Category Archives: Mumbai

The Last Generation

Marine Drive

Photograph taken at Marine Drive, Mumbai, India

The Holy Fathers were making predictions about the last generation. They said ‘What have we ourselves done?’ One of them, the great Abba Ischyrion replied, ‘We ourselves have fulfilled the commandments of God.’ The others replied, ‘And those who come after us, what will they do?’ He said, ‘They will struggle to achieve half our works.’ They said, ‘And to those who come after them, what will happen?’ He said, ‘THE MEN OF THAT GENERATION WILL NOT ACCOMPLISH ANY WORKS AT ALL AND TEMPTATION WILL COME UPON THEM; AND THOSE WHO WILL BE APPROVED IN THAT DAY WILL BE GREATER THAN EITHER US OR OUR FATHERS.’ – From ‘The Sayings of the Desert Fathers’

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Mumbai Rajdhani: Another Trip

The thought of going back home on the Mumbai Rajdhani invariably fills me with  excitement and ebullience like that of a 4 year old when he sees candy. The silent motion coupled with high speed and the few stops this train enjoys sets it apart from any other Rajdhani in the nation. Mumbai to Delhi in flat 16 hours and that too, with convenient timings, makes this an enviable option to the myriad of flights available.

I reached Mumbai Central, the source station an hour and a half before departure by one of the new age locals that seem to be getting a lot of attention these days owing to frequent  malfunctions.

At 2:30 in the afternoon,the Mumbai Central platforms bear a bored look, one that is accentuated by the empty platforms, the dead locomotives in the pit lines, the napping railwaymen, a couple of strangely coloured stray dogs and the odd traveler.

The main hall of the station, however, portrays a different picture, with its swanky new Mcdonalds and Rajdhani restaurants, the buzzing mass of people, all conversing animatedly and  few railway workers checking, loading and unloading parcels onto carts

I preferred to stay away from the hustle and bustle and found myself comfortably placed on a new steel bench that seemed to have been victimized in some metal bashing session. 

A few locomotives kept moving up and down the lines, shunting themselves onto different platforms. The locomotives of Mumbai are unique, in that they run on both AC and DC. These specialized locomotives were created because Mumbai and areas around run on DC while the rest of India runs on AC.

By 3:30 pm a handful of passengers had arrived on the platform.  Two gentlemen chose to accompany me on either side of the steel bench. The one to my left kept himself busy over the phone, while the one to my right, obese from all ends kept nudging me for more space. all this when the benches ahead were empty. 

In the midst of our fight for space, which seems to be the story of every Indian, we were approached by a eunuch, begging (read demanding) for money. 

“De beta, paise la…bhagwan tera bhala karega” (followed by the quintessential kissing sound and the clap). Her sweetness, as in most cases, was shortlived and when she realized that we were hardly paying any attention to her, threw a string of abuses and went on ahead.

In the meanwhile, I was also fed up of the obese gentleman’s quest for space. I finally got up, glaring at the gentleman, who at that point in time, represented a  ripened tomato (in his red shirt), all ready to be squashed underfoot.

I moved on to another bench.That the train was going to Delhi was validated by ” auntyji, train ithe hi aayegi, aap kithe jaa rahe ho” ,zebra striped and gaudy sarees and salwars and a couple of surd boys jumping up and down on the platform:Punjabis 

The rake of the Mumbai Rajdhani was shunted onto the platform at 4:00 pm and it was a pleasure to see the queen, all washed and jacked up for the journey. 

As i watched the rake being shunted in, the same eunuch walked up to me again, delivering the same few lines. I refused again and protested saying that she had come to me earlier as well. Her memory seemed to be in auto mode however and she had no recall whatsoever and after an “uff ohh’ moved on to another bench.

The one disappointment on seeing the Rajdhani rake were the meshed windows, with the words ” There’s a little bit of Sail in everybody’s life” screaming out at you. My disappointment was amplified when I realized, that the usually clear view outside was now marred by the mesh across the window.genius thought for a marketer, a genuine disappointment for a railfan.

On the train, my neighbours included a couple of young chaps,a Punjabi businessman and two probably bengali ladies.A compartment ahead, sat a group of tough looking policemen with sten guns.

The train left on time and we were soon chugging along, though at top speed, across the Western terrain of India.

The Punjabi businessman sat right opposite me in the side berth. An unobtrusive man, he knew perfectly well to mind his own business. Apart from the open mouthed snores and the constant “Hey Prabhus” , he was the perfect co passenger.

Of the two young chaps, one seemed to be around 17-18 years of age, measly thin, with an army cut. He had an accent that seemed to suggest he had had some exposure abroad.

