1995, pavement dwellers were considered encroachers and remained outside the scope and ambit of slum policy. Over a period of time, while basic amenities were provided in some measure to slums as they gained ‘recognition’ or legal status, families living on pavements had no access to water, sanitation or electricity and were always faced with the real and present threat of eviction and demolition. And it was the women of these families, who raised their children and managed their homes as their men went out in search of work, who bore the brunt of the trauma inflicted by the demolition squads of the Municipal Corporation.

To know this I had to peep through the cracks of the metropolis to get a glimpse of the other side. For this I thought I needed to read various papersand articles written on the issue. But I soon realised that these are my secondary research material. I wanted to see the layered reality I was a part of for myself, and get a little deeper look at the other side. For which I would need to meet the ‘urban poor’ communities and engage with them in a dialogue.

I knew it would be difficult. After all here I was, someone who barely understood the issue, let alone have some suggestions for an alternative. And in my experience it’s very tough for a privileged person like me to talk to a person who is deprived of some of the most basic rights and yet it’s also a kind of inclusion when someone listens to them and wants to know about their condition. But for this you need to make  them comfortable with you, you need to let them know that you are not yet another exploiter. You listen to their problems and people share their life. Such an exercise also brings forth my own personal discomfort. Of talking to and being confronted by people who are struggling to make ends meet.

To reach these communities I had to find a way that would lend me some credibility. People in Mumbai, are a busy set of people, most of all the people at the bottom of the pyramid and also, I didn’t have much time on my side to be able to spend with them to establish trust. Therefore, I chose a path through the people who they knew and trusted already, and whowere already working with them… I would be more like friend’s friend and then I can proceed with my work too.

The Dumping Reality


This place is near the eastern expressway towards Thane on the eastern side of Mulund, a place called Hari Om Nagar, the dumping ground is spread over approx. 20 hectares. The dumping ground is partly surrounded by high-rise residential buildings. And we would generally imagine that the dumping ground is just that. A place where huge truck loads of refuse from the city is dumped and a ground infested with some dogs, rats and scavenger birds. But what would come as a surprise to anyone has been a reality of the people who live in the dumping ground and call it their home.  I never could imagine that I would find 80 families staying in the dumping ground scattered about in small chunks. When I spoke to them I realised that they were from various parts of India, UP, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra (Malegaon, Nasik, Jalna etc.). Few of the families have been on the site for couple of generations even, like Krishan Rama Manakar his daughter Juhi Bai Sabre, who is 47 years old. I met families who used to be farmers or agricultural labourers in other districts of Maharashtra but due to lack of water for irrigation resulting in low yields they had to leave and look for other livelihood options, which brings them to this part of Maharashtra. Those who used to be farmers now consider the dumping ground itself their farm. For a mere Rs 100 or 200 these people scour the garbage in the grounds in the hot summer sun and the muggy Mumbai monsoon, collecting and separating different kinds of plastics and metal which they sell to the garbage dealer. Their houses too are made up of various kinds of material found in the ground.

Their problems are further compounded when the municipal department officials come and destroy their houses without any prior information. The municipal officials keep removing them and creating new problems for them, and the people living around the site in the high-rises accuse them of criminal activities, theft, pollution etc. They don’t have any kind of basic amenities necessary to live, such as electricity, sanitation or water supply. There is a small water source that runs through the dumping ground, which is the only water supply they have, but that too is dirty and undrinkable and over flows during the rainy days to flood their houses. They use this water for all kinds of needs like, cleaning, bathing etc. and for drinking water they have to travel 2-3 kilometers. The basic things we look for in our life such as social, financial, and educational security, none of these are of any meaning to them when other more basic things are inaccessible. 

It was a very shocking experience for me, to see them living in such conditions. As it’s easy for us to know it and talk about it. But to actually be there in person and among them left me a bit rattled. But they were really warm, they were happy to talk to me and share their problems with me, although it was tough to not see myself in their shoes which only made me more angry about the fact that I was there to merely document their struggles and could not help them in anyway.

Every day they face the reality of life and every day we try to escape it by various means. For them every day is struggle and us… we just try to ignore these things, rather we get bothered by some petty issues and blow it up. Despite all these problems in my eyes they are really brave people. No matter whatever the condition they fight and support their family and even neighbours.

Road Rage Rally

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The dare devil wakes up every morning, He/She had a fight at home or not, that is not the point,
the main fight is on the black matt finish tar…
with a smoke in their hand and a devilish look on their face, dressed up in a basic corporate styling, sandwich in one hand and another handling the driving wheel, they love mother nature so they press the acceleration pedal to reach her, although after sometime the horn takes the place of acceleration pedal. The car next to you becomes a rival of the race on red light,
suddenly the road becomes your battle field, and you are the Gladiator…

Its not a race, its a clash of ego with the weapon as car’s bhp (Break Horse Power, the power of a car)… burning out rubber to reach the destination as early as they can, although the finish point of every individual is different… but that does not matter… the fight is still on..

With a imaginary bull horn in front of the car and NO2 as a fuel, people are ready to
bulldoze who ever comes in front, you can see the fumes coming out from every car’s window…

Suddenly on Delhi Noida Toll Bridge there is a traffic jam and for every dare devils it a pitt stop…
me being one of them, with high volume rock music so that no other sound or noise should enter my car… it seems I am watching the world in action with rock music as background track or a world only with expression and emotion but no sound of their own.

