Where are you, my audience?

This is take on change in the social fabric vis a vis plays, movies and entertainment industry, in general.

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Sunil Barve actor, producer and a friend, wrote an article about a Marathi play produced by him under the banner Herbarium 2. Herbarium is a collection of preserved plants stored, catalogued, and arranged systematically for study later. The idea is to look at the plants and leaves after enough time has passed, and to view them in posterity. Sunil named his endeavor Herbarium for the old plays to be  enjoyed nostalgically after 3 to 4 decades. Herbarium 1, was extremely successful where Sunil revived five old Marathi plays, in 2010. The response from audience was exceptional, to say the least. Each drama had 25 performances all over Maharashtra. Herbarium 2, started with a Marathi play, Pati Gele Ga Kathewadi पती गेले काठेवाडी. This was in September 2017.

SunilPatiGele

Sunil wrote the article in surprise, to the reaction from the audience; he said where has the audience gone? It was just a matter of seven years. In that period, very good response for Herbarium 1, switched to ok response in Herbarium 2. Sunil was wondering what could have happened during this period? Sunil and I spoke on phone on the subject. I think that these seven years were crucial years where the generation which was nostalgic about the old plays, became much older and the younger people were not very keen about those plays.

Life meanders in a way where old likes & dislikes change, new thought processes come up, new technologies and media like Netflix become popular. The traditions and social ethos change with time. We may feel that certain things continue and do not change much. But they do change, though subtly! For example, foods and food habits change over a period. In my childhood drinking coffee in Maharashtra was almost non-existent; now we have so many coffee-shops and bistros. Drinking alcohol during my school times was taboo but now it is a socially accepted drink. Stadiums used to be full for Test matches, but slowly one-day matches took over; T-20 was the next step but IPL jamboree is the most popular now.

50’s in the last century had movies which were themes based on nation which had just earned freedom, मेरे देश की धरती सोना उगले, उगले हिरे मोती. 60’s films were more of sad stories and love stories. Then in the next decade came angry young man movies. So, trends keep on changing. Now the popular movies are, Salman Khan type of movies like Dabang. Connoisseurs of movies may like art movies with subtle stories, but general populace prefers Dabang. Connoisseurs may call such movies gross, but life’s realities are different! Ultimately, making movies and producing plays is business and their success will be dependent the masses and not classes. 

Connoisseurs of dramas would rather see Herbarium 1, but this number is dwindling. Are the days of such revivals numbered? Do people really care for plays in which Dr. Lagoo, Satish Dubashi, Nilu Phule and Kashinath Ghanekar acted? Do people now really care of writers & poets like Vi Sa Khandekar and Kusumagraj? If they are not in awe of such personalities, then there will be no nostalgia. Someone like Pu La Deshpande may remain in the lime light for a generation or two more. Do we hear the names Ga Di Madgulkar and Shanta Shelke these days? Pu La, Lata Mangeshkar, Mohamad Rafi are still on pedestal but for how long will they remain there? The most popular actors of yester years were Clark Cable, Vivian Leigh? Heard these names anywhere lately?

Another thing that comes to mind is the strong drama movement in Newyork’s Broadway and in London. Similarly, strong activity happens in Prithvi theater in Mumbai and NSD in Delhi. This continues at one location in one city! But, does it mean that going to different towns to perform, may not happen in future? The costs have gone up because of travel, and now GST. With these limitations it can be difficult to revive old plays in future. What lies in future for attempts like Herbarium is difficult to judge but indications are that it is going to be a tough call! Maybe equivalent of Prithvi theater in Pune, is the way forward!

I will share one more nostalgic experience with you. Recently, I purchased a device called “Caravan Saregama”. It looks like a Radio of the olden days with knobs and all! It of course, has a remote too! This device has 5000 songs stored on it and these songs can be played by mood, singer, music director and has Amin Sayani’s Binaca Geet Mala songs stored with his commentry. Songs are between the period 1950 to 2000! The moment I saw the advertisement I bought Caravan; nostalgia, love for olden days, not too much efforts to search songs,  were the reasons I bought it. How long this device will sell?  I don’t know. Maybe they can increase its life span by having songs between 1970 to 2010 and so on.  Audience for 50’s & 60’s songs is going to dwindle fast! But will the young gang buy this device for themselves? What is Amin Sayani for them? What is “Hava mein Udata Jaye” for them? I am not sure! In fact, I am sure it does not mean anything to them!