What made this character intriguing, however, were his phone calls.All his friends seemed to have nicknames assigned which included Baby Goose, Momma Goose, Tiger, Captain etc etc

He would keep referring to Western Commnd and war at this front and that front. His size didn’t seem to suggest any relation to the army, although his fervent talk seemed to suggest deep affiliation to whatever he was involved in. He had, infact come down to Mumbai because there was a lecture by Tiger, meant for the Western Command(??). 

The only other plausible reasoning for this  lingo was gaming. It was tough for me to comprehend, however, that young guys were travelling across the nation to attend lectures on strategy for a virtual world??

I resigned to Mary Higgins Clark’s “Where are you now?”and most of the evening was spent reading, interspersed with glances here and there and small naps, with my mouth wide open.

Dinner time came and went with the service good and the dinner served hot. I actually didn’t miss the soup and the bread sticks, items which have been discontinued from the Rajdhani menu by the IRCTC, citing enhanced quality focus by restricting themselves to fewer items. Fewer items meant no ice cream as well.

After the stop at Baroda (9:30 pm) ,I climbed into the cosy, side upper berth and in a matter of  minutes was lost in dreamland.

Morning was a rude experience. I was jolted out of sleep by a white light beyond the folds of my eyes. I found myself staring at the tube-light on the ceiling. The attendant had switched it on on duty’s call.

Waking up, I realized, to my dismay, that as usual, I had forgotten to bring my toothbrush and paste. Brushing would have to wait but could not afford to allow my mouth to stink. I didn’t have my pack of Happydents as well and was wondering what to do when I remembered the welcome kit (given on the Rajdhani) included a mouth freshener pack as well .

So, within the confines of  an Indian style toilet, while the others outside thought I was busy attending to the call of nature and brushing my teeth, I popped the sweetened saunf into my mouth.

Bad idea…The welcome kit included paper soap as well and the the soapy taste of soap and the sweet taste of saunf had combined and culminated in a truly disgusting taste. The mouth smelled fresh, however, even if it smelt of soap.

I got down to eating breakfast, which comprised of  tasteless vada and tangy idlis served with a hopeless green chutney. Whatever hopes I had had of the IRCTC delivering to quality were lost with this breakfast. There was no packed juice as well, which had become staple for me in my frequent journeys.

The breakfast was followed by coffee. Instead of the regular Nescafe, they served TaTa Coffee and as a proud South Indian, I must say, this will surely appeal to all who favour roast and ground coffee to the bland Nescafe.

The coffee was invigorating enough to help me finish around 50 pages of “Where are you now?”  in a span of half an hour. The train, meanwhile had reached Delhi and was slowly making its way through Hazrat Niammudin, Tilak Bridge, Shivaji Bridge to finally reach New Delhi at 8:36 am, for all practical purpose, on time.

A metro ride later, I was home, treating myself to chapati and Kerala style Chole.

Another succesful trip  and another good ride on the 2951 down Mumbai Rajdhani Express

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Mumbai Bloggers Meet:Was it worth it?

Bloggers meets have always intrigued me? What is it that binds 100-150 (at a time) and makes them assemble together under one roof? What do you talk? What do you discuss?  and how can one subscribe to the idea that bloggers across are the same?

It is to answer these questions that I, despite the saturday, chose to attend the Mumbai Bloggers Meet organized by

The event was like a movie, slowling unfolding, to reveal the story.

It started with the credits, with a lady called Netra Parikh receiving a majority of the applauds…Thank you for organizing this and that and that and this…it felt (and maybe I dont know) as if her very being inspired bloggers to laugh, to cry and ya, to write.

Next came the round of introductions, which for the majority of us, was the chance to get someone to readourblogs.Surprisingly, almost all of them, had a Twitter ‘handle’ (as they defined it) as well, making me wonder if this was a true representation of the ‘Mumbai Blogging Fraternity”

It was time for the sessions and, this is where, I finally felt was a thread that united bloggers across genres.Ashoka is a non profit that describes itself as a Citizen Service Organization and seeks to create and nurture Social Entrepreneurs to drive change across nations. More can be read about them here

Every such organization seeks to drive awareness and the internet, of course, becomes the preferred medium. The internet, itself, however has evolved and it is a web of conversations that drives the internet today. It, is, therefore to create awareness and drive conversations that the Ashoka was looking for “Blogger Guardians”, who would become the voice of the Social entrepreneurs and drive conversations around them across the web…A good thought indeed.