In the car on my right struck in jam like me, there is a sweet girl in corporate dress, beautiful golden streak hair, aviator on her eyes, left hand on the gear nob and with the other hand she manages the falling hair on her face and turns towards me…
she looks at me and her face changes into a she devil with long teeth coming out like vampires, the corporate dress changes into black leather dress with spikes all around, tattoos on her face and arms…

It seemed that she will come through my window and suck my blood till I die… as I don’t have AC in my car, i keep all the windows open… I try to look some where else as I don’t want to disturb the lady…

There is another car in front of me, a average middle class car, what I have. People in India call it the “Bread & Butter of Maruti Suzuki” that is “Maruti Suzuki 800”. The car is fully occupied to the maximum number as per the specification says, Its a car pool, people are going to office, and as they are dressed up, it seems they are Indian Government Employs, everyone in the car is sleeping except the driver… Thanks to God… office bags in their lap, mouth open till the max as if they never get time to sleep and they are the persons who sleep the most @ office, @ home etc. forget the mouth part its always open, they are sleeping or not… thats how government employs survive, not all of them… but ya…

Everyone looks towards me where ever I stop… long hair, aviators, loud rock music and smoke in my hand, suddenly I realised that I am being watched… they are old couple on my left…
looking at me as if I am a junk, or a filthy rich lad with no respect for others, but thats not true…
the old person is trying to say something to me, but the music is so loud that I can’t hear anything… as I have some respect I pressed ATT and asked him politely “are you saying something to me” the old chap didn’t liked my music so he asked to lower the volume… but I had the reply…
I said “this noise is better than the noise of the horns”, and pressed the ATT again. He gave a smile to me and pulled his window up. Coming back to the level I was… and continued the journey I went out for… Office.

Flowers for Sale

Its early morning 4, O’ clock. The Baba Kharagsingh Marg leading up to Gole Dak Khana is choked with trucks and tempos, and a couple of SUVs and Marutis. All concentrated in a few hundred metres’ space directly

Bajaj’s antique scooters try to make their way into cramped “parking space” next to the few auto-rickshaws on the edge of the pavement next to the good ol’ Coffee House.

There is a damp fragrance of freshly cut foliage that one is unaccustomed to in a large metropolitan like Delhi on a regular day, in one’s regular routine. There is also at the same time a feverish pace with which people move about us, cars and trucks move in and out – now full – now empty – and now full again.

The trucks, tired, stand resting their behinds on the pavement side. Eager to be unloaded. The mass of people around all gain momentum with their own pace. The laborers finish their 3 inch white plastic cups of chai bottoms up. The driver jumps out of his high seat and yells out directions to his navigator as his hands and legs rebel and try to get as far away from him as possible. One by one the big boxes from the truck is transported on the labourers’ back like children on the bent backs of a grandparent to the large open space that will soon be engulfed by colours and textures and fragrances one did not know existed. Its 4:45 am on a chilly February morning and the sun is still under the velvet blue-grey blanket and the boxes are opened to reveal gerberas and roses, lilies and hydrangeas, tulips and orchids and each of several different colours!

At 5 even the sun can no longer resist but peep at the glory of the blossoms. With the increased visibility we feel certain we are standing in the garden of Eden itself. We are enveloped by colours and fragrances. We see the most colourful, most beautiful fresh cut flowers brought right to this place – the heart of Delhi from different parts of India and even the world. This one is one of the most famous flower market in Delhi NCR (National Capitol Region).

A florist from North Delhi started this market about 15 years ago. He gave farmers a place to sell their flowers directly to the customer, cutting out the need for middlemen in this process, who would otherwise mark up the price of the flowers – way above the production cost and give a paltry margin to the producer. This helped the farmers directly and the flowers which were not sold were taken by the organiser, to be sold through the day at his shop.

At 5:45 am the sun is out in its wintry morning glory with a slight mist draped over him to show us around the famed flower market of New Delhi… leaving us in a fix… the flowers were so tempting, so alluring… we were left wondering whether to start clicking photos or go on and buy these flowers. The flowers were way cheaper than the neighbourhood market, especially given the significance of the date – 14th of February!

As we start bending over and clicking the colours, patterns, shapes and sizes of the beautiful flowers one cannot but zoom out of the tight frame and notice the contrast the brown face of the man selling the flowers. The tired lines on his face. The faded colours of his son’s clothes who assists him. Zoom out a bit more and the frame would capture on the corners the little children who pick up the discarded flowers to try and sell to the disinterested customers who amble by under the mid-day sun at the nearby Janpath market or even better – the cars that drive by with their air-conditioners on and their windows up. Anyone who has been to Delhi before the attempted “beautification” for the CWG would find great charm in the unique contrast one sees in this flower market.

One would also be surprised at the number of things available in this market. There were not only flowers of various kinds, but also artificial ones, again of many kinds! – and much cheaper than the ones in Lajpat.  And you’d find everything under the sun that one might require for gardening etc. This perhaps adds to the crowded, chaotic air of the place.

Here we must add a rider. You have to find your way out of this labyrinthine market yourself. saving my camera from people around, not to hit anyone, not to step on flowers around you, looking for a fine shot, looking around to catch the moment in which I can depict the whole environment…. its tough but its not impossible…

This is one of the essence of Delhi’s market atmosphere, a person coming to Delhi to see how these kinds of systems work, must visit this place, how unorganized an organized sector can be and how organized an unorganized sector can be… happy tripping… 🙂