Mumbai without reservation

Posted by admin on December 19, 2015
CitiSights, OtherCities, OtherWorlds / No Comments

Mumbai morning was quite a throwback from the glitz and bustle of Bollywood

The stately silence of the tall Victorian buildings, crumbling even as it harked back to its colonial-era elegance.

Red double-decker buses ending their morning round in front of Prince of Wales

…a museum styled in mock-Mughal, its domed structure rising among Palm brood


Bom Bom Bom Bom Bombay I had seen in matinee shows had turned to amchi Mumbai

The island seemed to be busy shedding its portly past

In names, at least, of the city’s important landmarks, spread wide and apart

….While I roam around sweating profusely in the rising heat and humidity that drive people into public areas and streets


A flabbergasted traveler in a Masala Mega-polis, with striking, contrasting images every step of the way

Skyscrapers, elegant sea-side hotels towering over hapless have-nots, hawkers selling gee-gaws, mutilated beggar,

Young drifters in thin shirts and ankle-length pants sprawled on pavements, sea-walls below raging stars and stellar

High-rollers (in Mercedes, Porsches) and middle-class strollers promenade past plush malls, restaurants along the curvy bay

Carefree and unconcerned…


The Gateway of India on the waterfront overlooks the oily waters of the Arabian Sea slapping against the stone steps

Built to welcome a foreign monarch, it now summons terror into the city from distant shores

The pretend Taj Mahal hosts royalties, rockstars, notable guests… and fanatic gunfighters out for blood and gore

Who take vengeance on the city for an unknown debt


At the Leopold Cafe, big fans bring some respite from the sultry evening and we chill (with a beer)

The clanking of the dishes seems to animate the place

While clumps of European and American tourists silently munch away and glaze

Amid well heeled/distilled Mumbaikars, while the big fat Parsi owner keeps sweating over the bill(s)


Outside the streets slowly get unclogged, but the pavements is teeming with sleepers in undergarments

A road-side peddler by day, his wares neatly locked away somewhere, takes a heroin shot and falls flat for the night

Perhaps to dream of Bollywood heroines, eye candy for his tired sight

In this overcrowded city tightly packed with skyscrapers and squatters’ settlements alike


Colaba, Marine Drive, Churchgate, Chowpatty, I drift about the strange city

Maybe to have a peek at its suffering — in small, low huts along grimy ramshackled lanes

of the world’s largest slums and red-light districts with people and prostitutes hanging around in the streets and drains


But I make do with photos of my guide books, or whizzing past in cabs shaking my head in pity

After a day-long steamer ride—back and forth from Elephanta caves and being transported into different time, space

To watch the setting sun sizzle into the raging sea from the islet of Haji Ali Shrine


After spreading an orange glow, then the violet sky reflecting the color of the waves as revelers take a dip in the brine

That break, break, break into the slippery stony steps of the Dargah of star-crossed lovers whose legends lay waste

Tags: , ,

Myths, science and small stories of hope

Posted by admin on July 30, 2015
CitiTalks / No Comments

A gigantic cat fish is swirling about angrily deep beneath Kathmandu, and every time the leviathan flicks his long whiskers, we get these tremors… or so I heard Kanchi didi, our part-time household help, saying one afternoon a few days after the May 12 aftershock. She was animatedly repeating a story doing the rounds in the open area where she had been camping; she was trying to explain to my mom the reasons for the endless succession of jolts and tremors we were experiencing. Continue reading…

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Star of the Sea

Posted by admin on April 26, 2015
CitiSights, OtherCities, OtherWorlds / No Comments

The breeze from the sea

sweeps the carefree

wanderer in you.

Blowing you up the

gentle slopes of the God’s

vineyard to give you a view.

From the top of Mt Carmel,

the sprawl of the city of Haifa

merging into the sapphire blue


The dome of the Baha’i’s

shrine glowing and tall

And in the symmetry

of its terraced gardens

the equality it professes

between a woman and a man,

everyone and all.