Caravan-Brown-9

 

Experiments like Herbarium are fantastic things that happened to Marathi theater, but the quality of the play and actors was not the only reason people flocked to see the first edition! Herbarium was “Amin Sayani”  & “Hava mein Udata Jaye”  of theater for them, nostalgia! Is my generation, which around 70, craving for Sehgal’s “Jab Dil hi toot Gaya”? No, it is not! The natural process of fading with the time, goes on all the time! I am quite sure that Sunil will definitely find the right path for more such experiments!

Sunil2

Since I am in filmy mood, let me end up with an appropriate Hindi song Ye Jeevan Hai! It says this is what life is all about! There is some happiness and there is some sorrow! Life goes on and on! 

 

All Is Well!

All is really Well in this World!

InternetGenie

Pramod somehow managed to make Internet Genie run at the high speed that was expected of him. Genie as usual started narrating a story. He started with a question, “Is really everything well with this world?” Pramod knew that if he uttered a word, Genie would slip out of his control and system will hang! So Pramod did not give any reply to the question asked.

As usual Genie kept on talking. Pramod, world over, we have ISIS, Terrorist of different ilk doing atrocious things!  Today, the muslim nations have come together and have decided to fight all the terrorists upfront.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/saudi-crown-prince-condemns-egypt-attack-at-meeting-of-islamic-military-coalition/story-LEupTN0M10pcub8j7OuWzN.html

Genie said that this is one the best news he has read in years! This news gave you a feel that “All is Well” in this world. Concept of “All is Well” in global context is different as such events happen occasionally. But “All is Well” can happen in our day to day life regularly. The combined events of these individuals or organizations give the feel that “All is really Well” in this world. These small and big contributions of individuals daily, make us think positively about our life.

Pramod, “All is Well” is a term coined based on song from a movie by the name “Three Idiots”. In this movie three college students are passing through their college hassles with happy face against many adversities, singing “All is Well”! Below is the video of the song.

Pramod yesterday, you reached home after dinner, with friends. In your parking slot, in the condo, you are required to reverse the car. A young kid, delivery guy for food items, was waiting for the lift (Elevator). As soon as you started reversing, the kid jumped and went behind the car! You wondered what he was doing! He started guiding you to reverse the car, as the area did not have good lighting. Pramod, you could have managed without his help as there  were proximity sensors in the car. But the kid was keen to help you, and you took his guidance to park the car! You, of course, thanked him for his help! Such small actions by unknown people really help you believe that “All is Well”.

Pramod while you were travelling from Zurich to Frankfurt, your train could not take a direct route as there was some issue with the tracks. You were required to take three breaks to change trains, to reach Frankfurt. At a very small station during this detour you found that it did not have escalators to change the platforms. In fact, after changing the platform, you were required to travel by bus for about 20 km. Pramod, you had two heavy bags and two bag packs and were worried how to reach the bus, going down and up the steps. Suddenly, a guy materialized from somewhere. He was wearing a uniform. Most probably he was a porter. He picked both the heavy bags and spoke something in German. You thought that he will charge you money for his services. Pramod, you were relieved that he was helping you, and you wanted to pay him. After crossing the platform and putting the bags on the bus, you asked him the charges. He knew a bit of English, and said, “No charges, Gratis!” This was a most unexpected response and the incident again proved that “All is Well!” Benefits of being  senior citizens?

Pramod, one sees many good Samaritans in this world, so you tend to think that there is  “All is Well” kind of situation in the world. But there are some bad elements. Yesterday a case was reported in Pune where a professional was recording the intimate scenes of his neighbour, a husband and wife,  using selfie stick. Outwardly that person was well behaved, passionate in his work, very helpful in nature! But he had some very bad streak within him! Currently he is missing. On the other side you see so many good citizens that your faith goes on the upswing! Some time back Mumbai had a flood like situation due to very heavy rains, there were good Samaritans on road who offered food, tea and some cases shelter for stranded people to spend the night at their home too!

