Monday, March 16, 2009

Mumbai Mon Amour

Blogdosts, I had written this for Hindustan Times a while ago. Happened to come across it just now while looking for something else, and thought of sharing it with you. Just as I was busy posting it, my husband called to say he'd had a really frustrating experience trying to book tickets for a traditional Lavni performance at The Tata Theatre. Nearly every single seat had been blocked by the guys in Mantralaya!! In other words, the average, paying fan of this lusty, erotic and entirely amazing dance form of Maharashtra, had no choice but to settle for the lousiest seats, since the government babus had grabbed the best ones for themselves!!
Sharad Pawar has stated grandly that it is Maharashtra's turn to have a prime minister. Really?? What an ingenious way of promoting ones own interests??The day Maharashtra produces a worthy NATIONAL leader, the indian voter won't need prompting. Nor will Pawar have to come up with such alibies. No quota system for Prime Ministership, please!!
Mumbai , Mon Amour
Call me an over indulgent, blinded by love mother… but when it comes to Mumbai, I become a marshmallow….. an over wrought “Deewar”-type ‘ maa’, all quivering mouth and moist eyes. In other words, I turn to mush. Mumbai is my spoilt child. The one that can do no wrong – sab maafi hai. Mumbai is my blind spot. My secret weakness.Mumbai makes me vulnerable, irrational and illogical. I am prepared to overlook any and every flaw, because at the end of the day, Mumbai has made me. I owe Mumbai a big one.
Sometimes, I joke with foreign journos when they ask me about my on going love affair with my beloved metropolis – the one I call home. I tell them jauntily that no other city in India would have tolerated me! There is some truth in that. When I talk to other female writers from say, Delhi , they have nothing but horror stories to recount. Just a few days ago, a beautiful reporter from Pune came over for a story. She was the first woman to work in the newsroom of her stodgy paper. She had tears in her eyes when she recalled the insinuations, slights and putdowns she’d encountered at the time. I remember my own early days as editor of ‘Stardust’ and later ‘Society’. Or subsequently, when I started writing columns, followed by books. Like Frank Sinatra, I’m proud to say I did it my way. No compromises, no regrets. This was possible only because I was based in Mumbai, where professionals are genderless…. we are a family of happy eunuchs who are expected to perform on cue. Again and again.If not – out! There are at least a hundred others waiting to take the vacated spot. Hungry, impatient and even more talented.Nobody gives a damn whether it’s a man or a woman delivering those goods. It’s only the goods that matter.
Ruthless. That is the frequently used adjective to describe Mumbai. An apt description. Mumbai does not tolerate failure, which is why the success rate is so high. Mumbai is for winners. If you’ve got it, you’d be an absolute fool not to flaunt it. Rags to riches? Yes, it happens in Mumbai all the time. Where do you think Subhash Ghai, and more recently, a Madhur Bhandarkar get their inspiration from? These racy scripts were born out of realities that seem fantasy-like to those who’ve not experienced Mumbai’s magic. From a Dhirubhai Ambani to a Kangana Raut – take a look at their trajectories. Inspiring? Outrageous? Audacious? Why not? Both arrived penniless in this city, with nothing more than fierce ambition and a raging fire in the belly. Both were blessed with an incredibly lucky streak Both worked their respective butts off to get ahead. Both were seen as ‘outsiders’ trying to crash an elite club. Both used any and every opportunity that came along. Both grabbed success greedily when it finally showed up…. And the rest , as they say, is history. These are but two examples of what is possible…. achievable, in this amazing city of big dreamers and even bigger losers.
Mumbai is a harlot at heart. A harlot with a big heart. Just like Delhi is a safari-suited, oily and unattractive ‘babu’. Or Kolkata is a decadent zamindar, swishing around in a frayed dhoti. Good hearted harlots ensure nobody who visits, leaves hungry. Well….nobody starves in Mumbai, either. It is a city of scavengers, for scavengers. It succeeds in satiating all sorts of appetites and hungers.... like it is said, ‘ Idhar Rice Plate Chaalu Hai….’ Whatever the hour. Try looking for that in other city of India.
Mumbai’s generosity has been hugely misunderstood, even abused in recent times. This fragile, narrow, loosely interlinked cluster of seven islands is just about hanging in there. It has been taken for granted by successive governments at a huge cost to its long suffering people. Today, the ignorant and callous city fathers are all set to destroy an outstanding landmark – the magnificent , historic Crawford Market. And this evil deed will take place without Mumbaikars themselves having a say in the matter. All over a few pieces of gold. No doubt the sale will enrich quite a few corrupt councillors and their shadowy keepers. Alas, the average Mumbaikar will be far too preoccupied earning his\her daily roja to get actively involved in saving the city’s symbol of commerce and early trade, to stage a protest or move the courts. Our chiffon-clad socialites whose job descriptions state that they should be in the forefront of a move against such an act of atrocity, will be nowhere in sight when they are most needed. That is Mumbai’s biggest tragedy. All those who proclaim their love for the megapolis, remain passive admirers, and not action heroes ready to rescue a distressed maiden from certain doom.
Yes, of course, Mumbai is in trouble. It is broke. And broken. Despite Dalal Street celebrating an early Diwali, the mood in the gullis of the over burdened, over crowded city is far from upbeat. The Sensex is hot, volatile and sexy. Just like Rakhi Sawant. But how many Item Numbers can Mumbai perform to entertain the rest of India? “Paisa pheko…. tamasha dekho,” has been the catchy theme song of our ever- accommodating City of Dreams, for centuries. Now it is being forced to perform a strip tease, phookat mein. Like those poor bar girls who were rendered jobless overnight. Sorry, Boss. That’s not how it works. If anybody is sniffing around for a freebie, go elsewhere. This party’s over. Mumbai believes in just one eternal truth – show me the money. Mumbai, in return promises ‘Paisa vasool’. Or full refund. Unlike RGV. If you want to stay – pay up. Invest in the city, financially and emotionally. It’s got to be this way… or the highway. Any other way, and Mumbai may collapse. Phir tera kya hoga, Bhaiya???