The rest of the meet seemed to revolve around shameless self promotion, a lot of technical staff and a few laughs here and there ( Thakkar from

The few interesting people I either observed or met included

a) An aunty who’s been blogging in malayalam and is quite excited about it.

b)A couple of Hindi Bloggers who are trying to make a social impact through their blogs, one of them being

c) A surd blogger who visualizes better and puts across meanings through drawings rather than words (wish I could remember his blog id)

Well, time for a final take on the entire event.

  • Being a social media analyst myself, I felt that every such meeting, is becoming a time out for the same group of people again and again.This is not a representation of the true population of bloggers in Mumbai.
  • A lot of talk is revolving around Twitter, which may not exactly be what bloggers are looking for in such a meet
  • A lot of talk is revolving around technology and nuances of technology, which everyone may not understand.
  • A lot of talk goes around SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which I fell, anyway defeats the purpose of your writing for the true love of writing. Also, a lot of us are not even aware of what SEO is and a bloggers platform may first be used to educate people around the same and then delve into serious discussions around it
  • Too commericial. Sponsors, new businesses, promotion takes the pulse away from such sessions. While, for some monetization is the goal, for many it isnt. There needs to be a balance struck to ensure how much monetization one can talk in such a forum.
  • Agendas for such meets needs to be laid out clearly before the meeting itself.

There is probably, a need to verticalize the genres of blogging and then call for such sessions. Value Addition can happen only then. Till then, it only becomes a platform to chit chat and gossip, something I do through the week anyway.

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Leaving Oracle: Excerpts from my first Blog

I started experimenting with blogs in January, 2007. Campuses can be lonely places and you need to find avenues to release all pent up energies to ensure that your sanity is not lost.

Anyway, I managed all of three blog posts on my first URL (a blogspot one), 2 on campus and one when I finally left Oracle. Leaving Oracle had been a decision that was both spontaneous and gutsy. I, to this day feel proud of the fact that I was able to take a stand and follow it through.Money and comfort suddenly just didnt matter. I needed to be happy with my job and my leaving Oracle was the start of a quest to find the job that suited me. I must admit, however, that Oracle had amazing people- people who believed in you, people who could make you laugh inspite of all the tensions and frustrations we faced as part of our jobs. Some of them i am still in touch with even today.

The following is an excerpt from my post on my first blog:

September 16,2007
Just back from Mumbai. The past few months,as usual have been eventful.I got placed as a Business Development Consultant with first job and that too in a global brand.The icing on the cake was the fact that I was the first to get placed from my college:IMT Nagpur.A moment to be proud of…a moment to celebrate.A snapshot of my life history flashes past me : from my Columba’s days to the wonderful days in college and finally my post graduation.Life’s been good and God’s been kind and merciful….
….June 2007: It seems to be a mistake….a terrible mismatch…this is not the profile I foresaw on campus.I am doing nothing but sitting and calling.Although am being given a decent salary,I don’t see my MBA being put to any use and neither do I see my life goals being fulfilled in this line.
….August 2007(towards the end).I have to take a decision…a decision now…it’s a risk but I am willing to take the risk.I am willing to break free and pursue my line of interest. A small fear at the back of my mind tries to discourage me : whether I’ll get a decent job after a brief stint in Oracle…”I will “…my confidence surges me forward and on that Friday night I submit my resignation.
…September 2007…Mumbai happens…I call up my friends…faithful friends and ask them to schedule interviews for me. three interviews in a week…not bad at all.Mumbai treats me well and to spend the day running about and trying to gauge the pulse of the city and the ‘Jalad’ local train system is an opportunity in itself.Back from Mumbai Iam loaded with one offer and one offer to be placed.It’s a small achievement but I have miles to go till I can soar in the open skies.

As I compare the above excerpt and the way I write now, I realize I have become much more impersonal. Maybe its because its all part of my job now…I dont know but I shall continue to write

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Wedding Afterthoughts: 3 weeks later

Before it happens,Its a step most married men warn you against and most unmarried individuals tease you about. Both claim to know either side of the wall too well to be providing sound advice!!

After it happens, it’s a step that affects most of your bachelor friends.Soon after the wedding,I encountered individuals (bachelors), who were either being pressurised to marry or were putting pressure on their parents to get them married, all an outcome of my marriage.

One particular individual, so i heard, had to be sent away to ensure that his testosterone levels remained in control.

As far as I am concerned, my calm demeanour towards the entire ceremony and the following reception seemed to shock many.Being shy and reserved, my character should I deally have taken me to new heights of nervous tension and paranoia. Nothing of that sort happened. Glory be to God.