Pramod, the ultimate act was by Policeman Ombale during 26/11 in Mumbai; his sacrifice helped the police to catch one of the terrorist alive though Ombale died. This shows that there are more good people in this world than bad people. Ombale’s act really shows that “All is well”

Pramod, I want your reply on this as I know you have strong views!! Pramod just could not keep quiet. He said, ” Genie, I am quite gung ho about our world where All is always well, though there are some major or minor negative events happening all the time. “All is Well” ledger is always in the black!”

With this statement Pramod broke the golden rule of silence that Genie had locked him in.  At that instant Genie slipped out of Pramod’s grasp, Genie’s speed became equivalent of 2 G and system hung!  Genie could not help but make a passing remark before escaping. ” Pramod, I am feeling ashamed of my 2 G speed when people are already talking of 5 G and 6 G, so I might be away for some time, ciao!”

 

Civilized behaviour of Oldest Civilization!

Civilized? What is that?

InternetGenie

Pramod somehow managed to make Internet Genie run at the high speed that was expected of him. Genie as usual started narrating a story. He started with a question, “Pramod why do we Indians behave in different ways to real life situations?” Pramod knew that if he uttered a word, Genie would slip out of his control and system will hang! So Pramod did not give any reply to the question asked.

As usual Genie kept on talking. Pramod, I read in newspapers that a girl student in IIT, Chennai committed suicide. Pressures due to studies is one aspect. But this unfortunate event occurred after the girl was caught copying in the semester examination. The result, she was asked to leave examination hall and her parents were informed. The girl went to her hostel and committed suicide. Two things were to happen, she would have been debarred from exam for one semester and parents were to be informed! When she tried the copying, I am sure she must have known the consequences of getting caught. Pramod, why did the girl end her life? Insult? Repentance? But why end life?  She was just to lose one semester! She had an opportunity to make up for her error! Why copy? Why such a drastic reaction?

Some years back I remember a news item of students resorting to mass copying in Marathwada area, in Maharashtra. Pramod, if you see the photograph below, you will be amazed. The persons helping students to copy are climbing three to four stories from outside of a building. Shocking, to say the least! Are these people not afraid of the authorities? Are they not afraid of injuries? Apparently no! Later, the government took a stiff action and made district officials responsible to stop this. What is the reason for this mass copying? It appears that on passing tenth grade, these kids could get a government job as a peon or office assistant! Before the authorities became strict the passing % was 85 to 90 %. Now it is 45%! But was mass copying the solution?

StudentsCopying

In Mumbai, Afroze Shah decided to take up the cleanup drive of Versova beach but he is now forced to stop this due to apathy of Municipal corporation, threats by bad elements forcing volunteers to stop work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04OuaathdnI

Read about their work in the link below.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/mumbai-news/this-lawyer-spearheaded-the-world-s-biggest-beach-clean-up-at-versova/story-E75vbhoKUJXSJECsIncYkK.html

Afroze Shah is a young 33-year-old lawyer from Mumbai and he just decided a couple of years back, “enough is enough”! He started a drive to clean the Versova beach. Through social media campaign. thousands of volunteers joined to take part in the drive. This is officially recognized by United Nations as a great cleanup drive! The volunteers recently were threatened by bad elements in the society. The latest news is that Shiv Sena has fully supported Shah and has told him that they will talk to police and  corporation. There will be Shiv Sena volunteers to protect the people. Let us hope this works out. Here is one-man army who brought together thousands of people to stand in ankle deep muck, to clean the beach every week end. Why there is so much apathy from Government agencies? How are bad elements troubled by this activity? Let us hope the drive continues!

VersovaBeachCleaningDrive

There was a drive against encroachers of public space. The hawkers were removed from these areas. After eight days same drive was done again, and this time hawkers attacked the officials! It is our right to earn livelihood, they said! But what about right of other people for free space! Hawkers were doing illegal things and wanted space free, for themselves, instead of going to hawker’s zone! On top of that they attacked the officials. What sort of thinking is this? Why do political parties support illegal activities?