Indyeah said...

If mumbai is about genderless professions and where women do not face the horror that is Delhi...then how do incidents like the Gateway of India happen? in full view with everyone getting a 'feel'?a 'grab'? WHy? because a girl was wearing a skirt on new year and out with her boyfriend?or what about that cop who raped that college student?

Nobody starves in Mumbai??okay if you say so...

and Mumbai is generous??With Raj thackeray around to shove the 'outsiders?'RAj who is merely continuing what uncle started so many years ago?driving out tamilians...''lungi bhagao pungi bajao?remember??only the victims have changed ...the script remains the same...Where is the aam mumbaikar?shouldnt he/she be protesting on the streets?

IF mumbai is generous pray do tell us which other Indian city is not?

Who is more petty than Mumbai when it pushes out and terrorizes 'outsiders?'

Better yet I think..we will let Mumbai be generous because if this is what being generous means then I dont want any part of it...

Indyeah said...

I love Mumbai and all that it is...but I feel sheer despair when i see what it is turning into...what idiots like Raj are turning it into....

How can we let this happen??

You dont like what Sharad Pawar says ..which is great coz hes playing on a regional identity..but what about the interview of yours on Karan thapar's show where you spoke about Raj ?

Unknown said...


March 15 2009 0734 hrs IST, TNN

The Lipstick Dossiers

WE need the pink chaddi brigade in boardrooms to take over! It's time for a lipstick and stilleto war at work as some men feel women should give
up their feminine virtues at work. And what, be more like them?!

Mind you, the lipstick-driven CEO isn't willing to give up her mascara and Jimmy Choo! Even though, Gail Evans, author of Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman tells women why men can be nasty and you can't! "You don't need to play by men's rules. Women have traits that give them an advantage over men, such as their ability to form relationships, or intuition."