I still wonder as to why, even after 3 weeks of marriage, I dont feel a lot has changed in my relationships, in my passions. On the contrary, I feel a lot more responsible. I have a house which we are slowly settling into and ensuring that we survive to the best of our capabilities is an interesting challenge.

“Robin, set the family on your shoulders and dont you dare touch Sweety’s money” was the diktat I got from home. Mumbai isnt, however, exactly the place where you would want to implement this ideology. Needless to say, I am trying and a review this month end should tell me if I am well placed to afford my family.

“Sweety, please make sure he isnt lazy”, were my mom’s words to my wife on the way to the station. Procastrination and I have always had a strong bond of relationship. The difference before marriage and after marriage, now, however, is the amount of time I procastrinate. Where earlier a lag of a day or a two coupled with some pricking earfuls from my mom was needed to justify doing a chore, nowadays, I seem to have brought it down to an hour or so, much to the delight of Sweety who thinks of it being nothing short of a miracle.

On a slightly different tangent,Sweety, fortunately, has also had the opportunity to look after me while I suffered from a weird cocktail of cold, stomach aches/upsets and high fevers soon after coming to Delhi. She’s been given an ace rating, I am sure ,by my folks. The illness only added to my already low ratings on the activity scale.

Back in Mumbai…The chores…the list is slowly increasing but it’s increasing for both of us and when we are one body and one spirit I see no sense in complaining. I have learnt how to knead the dough, an achievment I couldnt manage in 26 years of observing my dad do it for us at home. Groceries, medicines, other daily and immediate requirements all come under my purview of responsibility and its strange that I dont feel like shying away from them any longer.

Many of my critics would say “It’s only been 3 weeks dude!!”. The Honeymoon period according to some random British Study, lasts for 2.5 years. When I stated this to a married friend of mine, his response was “Ya and then True Love Kicks in”…hmmm…thats something to look forward to. 

I look forward to tomorrow

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The Choices I made: My MBA

Been in a pensive mood throughout the day. Next Sunday I will be a married man and the i will include a she as well. Memories have flashed by and memories like life can be both painful and joyful.

The year 2005 : I had left my first company to prepare for CAT and non focus being a highlight of my life, I had chosen to study only 2 months prior to the exam that is a career determiner for many. My mode of studying was also unique. I could never study from a text book and so i chose to give timed tests, which were 2 hour affairs locked inside my room.

I managed a decent percentile (pathetic by some standards) and my final calls (through CAT) included IMT Nagpur and KJ Somaiya. Well here was a choice to make…Somaiya, the Mumbaiya college or IMT, the industrially well placed college.

At home, in such situations, a simple yet effective solution is prayer followed by the casting of lots. In those days, my grandfather was also staying with us.

A man of small stature but broad shoulders and a face that was full of wisdom, he had been a scientist by proffession and a great grandfather to us grandchildren.His health, more his mental wellness had been deteriorating owing to Alzhemeirs and each day his hallucinations and his loss of direction would only increase, causing my mother and father much agony.

After the mandatory night prayers, I asked each of my family members to pick a chit each. The following were the results:

Dad : KJ Somaiya

My Sister: KJ Somaiya

Mom: IMT Nagpur

me: IMT Nagpur

A perfect tie and yet the poll wasnt over. However,my grandfather, a man of strong habits, went off to sleep at 8pm daily and this day was no different.

To me, getting into either of the colleges made sense. IMT Nagpur was a new college but was the sibling of a college with a strong heritage.There was also the opportunity to struggle and create a brand for ourselves. On the other hand, KJ Somaiya was an established college with strong industry relationships. Marico was one of the recruiters and I was thoroughly excited about the amateur business plan I had created involving the Coconut Industry. Anyway, the choice was in God’s hands and the instrument of his choice was my grandfather.

Early morning at around 5:30, my mom woke me up, urging me to go and make Appachen, as we called him, to pick a chit.

Appachen was sipping his coffee, when I, with groggy eyes and a crumpled night dress presented the lots before him. My mom and my dad stood around, waiting in curiosity to know what my future would behold.

Appachen took out a chit, which he then passed on to mom who opened it..The choice was made and it was Nagpur that had called me…

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Mumbai’s Spirit and India’s resilience!!

The day was full of messages..messages that seemed to scream at the inaction that we as a nation are facing…following are some of the status messages that i came across on my G Chat

-The undefeatable ‘Mumbai Spirit’ – a mask for our deep fears, very sense of repeated defeats, wretchedness, and incapability to act.

-This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.

-Taj/Oberoi/Nariman… is this end or beginin…FIGHT TERRORISM NOW

-“Death by a thousand cuts”. That’s the strategy being used here against India. Question is: Will Indians respond by adding to the cuts themselves? Or by stopping the hand that aims to cut them?