Pramod, I want your reply on various points, as I know that you have strong views!! Pramod just could not keep quiet. He said, “Genie, copying during exams is such an unfortunate practice that these kids do not understand that passing exams is not the end but the means of achieving one’s goal in life!  Ok, you make a mistake but killing oneself is not the solution, one can repent and correct the error! In case of beach cleaning, I simply do not have answers! What to bad elements achieve by threatening the volunteers?  Government apathy? Tell me something new!  Hawkers probably are learning from Mallya’s and Subroto Roy’s of this world, how to make money by cheating?”

With this statement Pramod broke the golden rule of silence that Genie had locked him in.  At that instant Genie slipped out of Pramod’s grasp, Genie’s speed became equivalent of 2 G and system hung!  Genie could not help but make a passing remark before escaping. ” Pramod, there is not much space here, otherwise I could have given you hundreds of such examples from oldest “civilization” on the earth!”

 

Old or pragmatic!

Sometimes  I am not sure if I have become old or I am too pragmatic.

InternetGenie                       

Pramod somehow caught hold of Genie, managed to make Genie run at the high speed that was expected of him. Genie as usual started narrating a story. He started with a question, “Pramod, tell me if there is something like appropriate dress or apparel?” Pramod knew that if he uttered a word, Genie would slip out of his control and system will hang! So Pramod did not give any reply to the question asked.

As usual, Genie kept on talking. Genie said, Pramod you travel a lot, you still work and go for business meetings, you move around in various cities. What is the clothing that you would generally wear? What is the clothing you would expect others to wear? Don’t forget the freedom of speech, women’s liberation and such important aspects in life. Pramod smiled but Genie said “Ok, I know freedom and responsibility must go hand in hand!”

Yesterday, Pramod I saw a bemused look on your face when you were waiting for someone at The Tata Motors security hall. Many folks were coming for only one purpose, business meetings at their own different levels. Some senior folks were wearing jackets, some were wearing formal shirt and trousers. Then you saw some young brigade coming in, obviously for business meetings! Some young men were seen with one or two days of stubble, wearing sports shoes! Some were wearing jeans! You saw some young girls coming for the meetings. All of them were wearing jeans and blouses. One girl wore a tank-top! Blouse colors were deep red or purple! What was shocking for you Pramod? At least they did not arrive in T shirts and Bermuda’s! Ok so what if they were not wearing a formal attire. As you went inside, you checked up with your friends from the age group below 40 years and some seniors; they unanimously were of the opinion that these young folks should have been wearing formal clothes.

Pramod I want to understand what do you earthlings mean by proper clothes! Does it mean that the clothes should be appropriate to suit the occasion? Does it mean that it is ok to wear bikinis, and Bermuda’s if you go on the beach? What happens if an oldie like you prefers to wear shirt and a trouser on the beach? Do you mean to say it is Ok to be a little overdressed?  What according to you should be the dress code for film industry? What should be the dress code for teachers? What about doctors? Would you like to be examined by a doctor who has as stubble and is wearing Bermuda’s? Pramod again you are smiling! I know how you feel? It is ok if the doctor was urgently dragged in while he/she was holidaying somewhere.

Let us take another look at the young men and women, mentioned above, at Tata Motors security hall. Pramod was it not the responsibility of the organizations who had employed them to tell them about the dress codes? What were their bosses doing? When a person is sent to represent an organization, person should follow basic business norms. Pramod once you had told me story about your son Sachin. He was a Vice President for a company in Boston, they used to have Friday as casual day. All could go in tee shirts and shorts and jeans! But Sachin had kept one formal dress with a jacket and tie in the office. This was for the eventuality if a customer came to see him on a Friday, without pre-intimation, he would be ready formally to receive the customer! Similarly, you had also shared with me story of a 20 something girl with her boyfriend, moving around at Dadar railway station in Mumbai. Time was 10 pm. Her clothes were really scanty! The place where you were standing, there were many 18/20-year cab drivers, who had freshly arrived from small towns. The look on their face told the whole story. Now what was the need for that girl to dress or undress in scanty clothing on a railway station?