The reality isn't as sweet. As most women admit, they aren't themselves at work, but portray a spilt personality — rough and tough. But, why do most modern, successful women at workplaces feel that they have to be more like men?

"When women first began to flex their muscles, as it were, they dispensed with traditional signs of femininity," says Rahila Gupta, writer. "Now, things have loosened up and as women have gone up the ranks (although there is still a glass ceiling), women don't feel that wearing make-up is likely to reduce their standing at work. However, women at management levels still feel the pressure to do a bit of ‘power dressing' and adopt a style which leans on ‘masculine' qualities. Fact is, male confidence is undermined by women who don't dress or behave traditionally."

The funny thing is, this has imposed a sort of self-censorship in the way women behave and dress. Archana Singh, president of Frazer & Haws agrees, "Women shouldn't be too macho at work."

Women who brave being themselves at work are a rare species. Says Jt Secy Tourism, Leena Nandan, "We need to be comfortable and confident in the workplace, and that includes wearing lipstick and bangles. You just have to be tough."

Sadly, a majority of women are still desperate 'to be taken seriously'. Women are expected to be nurturing, but if they're too feminine they will be perceived as ineffective. They are expected to be strong, but tend to be labelled as tough when acting as leaders. This confuses the woman who tries to behave like a man. But is it men who are dictating that women need to be 'more like men'? Says chef Vicky Ratnani, "When someone is very feminine, I'm over-cautious compared to a woman who can be 'one of the boys'. Over-the-top dressing does attract unwanted attention."

Recently, the Guardian, UK, reported how women at modern workplaces have to hide their nurturing instincts and intuitive understanding and be hard-nosed, rational and tough. "Women act according to the situation," according to Kavita Nath, who heads Logitech, South Asia, "Women have the ability to be feminine or strong depending on the situation they are in. Men expect women to look professional at work."

That's the reason, some women confess, they feel the need to ape men to be successful, which can put off other women. This results in some women leaving the corporate environment. Smriti Dalvi, director of Florista agrees, "That's because men get intimidated by macho women at work. At the same time, women who are very feminine, are treated as those who need help. However, people envy a feminine woman who is a senior and gets attention from the bosses."

But male liberalists aren't in favour of women trying to be more like them. While Rajiv Babbar, youth leader of BJP feels, "Why should women be more like men? They should be themselves." Interestingly, a majority of the men believe "women don't need to 'play men' to be taken seriously. Gaurav Bhatia, Mumbaibased luxury expert agrees, "Isn't a red lipstick on a woman equivalent to a red tie on a man?"

However, experts feel you need to be yourself at work to give your best. Says Sumita Nath, a senior colleague, "Women must be assertive not macho. A man doesn't take kindly to one who threatens him."

Hiding your nurturing qualities at work isn't a good idea. Says Ishara Callan, from the UK India Business Council, "A warm smile will make men feel at ease while a frosty, stand-offish one will make them feel uncomfortable." Meanwhile, Bharat Thakur, artistic yoga guru feels, "Men want a woman to look less feminine at work so they are not distracted. However, this is totally a man's problem." So, why should a woman hide her emotional intelligence or maternal side? Says Pooja Jain, executive director, Luxor, "Being tough comes with the job, even for a homemaker."

Are organisations open to encouraging female traits in leadership roles? Says Anil Bhatia, corporate expert, "If men get nasty, you need to be tough. Otherwise, why should women prove they are 'hard nuts'?" So, how do women fight back? Says Sunil Pathare, managing director, Maxwell Industries Ltd, "Women can show their nurturing and softer side or play hard ball as the situation requires. Ultimately she should get her work done. If a woman is macho, it doesn't mean a man will respect her more."


Peter Williams Amalraj said...

Shobhaa ma'am, as u accepted that u turn blind when it comes to mumbai, and i guess that's why you tend to overlook it's shortcomings and provide a clean chit for your so-called Home town of Mumbai..

You call Mumbai a place for genderless profession ?? Infact gender bytes are prevalent right from our epics to mythology.. I have to strongly disagree with you on this..