Slipping down the quiet,

tree-lined streets…

the downtown, the German colony

Neat little limestone cottages

and houses left by

the German templars

turned into plush restaurants,

boutiques, bars

with people drinking

wine and martini

Their soft-bright

off-white glow is the colour

of the entire town

Hanassi, Pinsky,

Moraiah, Hadar,



The silent, almost

abandoned lanes; dried fallen

leaves on dark-blue

tarred road,

Walking in the mild

winter sun after a heavy lunch

or huddling against the

chilly wind returning

gypsy-tipsy from Seminar bar

with friends after

a long-day class crunch

the mind blank, without

any feel or concern for

tomorrow or work

living in the present, as guests

of the season,

and the promise of excitement and leisure

without any reason


Then leaving the calm

of the town- for Tel Aviv

Nazareth, Dead Sea,


Reeling before you flat

green fields and small

rolling hills of willows

mustard, herbs; forests

of oak, pine and almond

Till you agree that

the desert has indeed



You see science-tech

and religion, but also

the hidden, pent-up

conflict, the specter of

war and strife

And learn that in the

beautiful relics of mighty

religions, rulers and

empires of the past

are contesting claims

which has long kept the

holy land aghast

It seems to be never

ending story that always

brings with it its own

never-ending worry and



Sun goes down, twilight,

night — the end of the

day-long excursion

While returning all the

way to Haifa half-sleepy,


To a table of warm soup

and meal

And as sleep slowly steal

you away

Random thoughts take

you down a vista of

images that striked you

all day

And you realise that

nothing in life is as

peaceful like a quiet

slow night in your bed

With dreams slowly

enveloping you in the

safety of the Biblical hill

by the Mediterranean.

I say, Haifa you are

splendid, peaceful and warm, like

mother Mary to some degree

Stella Maris be

your name, cause you

are truly a Star of the Sea.


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Kolkata Collage

Posted by admin on March 16, 2015
CitiSights, OtherCities, OtherWorlds / No Comments

The Express click clacks into Howrah

on a nippy silver-grey morning.

Steel wheels squeal to a stop.

Flurry of activities off the track.


A torrent of humanity in the city by the Hooghly River.

Indeed this is the City of Joy

where beggars brandish their sores and shake off the winter.


The strong smell of beedi.

Vapour rising

from people huddled

around tea and food stalls.

Packed buses and battered trams

hurtling past old, crumbling buildings.

Half-naked people inside unused drains

Stray dogs, squatting pissers,

dark factory chimneys.



Calcutta, Kolkata…

like the interchangeable name,

the sights of the city change

from English grandeur

to Bengali geniality

with equal ease.

Waterloo Street, Jackson Lane, Elgin, Dalhousie Square

Dharmatala, Bowbazaar, Tollygunj, Belighata,Chowringhee.

Palatial mansions, British memorials, monuments.

The Royal Calcutta Club serving English cookies and afternoon tea.

They clamour for space

among brisk crowd, reckless traffic,

strikes, demonstrations,

sadhus, street hawkers,

handcarts drawn sometimes by horse

sometimes bare-chested men–a poverty striptease.


A forced but passionate mixture

of the East and West is Kolkata,

Where Bengali babus with tastes of

the English gentleman

complain about life in a dying city,

talk about Tagore, Marx,

the metropolitan problems—

they recall the heyday of the Raj,

and gulp down a rich pudding at Flury’s,

talking about Kolkata’s destitute and starving.

The indifferent human maze on the streets, lanes, buses, trams, the metro.

The various degrees of human degradation at Kalighat.

Blessed Teresa’s home for the hungry, the naked, the crippled, the blind.

The flesh-trading labyrinthine ghettos.


In Kolkata, a perfection-seeking youth

learns the bitter lesson

that life is not a textbook, all shimmery.

It is to learn from those

who find bits and pieces of happiness

amidst their destituteness, dispossession


From a frail little granny wearing

a wrinkled sari, siting near a culvert

smiling, combing the dark tresses

of a little girl looking at passersby

with cool eagerness.

It is to take heart

from the fact that

there are lives in this city

who show how to squeeze

fleeting happiness

from their private misery.



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Turkish Connection: What Kathmandu can learn from Istanbul?

Posted by admin on March 01, 2015
CitiSights, KathmanduWalks, OtherCities, OtherWorlds / No Comments

Ferry ride in Bosphorus, Istanbul

Looking at the Galata Tower from the Bosphorus straits in Istanbul, the part of my mind given to making comparisons reminded me of Kathmandu’s Dharahara. Both are nine-story tall (Galata stands at 66.9 m, just a little taller than Dharahara’s 61.8 m). Dharahara, also called Bhimsen Tower, was Kathmandu’s tallest structure when it was built in 1832, and so was the conical-shaped Galata when it was constructed in 1348. And both towers command a huddle of tightly-packed houses and buildings in the heart of the respective cities.

Though Kathmandu’s Dharahara cannot match the architectural splendor of Galata Tower, the likeness between the two cities of antiquity doesn’t end here.