Pramod, I want your reply on this as I know you have strong views! Pramod tried his best not to talk but Genie hustled him again with the same question! Pramod just could not keep quiet. He said, “Genie, Clothing was created to cover oneself! Otherwise fig leaf was already there! I strongly feel that appropriate clothing should be worn as demanded or allowed by occasion! Sometimes  I am not sure if I have become old or I am too pragmatic”

                                                               FigLeaf

With this statement Pramod broke the golden rule of silence that Genie had locked him in.  At that instant Genie slipped out of Pramod’s grasp, Genie’s speed became equivalent of 2 G and system hung!  Genie could not help but make a passing remark before escaping. “Pramod for a change I agree with you instantly but you have left me with no choice, ciao!”

Life’s Station or Status!

Person’s success is decided by quality of work as well as person’s commercial success!

Yesterday during Diwali celebrations and chit chat, a very interesting subject suddenly came up for discussion. The discussion became hotter than heat generated by Diwali crackers. Situ told a story of a lady doctor who married a plumber, in America. He also said that such events are pretty regular in foreign countries. He further said that in foreign countries like the US, the social fabric is such that people from different professions in life can be close friends. I said that this a rare case even in America . Jaya and Ashwini were pro this and I was against this thought process. I said that there are two points we are discussing simultaneously and mixing them. One is the respect given to professions/professionals and the other is social friendships, getting married as mentioned about the doctor’s marriage.

My point is that in India, there is no respect given to professions other than the engineers, doctors, pilots, architects and in certain professions. Our society does not give respect to technicians or artisans like carpenters, plumbers, lock smiths and so on. In fact such professions are treated as “lowly”, unfortunately. In foreign countries these trades are definitely respected. But the point being disputed was when it comes to the social status or a social station of these people, will they be treated equally in one’s mind? Will a top notch brain surgeon be a friend of an electrician?  It may so happen that they were classmates in school/college. A small percentage, very small one, will continue to be friends but as a norm this does not happen in real life! Let’s be honest! Utopian thinking says that this happens but will a guy living on Malabar Hills in Mumbai be weekly drink mate of a guy living in Virar or Kalyan! These names written by me are for explanation, please do not take this as my opinion.

Let us look at the background in India, the oldest civilization! There were four Varnas described in Hinduism.

  • Brahmins: priests, scholars and teachers.
  • Kshatriyas: rulers, warriors and administrators.
  • Vaishyas: agriculturalists and merchants.
  • Shudras: laborers and service providers.

These are called savarnas and are supposedly forward classes; remaining are tribes and scheduled tribes are avarnas, with no Varnas and are supposedly backward classes. These are not to be mixed up with Jatis or Castes. With this separation in India for thousands of years, the so called discrimination always happened discretely and many times not so discretely. Does this happen in foreign countries? My opinion is it happens but mostly discretely. To give example of British royalty, Queen Elizabeth’s sister Margaret, fell love with Snowden, a commoner and a photographer. Well, the family was graceful in allowing the marriage (there was no honour killing the way we have in India!) but Snowden was made Lord Snowden. How can Margaret’s husband be a commoner? This is how the discretion was resolved!

World over, there are different types of discretions and discriminations. In India, it is so ingrained in our blood, it’s embedded in our DNA. Coming back to subject of respect for courses or professions, it changes from region to region. It is the parents wish that the child gets well settled as early as possible, after education. In Maharashtra there have been many industries existing for a long time hence engineering course was a top runner. Doctors anyway are respected hence that was another course respected. But up north previously not many industries were around. Jobs were mostly available in government, so there the aim was to a take a basic degree and appear for competitive examinations.

A person’s success is measured by where the person reaches on the ladder to success.  Utopian thinking says that someone is successful in life when one gets to do things in life that the person loves. People love to sing, dance, and paint, play instruments or become writers of travelogues. In their goal to achieve success what are the steps of the ladder made up of! Are steps made up of the quality, in what you are doing; are you the best in your field and are also commercially successful! But the world is not utopia, so my thinking tells me that people go by quality as well as commercial success. To give an example you may be doing quality stuff in what you are doing but you are not able to buy a car to move around. 99% people will say he is damn good but not successful. That my friends is a fact of life! In whatever you are doing longevity is also equally important. One song wonder or one movie wonders are never called successful and it is said that the person did not live up to the potential, which in other ways is unsuccessful. A person who is already “successful” in something and achieves moderate success in some other field is considered more successful than someone who has achieved more, only in the second field!

