Jun 252012

My column in today’s DNA


Psychiatry identifies a condition called Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), popularly known as Multiple Personality Disorder, in which two or more distinct identities or personalities compete with each other to take charge of the patient’s behaviour. If you were an alien observing the Indian media to observeIndia, you wouldn’t be wrong in assuming that there is a severe case of DID that requires urgent attention and treatment.

Indians especially those of us living in cities and working in relatively high paying jobsseem to suffer from acute multiple personality syndrome when it comes to India and our fellow citizens. There is one personality that sees Indiataking her place at the high table of world powers. There is another personality that thinks that India’s poor are people from another country and another time. There is a third personality that believes that rules should be applied uniformly and the corrupt should be locked up and the keys thrown away. And then to counter that there is a fourth personality that believes that it is completely all right for them to jump the red light and slip the traffic policeman a fifty rupee note along with their licence. There is a fifth personality that will use every contact, every piece of influence in their larger family and friend circle to get their kids into elite schools

and colleges or jobs. And a sixth personality that chaffs at

the concept of reservations. There is another personality that will sit in its comfortable drawing room and talk about how wonderful it is that people from other countries turn up in large numbers to protest against their government or participate in the electoral process, and to counter that is a personality that will send SMS’s or press like buttons in lieu of participation and plan a holiday on election weekend.  And of course there is a personality that moans at the non application of rules and the reign of goonda raj where the rich and powerful reign. And there is another personality that outrages that  officials – especially police officials – applying the rules without prejudice are puritans from another century or the Taliban from another country. All these personalities and opinions reside within a single person. If it was spread across the country you would call it diversity. But, within one person it seems like a serious problem that requires some concerted psychiatric care.

There is nothing that exemplifies this affliction more than the recent fracas in Mumbai over police raids on watering holes, night clubs and bars. At one level you have had the media and citizen groups that have gone hammer and tongs at the system not sending people to prison when laws are violated, at the other there is outrage when these laws are applied to them.

Mumbai has some of the most archaic rules that govern alcohol and nightlife. Everyone needs a permit to drink alcohol – a permit that states that you need alcohol for medicinal reasons; essentially a permit that declares you an alcoholic. This permit requirement goes back to 1949 – the Bombay Prohibition Act – which no one has bothered to repeal .There are three things that policeman can do in a situation like this. One is ignore the law and do nothing. The second is take money and look the other way. The third is doing something about it. There are many who advocate option one. But, the job of the policeman is not to interpret the law – that is the job of courts, nor is it to make the law – that is the role of legislators. The Policeman’s role is to implement the law.

We keep using the West as an example – in the west establishments breaking overcrowding rules will be penalised. Those that serve alcohol without license will be fined. Those that serve the underage alcohol will be shut down. Teenagers caught with traces of narcotics will end up with a jail record. Parents who take their underage kids into night clubs will be prevented from entering the establishment. There is something called the rule of law and it is obeyed. . And when the law is wrong, as in many cases it can be, groups of citizens lobby their elected representatives to change it.  They get involved. There is a conversation, it is a process.

There are just too many laws and rules that govern us, and many of them violate our personal rights and personal space. Those laws need to go. But, we need to be conscious that our rights are in relation to the rights of others, and not absolute in themselves and vice versa.  It is important  that we sit down together and find solutions. Vilifying policemen who carry out the law is not conversation. It is a tantrum of those who ask ‘how dare anyone ask us what we do’, at the same time as raging against those who do the same.

Apr 122012

That Mumbai’s open spaces are under threat is no secret. slowly but surely playgrounds, parks, maidans have all made way for concrete & steel buildings, shanties, garages, small businesses and large, giant parking lots, dumping grounds.

Near my house in Andheri (E) there used to be a little park. And then it disappeared. A retired resident in the area filed a RTI, discovered that the builder had built three buildings keeping the park in the middle. Today, we the public has access – via the buildings – to the park.

A city like Mumbai, with a stressed out population needs its open community spaces. They need to be protected from encroachment and greed.


This weekend – the 14th and 15th of April – there is an exhibition of Open Spaces in Mumbai ward by ward and what you can do to protect them. Also present are my friends from Hathautee with artisans from all parts of India demonstrating their skills and selling their wares. Leslie Lewis will be there performing … Open Spaces, community and Art.

