Tuesday, November 12, 2013

All in a good day's swearin'

Do you enjoy swearing? Or are you one step ahead, and have imbibed it into yourself so much that you have no control over when you swear anymore?

I am clearly the kind that enjoys swearing. It gives me immense relief and satisfaction to swear loudly when some random *** tries to cut me in from the side, on the road. It is as if I have said the worst, and now, life can move on. Also, most often than not, I am fully well in control of my swearing. So, the next time you hear me swear, and then I apologize, you know there is a 95% chance I meant to swear wholeheartedly.

What if you are of the other type? It means that you do run certain risks I have taken upon myself to alert you about.

Someone, many centuries back, drew up a “Gentleman’s code”, a copy of which I haven’t laid my hands on yet. But, the sum and substance of it says that, amongst other things a gentleman is expected to do, such as wear sharp suits and well-polished boots, he needs to not swear in front of a lady. Now, does a code like that exist for the ladies? I guess not. However, it is commonly assumed that well-bred ladies don’t swear (only if they are not Scarlett O’Hara’s kin).

While the gentleman has evolved over the ages, to the extent of brazenly banging the door on the face of the lady behind him, the unwritten rule of “apologetic swear” is still followed in many parts of the world. So, when a gentleman is in a meeting that has one or more female participants, and he has the strong urge to say “f***”, he usually says “Excuse me ladies, for my language” and then swears loudly. If he doesn't do that, he just apologizes post facto. See. It is simple. But, if the ladies decide to “f***” his life, they have the freedom to sue him for having used obscene language in front of them.

Secondly, we are all growing, if not up, at least old. That only means many of our friends are already in the middle of full-fledged family life; which also means they have kids who have recently started learning words like flower, farmhouse, foreign etc. Do our friends want us to add to their kids’ already rich and growing vocabulary? They apparently are not in favor of such a situation. So, the next time they try socializing with us, with their family in tow, we run the risk of being disowned forever if we swear loudly in front of them.

What can be done about it, you ask. One lame idea, that the good people on T.V. use in order to evade censorship, is to substitute swear words for less offensive and utterly nonsensical terms such as “frigging”, “fishing” etc. But, that’s akin to suggesting that a dark-brown oatmeal biscuit will give you as much pleasure as a chocolate chip brownie.

So, I have a better idea. Consciously bite your tongue every time you utter a swear word in public. The pain will make sure you get a handle on the swearing. And, then, save up all the swearing for your private time, so that you can let go and resume life in peace.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Kingdom of my dreams

Aye Dil Hai Mushkil Jeena Yahan, 

Zara Hat Ke Zara Bach Ke, Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan 

A typical Bombay-based non-Bollywood movie starts with this song, pans across the VT station, gives a bird’s eye view of Marine Drive and closes with the "kaali peelis". That is the city in a nutshell, at least to the awestruck tourist. 

However, as a migrant who has lived in Bombay for almost six years, my home memories of Bombay revolve, not around happening Colaba or around suburban Bandra, but around that indispensable Tam bastion of Matunga East

To many, Matunga East is just a land of South Indian eateries fitting a dozen or more tables and chairs in a 400 square foot space and serving endless amounts of rice, saambhaar, idli and dosa. 

A Matunga-ite would know much better than that. 

They would know about that small shop in the gully on Bhaudaji Road that sells ready-made batter for idlis and dosas. They would know about that road parallel to Bhaudaji’s where Mysore Concerns sells authentic filter coffee powder. They would know about the Chheda Stores opposite the railway station that sells every namkeen on Earth – dhoklas, khakhras, chivdas, kachoris, samosas. They would know about the veggies market near the railway station that sells the freshest yellow and red peppers and broccoli and celery. They would know about the empty, by-lane through Hindu Colony that would take one directly to Dadar station. They would know that, no matter what the hustle-bustle, the area goes quiet by 9 pm, letting one take a walk in peace through the empty, tree-filled, well-paved by-lanes of Chandavarkar Road

Who is this Matunga-ite, one may ask. I am not, as per traditional definitions. Then again, since living in Matunga is such an exorbitant affair, only BMW owners can dream of becoming Matunga-ites in the traditional sense.

But, the biggest beauty of Matunga lies in the fact that one doesn’t have to live there to be a Matunga-ite. Matunga is a hodgepodge of cultures, filled with Gujju aunties and Tam Brahm maamis, hep girls at Sia’s jewellery shop and traditional ladies in Milaap’s saree shop, South Indian temples and Jain Mandirs, New Yorkers’ and Madras Café. One just has to drop into this place to feel belonged, to become a Matunga-ite

Matunga is what I remember during Dahi Handi and Ganesh Puja, Matunga is the place I end up in during Diwali and Sankranthi. The colors vibrant, the themes changing in sync with the festivity, the lights, stars, marigolds, Krishna figurines, Ganesha idols – the sight is quite amazing. 

One may argue that only fools will frequent Matunga during the festive season, when Dadar is but a couple of kilometres away. Have you ever been to Dadar? On a normal day, it is a menagerie where bikes, cars, taxis, pedestrians, vendors and everyone else coexist both on the roads and the walk ways. Around the festive season, it is a wild forest with an uncontrollable fire that threatens to consume all that dare walk through it. If Dadar is wilderness filled with commotion, Matunga is a mature peacock carrying herself with panache through the wilds, in rain and sunshine. And that’s why one would like her better. 

So, the next time you end up in Matunga East for a bite, do sample the Khotto Idli at Mysore Café. But, also take a few minutes to walk through Bhandarkar Road up to Ruia college. You will realize that beauty and peace can exist, even amidst the crowds and the jostle.