Coming back to our “hot” discussion that we had yesterday, in India there is a discrimination in the type of work a person is doing; they are respected as per hierarchy of professions which got defined over a period. At the same time, success of a person is dependent on how that person has commercially succeeded in field rather the quality that has been achieved. But in western countries there is a respect to ALL professionals irrespective of the profession. But the success of the person is still judged the same way as is done by us.

Wanderer’s blog!

Introspection & Retrospection were two words which have been on mind since yesterday for no specific reason! So my mind was not sure if I wanted to retrospect or introspect! Finally retrospection won the race! I am not going in to retrospection in the real sense but suddenly I remembered so many different peoples  whom I have met in my life and I thought let me share my impression and experiences about them with you. Also I am sharing my memories about a small restaurant. All this wandering is from the era in late 50’s when I was in school and late 60’s, when I entered college. Along with this there are some funny incidents also from that period! Let me tell you that they were normal people like all of us. My memories are more police related as my father was a police officer and our eco system was police eco system!

First and foremost is me! I distinctly remember that when I was born, exactly 68 years back this day, I cried loudly but others smiled! This was my first confusion! Here is a guy so helplessly crying, and all the other folks are smiling and laughing! This is where my confusion started. It is not yet resolved.

Jokes apart the first real thing I remember as a kid when we were in a place called Ahmednagar where my father was posted. Our home in Nagar was a bungalow. We had some sort of ceremony on a ground where I got some gift. (I was too young)  Well later I was told that there was a race for kids where everyone was given gifts! After this we were in Bombay where I was in a municipal school in fourth grade, on Lamington road! For some celebration we were making merry! I sang a song “Mana Janab ne pukara nahi” and a friend Gopal who was dancing to the tune! Good old days with no inhibitions!

Later we moved to stay in an area called Dhobitalao in Mumbai. It was a five story building used as police officer’s quarters. We were on ground floor and a very dark chap with strong mustaches and blood shot eyes, used to come our neighboring officer. He never went inside their home but the officer and that guy would keep on talking in a very low voice, at their door, as if they were discussing something very sinister. They did discuss something sinister, the guys’ name contrary to his personality was Vishnu, that should have been Ravan! As I grew older I came to know that he was a police informer and used to mix with all criminal gangs!

Then there was a guy called Mario. He was smart looking and loved to play cricket with us kids. He was 23/24 years of age. He was fun to be with; it never came to our mind what he must be doing in real life. Once he did not come for ¾ days. When he came, we asked him why didn’t he come to play? Then we came to know that he was doing post-graduation in Medicine and had emergency duties for 72 hours straight! Wow!

I remember one really funny incident. We had a friend Ashok. While in 11th grade he had started smoking. Once he was walking on the road near our home, smoking. There was a ninety degree turn around a building from main road to a lane. The design of the building was such that there was a porch in that building through which one could see across the lane. Through that porch his father had seen him smoking. While Ashok rounded the corner and saw his father, he hid his cigarette covering it with his palm. When they reached each other his father coolly said hi and pressed his palm with a very interesting result which we saw the next day!

Then we had one Mr. Misquita. He was also a police officer. He was a very good billiards player and our police club had three billiards tables. Once the then World billiard champion Wilson Jones had come for an exhibition game in the police club. He showed us so many tricks! Then he and Misquita played a serious match. We thought that Jones will give him a whipping! But Misquita really gave him a run for his money and Jones just scraped by!

We had a teacher called Mr. Mayekar in Ram Mohan school in Girgaum. He was always perfectly dressed. A dhoti, a coat and neatly combed hair with stylish glasses. He was our English teacher. He has definitely guided me  towards good English but he was not very sure what I would do in life as I was a very mischievous character. Sometimes he would call me to his home and teach me some important aspects of grammar just out of love! He used to be Professor of French in Wilson College in Mumbai but had a stammering problem. This issue forced him to leave college and join our school. We were lucky!