(Raku Pottery, demonstrations and workshops at the Racecourse)

I will be there. Hope to see you there too.

Dec 072011

Those who believe that Mumbai is modern, a British creation, have never been to Banganga.

is said that the source of the Banganga Pond, in Mumbai, is the Ganga itself. And like the Ganga, the pond is holy, and can wash away all sins. Legend has it that Lakshman, the brother of Ram, shot an arrow into the earth, and out spouted the Ganga.
For those who can’t visit the north to immerse ashes, the Banganga is a substitute.
Every Day you will find the devout taking a holy dip before going about their day’s work.


a man taking a holy dip at Banganga. given the state of that pond – and the debris and dirt that floats in it – you realise there must be God – else the man would be poisoned before he took the next gulp !

baganga - lake with the adjoining structures

The pond is surrounded by buildings, both traditional and modern. I often wonder, what the inhabitants make of us, trudging through their home ground peering through our lenses, clicking our photographs. Maybe they peer back at us

boys at the window

Among the more interesting temples there – it isn’t one temple, but a pond surrounded by temples – is the one to Parashuram, the 6th Avtaar of Vishnu. Parashuram is not the most worshipped incarnation of Vishnu, so finding a temple dedicated to him is a rarity.

bhagwan parushuram mandir

IF you are in Mumbai, or just visiting, it is a lovely place to visit. you can sit on the steps leading into the pond. But, unless you have a cast iron stomach or the deepest faith, avoid drinking the water from the pond. Mumbai tries to keep cleaning up the pond, but devotees believe that unless they litter it with flowers and fruits – their faith will be diminished. So, the Ganga here, like the Ganga up North, is full of debris, plastic, organic waste. Yet, that doesn’t stop people from coming here, taking a dip, a couple of gulps of the Ganga – in the hope that she will wash away all that is ugly.



And, yes, it is home to some very loud cackling geese (at least, I think they are geese) :D

Aug 292011

It has been raining non stop since last Thursday night in Mumbai. I haven’t ventured out of the house since Saturday, when i got home all soaked – after wading through god knows what ….


It has, gotten worse or better. the skies are over cast. the winds chilly. and it is raining non stop. no pause. I am sure that the roads are shredded

Today, I worked from home… I can manage the rains quite easily. We were working on 26/7 – waded through waist high water to reach film city to shoot … what I cannot handle are shredded roads.

This monsoons have been the worst as far as my health has been concerned. The whole body hurts with the effort of keeping the car steady through the potholes.

The BMC has failed. Its corporators and management has not delivered. Elections are in 2012. Time to vote in a new local self government. And make them accountable.

Have been reading about Adolf D’Souza an independent corporator from Juhu. He has done phenomenal work in representing the people.

. His biggest success was clearing the Irla nullah that drains excess water into the Arabian Sea. The office of a private security business and other encroachments were blocking it, but with memories of the 26/7 deluge still fresh, over 150 residents, among them several actors, protested outside the home of Revenue Minister Narayan Rane, who had stayed the demolition order. Under pressure, the government carried out the demolition.The 47-year-old Juhu corporator strongly believes in empowering every citizen to be a mini-corporator, by guiding people about whom to call, or write a letter to in the corporation. He meets area sabha representatives after office hours at his home office. The sabhas in Juhu put forth their problems to corporation officials every month after collecting them through SMSes or notes sent by people.

A number of my friends have been speaking of standing for the BMC elections. I don’t know if intention will translate into action. But, atleast they are talking about being involved at the local level. I personally believe that the local level elections & local level representatives are as important as those in the centre. Most, unfortunately, don’t even know the name of their coprorator.

Maybe, that is the problem with the urban middle class – they think that BMC elections are below their dignity. They don’t vote. they crib. And then then they take a lit candle for a walk.
jb nagar

The road my corporator Subhash Sawant got built. The photograph is that of JB Nagar road … the road was, until three years ago, an unmitigated disaster. The gutters would over flow, there was uncollected garbage everywhere. there were street shops encroaching on the pavement. Shops that would encroach on the road. I used to dread going to JB Nagar – and it is a three minute walk from my house.

Now, it has an asphalt road. Gutters that are regularly silted. Garbage that is collected regularly. Pavements to walk on. Street vendors have an area of their own – making shopping relatively easy. There are potted plants, space for parking – and it is fun to visit …