To start with, writers and poets sometimes invoke Kathmandu’s  historical names – “Kantipur” and “Kasthamandup” – to call to mind the city’s former beauty while Istanbul could be referred to by many as “Constantinople”. (The Istanbul guide book I was carrying mentioned a certain Lale Pudding Shop at Divanyolu neighborhood, calling it the“fabled halfway point to Kathmandu of 60’s hippie lore”). And if Kathmandu is the City of Gods with hundreds of beautiful temples, shrines, stupas and monasteries in ancient city squares, palaces, narrow alleyways, and street corners  Istanbul is the City of Mosques. The first thing that strikes visitors to this city are the imposing, visually stunning domes and edifices of mosques which dot the city. The former imperial city that served as the capital of four empires – Megarian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman, making it the crossroads of various civilisations –  has altogether 3,113 mosques, minarets and madrashas. Continue reading…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Haji Ali Dargah, Mumbai, India

Posted by admin on February 21, 2015
CitiSights, OtherCities, OtherWorlds / No Comments

Six-hundred-year-old Haji Ali Dargah is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Mumbai (formerly Bombay). May, 2009

Tags: , , , ,

Violent girl

Posted by admin on February 14, 2015
CitiTalks, KathmanduWalks / No Comments

Why does a girl who loves you hit you softly when you tease her?

Why does she tap you head with a book or slap you chest or arm when

you irritate her with your silliness?

Is it to discipline the unruly boy in men, to straighten up the naughty boy?

To make better men out of a fragmented, shattered you.

What does she imply with her tender, loving violence? Is she trying to provoke your masculinity?

By giving rise to the one deep inside her

Or does she want to feminize your blind, ignorant masculinity?

– the male pride that makes everything dull

Or lull your defenses, give rise to the femininity inside you

So that you don’t project your ugly power on her

The power that binds, blinds, exploits both the victim and the victor

And excites lust

The dust that covers the relationship mirror

In which a woman could have seen her reflection in a man

and the latter may have seen himself dissolving, vanishing

Vanishing into someone he thought he ‘owned’ (and in turn to whom he ‘belonged’)

Like the way he put his arm on her soft, bending waist when overcome with passion

And when it was silent and exhausted, found himself arm-in-arm with her

and being led instead

Tags: , , , , , ,

Israel Diaries

Posted by admin on February 10, 2015
OtherCities, OtherWorlds / No Comments

O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem

Shalom Jerusalem

From the vantage point of Mount of Olives, I see the golden-coloured Dome of the Rock soar above the Old City of Jerusalem — a tight cluster of pale limestone buildings, domes, and towers. Entering into the walled city from a glossy, well-planned outer suburb area — home to all branches of the Israeli government –– I feel that I am in some another time period. Of course there are signs of modern-living, but that makes little difference.

Streets paved with setts run past ancient colonnaded houses with wrought-iron balconies. Below them shops and restaurants sell hot pizza, falafel and shawarma. Soon the streets turn into narrow lanes and alleys of bustling markets full of locals and tourists alike.

An Array of shops sell a range of souvenirs that easily catch a visitor’s eye (or dazzle it) – from exotic artifacts, fine local handicrafts and antiques to religious articles, jewelleries, textiles, rugs, cheap clothing, ceramics, glassware and small keepsakes to take back home to remind you of your visit to the holy city.

I head down some covered markets in the Muslim or Christian quarters. They are so devoid of natural light that lamps from rows of shops light the way. Walking down these vibrant marketplaces while passing by a variety of colorful goods and wares and amid merchant calls, you may just walk past a hidden mosque, a church or some religious sites of importance without even knowing. Your mind is too busy processing the multitude of exotic images pounding on it. Continue reading…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tel Aviv Plays

Posted by admin on February 04, 2015
CitiSights, OtherCities, OtherWorlds / 1 Comment

A couple frolicking on the Mediterranean seashore of Tel Aviv, which has a pervading sense of ease and openness. CitiWalks

Tags: , , , , ,

Motorcycle Shayari

Posted by admin on January 23, 2015
DeTour / No Comments

Riding fast along the highway/

Leaving behind strange, dusty towns one after another/

As revolting as the sleazy, powdery blue mascara a fine young lady crossing the streets wears – truck drivers’ eye candy/ …

Then all of a sudden paddy and corn fields from where sprouts ugly houses and brick kilns in equal measure/

Like undesired weeds in an abandoned garden, the expanse, the freshly bathed green hills/

The paddy fields just ploughed, watered But the ugly houses, factories and kilns keep their prominence/

As if reminding us that there will come a day when all this lush expanse and open sky will soon be consumed by their clones/

They say beauty is power, but in front of ugliness it doesn’t stand a chance. Beauty is but momentary, it lives forever only in memory

Bhaktapur to Dolalghat – 2012


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,