The Unsure Ascetic said...

Guys!! Shobhaa De is a woman after all, and a woman in love. What if she is a writer? She loves her city unconditionally. You can love your city unconditionally too. She has not derided anyother city . Till then, let's all love our cities and the lives they have to offer !!!

Akum said...

I would say Amen to Indyeah.. But come on guys, everything has its own same of good and bad side. Anyway i seriously love this post.
Its funny, dark and some what fantasized but to the point!

Narendra shenoy said...

Enjoyed this, and agree with Shobha that Mumbai is a harlot at heart. Brilliant metaphor, actually. Mumbai has no permanent loves. No permanent enemies. Offers pleasures to all who can pay for them. Takes those pleasures away when the cash runs out. And, like a good (at her job) harlot, makes sure her customers come up with the cash any way they can. They can't live without Mumbai. None of us can. I guess an ascetic could be immune to her charms, but it's been a long while since she's seen one of those.

manollasaa said...

You have just claimed your love for this city and we are yet to see or read about anything constructive that you have done to save the many floundering landmarks that have tolerated you.

Case of pot calling the kettle black, don't you think?

Sanket Korgaonkar said...

De - Every-time I am about to unsubscribe from here - you remind me why I fell in love with you in the first place. :) Awesome piece - you won my heart - and you spoke in a voice I know one can not fake. You gotta be from Mumbai to know that.

Allow me to share an excerpt from my post 26/11 attack post.

Have I told you how beautiful Mumbai is? It is an island city on the west coast of India. It is the biggest, most glamorous and the richest city in India. But you can read all that there is about Mumbai and still never quite grasp its essence. To know Mumbai truly, you need to have lived there for a long time - lived through its pain and joys, through its struggles and its triumphs. For those who are born in Mumbai, it is not just their city. Mumbai is the skeletal framework of your personality. It is an inherent part of who you are and what you become to be. It is reflected in the way you frame your words, it is reflected in the way - you tackle challenges, it is reflected in the way you smile and it is reflected on how soon you stand back - if you were to fall. Mumbai is the land of dreams - it is where thousands of people come every week to seek their fortunes. It is the commercial - cultural and entertainment capital of India. It is a city that never sleeps. It is a city of lights.

There is a pride we take in Mumbai that comes from deep love - that comes from looking forward to the future - that comes from the glow of a million dreams and that stems from Mumbai's sky-high ambitions. There is a spirit in its wind - a music to its sound - there is a rhythm in its crowd and a thrill in its pace. In Mumbai - you never stop - bombs - floods - strikes - riots - when its done - you step out - you check your watch - you check the next train - and you move on - you NEVER stop. What would begin for you as a mindless ritual - soon becomes the most wise course of action - and one of the most profound truths of life - that no matter what the set backs, moving forward is the only sensible thing to do. That work indeed is the best antidote to sorrow.


Cheers De - Apun toh saala fida ho gaya.

- Sanket

Shaunak Mukherjee said...

Mumbai in all her glory has always presented a road to fulfilling your dreams. Her ever-accomodating embrace has shown a glimmer of hope for a better life to many-a-person coming in from other regions, be it cities or states or elsewhere.

Every dark cloud has a silver lining or so the saying goes, but in this case I guess, "Chand pe bhi toh daag hai". Even with the best of it's traits, Mumbai after all, is a city, and one in limelight too. With all that attention comes unwanted attention too. However great a city may be, there shall always be some negative traits to it. Eve-teasing, racial bigotry, gender inequality...they're all there.

But won't you agree that Mumbai offers a lot less of all these and a lot more of the good stuff than any other city?

Well, in any case, for me, Mumbai Meri Jaan!

Sanket Korgaonkar said...