-Slightly Disturbed…

-scary shit

And some verses of a poem on one of the many Facebook groups created ((Mumbai Terror Attacks : I condemn it) to protest against this inaction

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out
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Mumbai and the prayers we need

Placing the candles on Carter Road

The Peace Procession on Carter Road, Bandra

The Prayer for Peace

Lead me from death to life,
from falsehood to truth,
Lead me from despair to hope,
from fear to trust.
Lead me from hate to love,
from war to peace,
Let peace fill our beings,
our world and our universe. Amen.

Let the light shine forth

Let Light and Hope Shine Forth

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Mumbai Terror Attacks: Who messed up?

My emotions are running high and it is not because the terrorists managed to bring a nation to its knees but because somebody didnt do his job well. The consequences are for everyone to see: over 130 killed and over 350 injured!! and a city which is now crying for some comfort.

Who did not do his job? The Coast Guard? Arent they paid to protect our coasts? Why is it that a boat full of terrorists so easily managed to reach our shores then?? How is it that the terrorists so easily managed to cross over from Karachi to Mumbai?

The Navy?? They boast of being far superior than the Coast Guard but why did our seas suddenly become a source of terror?? Somalia was a brave step, our crews required it…but what use is it if they cannot protect the citizens of India in India?

And to say that Pakistan is the cause of all this!!! Thats despicable and disgusting!! We have failed to protect our citizens because we were not competent enough to protect ourselves!!!Pakistan comes later!!

I am proud of my security forces, who have risked their lives to ensure that the terrorists are flushed out. The real question, however is, was all this really required!!! I have lost some of my best protectors because of the callousness of some.

The political System in this nation is a joke. You have Manmohan Singh who cannot even address the nation with conviction and as expected, takes a stance that shirks any Indan responsibility and looks at a foreign hand to rescue him!!

You have Mr Advani who lands in Mumbai and goes into the usual rut of “This Government has done this and done that!!!” and only tries to drive passions the wrong way!!! Mr Advani, I am sure you would have done an equally worse job!!!

Then you have the Thackreys…Well they were nowhere to be seen while the encounter went on!!!Where were they when all of us were sitting scared inside our homes?? and they claim to stand for Mumbaikers!!! They have apparently called a bandh on Monday!Usually an act of defiance would constitute all of us Mumbaikers carrying on with our chores just as we would have done on any other day. But Mr Thackrey thinks otherwise!!! He believes compliance is the best form of defiance!!!

Mr. Raj Thackrey, today Mumbai is safe because many Indians from across the nation came to ‘your city’s’ rescue!!!

I believe all these politicians, who are supposedly our representatives, be stripped of any security and packed off in a boat to Karachi!!

 I assure you India will be much safer then.

As I complete this post the ordeal has finally come to an end…but was it ever required in the first place??

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Mumbai:26/11 November Terror Attacks

Another attack…Around a hundred dead and many more injured…The Taj Colaba and the Trident are a picture of intense confrontation between the commandos and the terrorists. A little known group calling itself the “Deccan Mujahideen” claims responsibility.

Is the attack successful…The terrorists seem to be celebrating…the reason to celebrate? that they let 13-15 of their good young men commit suicide? that they killed some innocent men and women or that most families in Mumbai are cursing them?

Their reasoning seems as stupid as the causes they fight for or try to instigate. My room mate casually mentions that a bomb should be dropped on Mecca. The other 2 strongly reprimand him but it makes me wonder.Maybe this is the success that they aim to achieve, to divide sentiments on the basis of religion, to make people victims of hatred against each other.

What also makes me think is also the timing of the attacks…it comes at a time when Mumbai is about to go to elections. Hemant Karkare, the chief of ATS and prime investigating officer of the Malegaon Blasts is also killed?? Was it planned? And if so who would plan it? these are questions which need to be answered.

The other aspect, is of course, the response from the government. In the time of such a crisis, why is not the Prime minister or at least the Home Minister talking to the citizens of India. Is not reassuring them a responsibility that government should adorn ? Actionables are what is required of the government…not the rut of just announcing a probe.

There is always a call for greater Government and public cooperation but why dont I see it happening. Everyone is so disconnected in India that no one seems bothered about what happens where. The news constantly boasts about their reporters being present at hotspots.Is that all they care for?

For exactly an hour we were shocked…Now we are planning on what to do as its effectively a ‘holiday’ for us. That speaks for my attitude towards terror and my failing sensitivity towards life and my fellow brethren. It is shocking and should be of concern to me and this nation.

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