Our neighboring police officer was a very aggressive officer. He was six foot plus and really dashing. Once when I was in college, I was in the area where he was posted. I ventured into his office for a cup of tea. We were chatting and in came one smallish guy held by two policemen. My uncle said, Pramod give me a few minutes. He asked that man where he was on so and so date at so and so time. The criminal claimed that that he was traveling. This questioning was done 2/3 times with same reply. My uncle got up, he just hit the guy a massive punch in his stomach. That guy was thrown ten feet and was lying down in pain. The two policemen who were holding him went and started kicking him and pulled him up on his feet. All the time cursing him, “how the hell could he lie down in front of the boss!” By this time my uncle was back in the seat and enjoying his cuppa! I was also shaken and asked him what will be the result of the hit! He said that in next ten minutes the criminal will confess to everything.

I could go and on and on! But I will share one last experience of a restaurant, a very small one at that. It was called Kulkarni’s and was bang opposite my school Ram Mohan, In Girgaum. People would go there to eat various Maharashtrian dishes but my favorite was Potato bhaji and Birdyachi usal. Birdi is a pulse very favorite of Konkan region! Generally these dishes are eaten at home with Maharashtrian bread or poli. But in this restaurants people would come to savour these dishes, without poli, and there is used to be a big queue sometimes! Years back, I went back to check but Kulkarni’s now does not exist!

I have to share one secret! How did we have money to go to the restaurant, alone in those days? Well two ways, one was to tell at home that due to rush, we could not get the bus to go home, and we walked home, saving the money! Second method was to pinch a coin from home when no one was looking! Well we move on in life  but our mind starts wandering in old memories, as we grow older! Some equally interesting stuff later! Cheers! 

 

 

 

Elphinstone Station Tragedy!

Elphinstone Station tragedy, solutions will come only when apathy goes away!

22 people died in stampede on the foot bridge at Elphinstone Road railway station on western railway in Mumbai. This sort of tragedy was waiting to happen! The blame game has already started, starting from railway administration to Mumbai Municipal Corporation. Activists have started blaming politicians depending on their affiliations. I am sure major part of blame has to go these agencies but the apathy that we as public show, the way we accept everything and anything is unbelievable.  First a bit of history about Suburban Railways in Mumbai then known as Bombay.

The Mumbai Suburban Railway is an offshoot of the first passenger railway to be built by the British in India, and is also the oldest railway system in Asia. The first train ran between Bori Bunder (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) and Thane, a distance of 34 km, on 16 April 1853 at 15:35. The 14-coach train took 1.25 hours to complete the 34 km journey, with a halt at Sion to refill the train’s water tanks. Since 1991, it has been expanded rapidly. (Wikipedia)

I have lived in Mumbai till 1975 and in those days, except for rush hours, going by trains was fun. In fact when I was in school we used to go by train for picnics! Things started changing after that. Infrastructure in those times was ok. To my understanding infra would include rakes, platforms, over bridges, ticketing windows, toilets, signaling and many such systems. This would also include exits from the station and entry to the station. The bridge where the event occurred was built in 1972 with maybe about 20 years projected traffic. Now it is 45 years!

My “latest” travel by these trains, maybe once or twice, was “about 18/20 years back. So I am not an authority to comment on the same. But I will share my experience with you. I went from Dadar station to Kandivali, it was a Sunday and I boarded the train at 7 pm. There was heavy rush and I somehow managed to travel, profusely sweating. When I reached my friends home, he said you are looking tired! I said there was so much rush on the train. He said, “Pramod today was Sunday that is the reason I invited you, Sunday’s are reasonably rush free days.”  I had no comments. I once also traveled from Andheri to Dadar to go to VT. I caught a train around 4.30 am, reached Dadar; then for switching from western train to central train I walked the foot over bridge at 5 am. I could never imagine that at 5 am there could so much rush! Walking itself was a big deal. That day I decided that I will never travel in suburban trains in Mumbai, ever! Infrastructure was bursting through seams already. That was 20 years back.

Population in Mumbai in late 90’s was 9.9 million and now the population is 18 million! It has doubled. Railway system carries 7.5 million passengers daily. I don’t think the overall infrastructure increased proportionately. I am only looking from passenger perspective. Improvement in signals does not really improve passenger comfort. Passenger ingress and egress is the most important aspect along with capacity of the compartments. Outside most railway stations, there is chaos of taxis, autos, hawkers and what have you! Hawkers of course sit on the bridges too! Whatever space was there 40 years back, probably same space is available outside most stations but mostly occupied by the usual culprits. Large number of taxis and autos and hawkers occupy lion’s share out of that space.