Folks!! I am reading the comments - haha - you don't get it do you??? When it comes to Mumbai - you can not bad mouth it to Mumbaikars - we are involuntarily unobjective and biased when it comes to Mumbai - its about love and not logic - we love the city as a lover loves his bf/gf - like a blood and body connection. So yes, all problems are there and we have to find the good in ourselves to rescue India from crisis - but for GODs sake can we take a break pls - no one is resigning from their duties - this ones about Mumbai folks!! You got to be able to set aside your worries and fall unconditionally in love and let yourselves enjoy.

After all - "Ey Dil hai mushkil - jeeena yaha - jara has ke jara bach ke - Yeh HAI MUMBAI MERI JAAAN'

- Sanket

Unknown said...

Hey Shobha, I am wondering how come you have not passed any catty comments on Amir-SRK war of words.
or u r busy doing research for it?lol

Unknown said...

Amen to having a prime minister who really deserves to be there...

Mr Pawar's appalling policies in almost everything in his purview (he approves of chemical farming and genetically modified food! is the latest) ... should actually guarantee that he should not be allowed to run for any seat ...

Even resilient India will be hard pressed to recover from him being PM!

and oh yes, though i now live on the Art of Living Ashram in Bangalore, i spent 35 glorious years of my life in Mumbai ... and loved every single second of it! :)

Jai Gurudeva!

Atul said...

Shobha, what are your views about Raj Thakrey and MNS ?

Anonymous said...

As for your love of Mumbai, you sound like those husbands with an indescribable love of their mothers. No matter what the moms-in-law do to daughters-in-law, the sons stand up for dear mummies.

Unknown said...

I was born and educated in Mumbai. Lived and worked there for the first 30 years of my life.
And hated Her from the core of my heart. The more I lived there, the more I hated Her. The pollution, the dirt, the slums, traffic, crowds, everything. All my efforts were in escaping from this nightmare of a city.

And 8 years back I left Her. To one of those lovely sterilised countries that offer u everything u want. Clean air,nice job,healthy lifestyle, a nice car, the works. And i was happy. More then i thot i would ever be. Felt rich, successful !!!Never wanting to go back to the hell hole i had left behind.

But then, after 2 years or so, just out of nowhere a feeling started creeping in !! I didnt know what it was, or maybe i dint
want to know !! But the feeling just wdnt let go..gnawing at my insides..Like when u are happy or so u think...but deep down u know something Is wrong..!! And slowly i realised it was Mumbai.

I was missing that damn place. Missing the crowd, the BEST buses, the trains, the autorickshaws (u hate them when u r driving, but love them when u are actually inside and reach ur destination superfast) the roads, carter's, linking,lokhandwala,(places where i sat with my buddies and ogled at the ladies, smoked cigarettes and talked about life,career,matters of the heart and our future) and the quaintly called Townside ( Boss, what u doing tomorrow?? Well yaar, going to the townside, got work at Churchgate")The thrill of bunking college and watching movies at Regal, Eros, Sterling..!!

I missed everything, even the dirt and the pollution. My PC wall paper changed to a pic of VT (or should i say CST).Subconsiously, my mind started seeking out people from Mumbai. I just missed having conversations with a hardcore Mumbaiite. Missed that
practicality, that killer attitude, that go-getting approach. Yesterday I read an interview by Frieda Pinto. And
she talked about how Mumbai equips you to tackle any hardship life throws at you, to struggle and to succeed against all odds. She talked about her train journeys to college, and how u always had to fight for a place. But most importantly, when u tried u always got that inch to hang on. An attitude thats helping her today !!

I meet so many people from different parts of India, but most of the times the straight forward, practical approach is displayed only by the ones from Mumbai. Sometimes i feel i am losing that attitude, becoming soft so to say. And i know its my time to visit Mumbai. For that dose of adrenaline that would keep me alive, fighting and proud..Very very Proud !!!

I realise now, Mumbai is not for losers and the excuse makers. She teaches you to survive and succeed even when the chips are down. Its like a baptism by fire !!!

Yes she is definitely a big hearted harlot, but she is MY HARLOT !!!!And She will always be the special place I go back too
when I feel down and out !!!


Unknown said...

ya great blog...

Work from home India

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