It’s dangerous. The situation is quite serious.  I am beginning to realize it is in fact a disease. What’s worse, I just discovered it is communicable. It is so dreadfully silent, there is no official record of this disease. Yet it is so widespread that there is no point in putting a number to those affected. And going by my observations, I would say it is damn close to becoming an epidemic.

An endemic, to be more accurate. Yes. That’s really what it is. An endemic.  

And for the first time, I am letting someone other than me know what I have closely guarded as secret. For 8 long years to be precise.

I have this disease. 

The first sign came in 1999. I had just reached Mumbai – on work as a visitor – and had to go to Thane from Bombay Central. I was told an ‘electric train’ from Dadar would be the best way to get to Thane. It was a journey at the crack of dawn, and yet the second class compartment was packed. And I suspect I contracted the disease during that journey. And the first sign surfaced during that same journey.

When I went back to Baroda – where I had come from – I began having some kinds of withdrawal symptoms. It consumed my energy so much, I found myself a job here in Mumbai and settled in the suburbs. Since then, I have had several episodes that can be construed as obvious signs.

Over the past 7 years in Mumbai, it has become more deep-rooted and I would say I am a pretty advanced case.

It’s not all that depressing though. For, the good thing is that it is not something that will make you lonely. Not something that will get you ostracized by society. There is apparently no social stigma attached to it. At least as yet.

And although it is a dark, silent affliction, it is easy to spot a patient, but only if you are yourself one. True enough, I have spotted a huge number of friends, and an assortment of casual acquaintances who also suffer the same fate as mine. And we have empathised with each others feelings and there has been a lot of sharing of common feelings and basically we felt good and warm all over.

And when I wrote that earlier post on Mumbai in B&W, feelings started rushing back and memories came alive. I remember how with eyes dazed and starry eyed and popping out, I stood at the doorway of the Thane local and stared out at the great Indian city that never slept.

This disease is a great leveller. I hear the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, The mayor of London, the Ambanis, Pranab Chaturvedi(auto driver), his uncle (taxi driver), Isha Deol, Saif Ali Khan, Sachin Tendulkar, Prakash Padukone(badminton champ), his daughter(Shanti), Sharad Power (Politician (ofcourse)), and I can vouch for the likes of Amal rock vashi, Rajiv put-tail, weknow crushnone, sure-ish 3wheneye are all bretheren.

Nonetheless. Let me set the context of all revelations first.

After I type this Pathe, I am going to upload the blackandwhites I talked about here. The journey I undertook, which I talked about also here, got me click 281 pictures of Bombay between Santa Cruz and Nariman Point. My finger now goes into spasm every evening after that day. Selecting some for this blog has been very difficult and during that effort is when I came to terms with this disease.

That of total complete surrender to the charm of this city. The symptoms of this disease are very unique. You have this disease if you

  1. Think that you wouldn’t have had the success you have had professionally if you had chosen to stay back in your own village/town/district/city/ metro.
  2. Think that “this is the city for the real Men. And the real women.”
  3. Think every sight in this city is charming – even if it does not befit a worlds top city. Like thinking ‘this is so quintessential Mumbai’ when you see people sleeping outside A1 Bakery; or see a slim mother with the baby knocking at your window at the signal at Juhu-Versova link road.
  4. You are proud of the three-wheeled wonder transport called auto. Especially because you have lived in Chennai, Bangalore or Delhi where auto/taxi drivers are spiritual, enlightened, noble souls who took to this profession for a very unselfish objective of providing convenience to the public.
  5. Think anything that works well is because ‘this is Mumbai’ and if things are horribly wrong, think ‘but things still go on…that’s the charm of mumbai’
  6. Think “oh the the trade-offs for a life in Mumbai’ when you find yourself stationary for longer than 15 min in a jam on the Highway to Kandivli on a weekday.
  7. When a concert at Nehru Centre becomes more fulfilling – because (and only because) you had to plan two weeks in advance and have the Concert as the ONLY activity for the day in order to be able to make it (while the memory of the actual concert or the artist(s) is incidental and may or may not last as long) .
  8. You allow yourself a silent smile looking at the impossible plastered-against-one-another-crowd in a Virar local. ‘Quintessential!’, you think.
  9. You love the sight of the sea from the doorway of the Churchgate local when the train crosses Grant Road. You love the Police Gymkhana, Wankade Stadium, and all the rest of it.
  10. You get a great thrill sitting in a Mumbai cab, arm on the window  and looking out into the streets of Colaba, breeze against your face.
  11. Life feels like a hanky in a front-loading washing machine set to Heavy – and you love it.
  12. You dont feel lonely in that washing machine because there’s too much soap and you can’t open your eyes to see if you are all alone – besides you are tumbling about too violently.
  13. You use the word ‘quintessential’ too many times while discussing Bombay, thinking it will get your point across
  14. And finally…you find something quintessential about Mumbai even in the most ordinary picture you have clicked.

Now you know why it is tough for a man with the disease to select less than 10% of pictures from 281 below-the-ordinary pics of Mumbai. Because they all seem fascinating.

I hope secretly that you have this disease too. If you don’t know yet, take a look at these pictures. If your heart beats faster, if you sigh at least twice, if you smile unconsciously, if you pause and stare out the window unwittingly, then my friend, my diagnosis is made.

You are a patient too.

Here is the first set on Shivaji Park for you.

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Shivaji Park on a Sunday.An incredible experience. The ground is so large, several matches go on at the same time. And we are not talking about rubber or tennis balls here. We are talking about the game of real balls – although on the periphery of the ground you do find small teams playing cricket with softer balls. Sachin and Kamble are said to have spend good time here.

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The first challenge in setting up the game is getting your wicket right. On a large ground like this, the wind can push the stumps over. It can be pretty annoying to both bowler and batsman.

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Jaldi Jaldi Jaldi!

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Aaja Aaja Aaaja!!

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Parents watching their children play.

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Sivaji Park is good time pass too.

So you see how boring mundane photographs seem not so boring and not so mundane given the knowledge that they are of aamchi Mumbai. That’s what Mumbai does to below-the-average photographs taken by a person whose only claim to any qualification for clicking photographs is the availability of a forefinger.

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