This obviously shows that such accidents were waiting to happen. My friend Shashikant Limaye who is an expert in this field shared on TV how many plans have been made to improve infra and shelved. There was special World Bank loan sanctioned but was cancelled due to no progress by authorities, in the year 2007. I feel that both Central and State governments discuss issues as if they are third party to the problems and say that it is Railway departments responsibility. There are some good experts with heart at the right place but with mouth at the wrong place! Yesterday one of them was demanding that Maharashtra CM should resign as it is his personal responsibility. He also claimed that it is Prime Minister’s personal responsibility! Probably he said such things out of sheer frustration at the sheer apathy shown by all concerned!

Now let us take a mirror, open it and hold it in front of ourselves. Do we have public awareness as a society? We blame the hawkers for occupying space on bridges and space around stations. Do we ever consider of stopping to buy from them? If nobody buys what will they do? But while buying we look for convenience. A society gets government it deserves. All political leaders are from our own society. Those in Mumbai surely know the conditions more than senior leaders. Some of them must be using railway system daily. Has anyone ever raised concern, voice, over these issues seriously and loudly? The “VIP’s” of the politics never “know” these things as they have “open” roads and “closed” vehicles. I can understand that certain jobs may be available only in Mumbai e.g. film/TV related. But there may be many that will be available elsewhere too! So why not shift? I know it’s a tough call but at least think about it! Why cling and stick to a place? I don’t think salaries are so high in Mumbai that people don’t want to leave Mumbai. A cousin my mine who has now retired, moved to Bavdhan, Pune from Hindu Colony, selling everything lock stock and barrel! When I asked how he found the change, he simply said, “Why the hell I was living in Mumbai, God knows!”

Every day in Mumbai railway system, 8 to 10 people die because of various types of accidents. I don’t think any government is responsible for that. It has become so routine that these are hardly being reported. Why this apathy from people? Hundreds of thousands of people cross rail tracks every day and this causes deaths. Imagine everyday 8 to 10 times the train system goes on hold, due to death, there is domino effect of delays and consequential pressure increases on the system, every day. There are many things which have started coming out after the stampede. Parel in olden days was an area where there were mills and mill workers lived around the mills. Getting down at Parel and Elphinstone station was never on your priorities. After mill properties got developed in commercial properties, it seems one million people come to that area every day! This has happened in last ten years so, and  system has started understanding it now.

I always hear of “Bombay Spirit”! It is a myth created by the media. What option do people of Bombay have? Once the Elphinstone station was “sanitized” after yesterday’s stampede, people started going on the same bridge, the same platform and same system! You have to go home is it not? Is this “Bombay Spirit”? What do you do? Stay in office for the day? Or walk home or what?

Let’s pray to God that better sense will prevail and people from various departments will sit together, plan and start actions. There are always immediate, short term, mid term and long term actions in any project. Something can always be started right away. For example if there are more than one bridge on a station with proper ingress & egress, out of sheer habit people will keep on using old bridge all the time. Make bridges “one way” where possible,  it will straight away increase capacity by 50%.  People will have to walk a little more. I see very long walkways in CBD area, and people prefer covered walkway; but they use this because there is no other option to cross the express way. Start merciless operation of fining heavily, people crossing the rail tracks! It is their responsibility “not” to cross the rail track! Removing hawkers from bridges and areas outside stations is possible but needs to be sustained over a period of time. This will need political will. Removing rikshaws and taxis from outside station is easily achievable.  People should form a movement at all stations “Not to buy from hawkers”, it is their responsibility too! All in all every department, person, officer, and commuter should raise their hands and start to act.

Latest news is that Central Government has come into action and a lot of things are planned for suburban train system with a specific time frame. Let’s hope it works out.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2017/sep/30/foot-over-bridges-will-be-mandatory-additional-escalators-cctv-sanctioned-for-mumbai-stations-piy-1664829.html