Thursday, October 29, 2009

They Don't Believe!

Genre : India

After numerous “my city vs your city” comparison talks in the last two months with students from all over India (including many who have never been to Mumbai), I find it hard to believe that they don’t believe some common facts about Mumbai:

They don’t believe that in Mumbai, auto-rickshaw drivers actually charge by the meter and not in multiples of 10 (Their city : “50 lagega…chalo 40 de dena!”)

They don’t believe that in Mumbai, you cannot evade traffic cop by bragging about your family (Their city : “Jaanta hai mera baap kaun hai?”)

They don’t believe that in Mumbai, local trains have a First and Second Class and all passengers strictly follow the distinction (Their city: “Ghus jaane ka na kidhar bhi…kaun dekhta hai”)

They don't believe that in Mumbai, male passengers never travel in coaches in trains marked as 'Ladies' (Their city: "Voh sab toh likha rehta hai. Padhta kaun hai". See Proof in photo.)

They don’t believe that in Mumbai, if you are caught travelling in First Class with a Second Class ticket, you will always be charged a fine of Rs 250 (Their city: “TC ko Rs 20 chai-paani de deneka. Baat khatam”)

They don’t believe that in Mumbai, city bus drivers actually follow road rules. (Their city : “Jahaan passenger dekha, vahaan road ke beech me bus khada kar denge”)

They don’t believe that in Mumbai you have to stop at all traffic signals and follow all road signs. (Their city : “Itna sab dekhte baithta toh paagal ho jaata”)

They don’t believe that in Mumbai, you can hail a taxi just like an auto-rickshaw and pay by the meter reading. (Their city : “Taxi ka fixed rate lagega. Rs 200 se kam kuch nahi”)

They don't believe that in Mumbai, you have to always wear a helmet while driving a two-wheeler (Their city: "Koi nahi pehenta. Police wala kitne logo ko pakdega?")

They don’t believe that in Mumbai, you can get everything from Pav Bhaji and Vada Pao to Pizza and Noodles on the roadside carts (Their city : “Pav Bhaji aur Pizza koi road pe thode hi bechta hai!”)

I always knew Mumbai was well-behaved, organized and different from other cities of India, but didn’t know the difference was so stark!

Proud to be a Mumbaikar!

PS : The above facts have been compiled from subjects coming from Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Vadodara. Discerning reader should be able to distinguish comments by cities.

My apologies to readers who do not understand Hindi. Translating the comments into English would kill the fun!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Breaking (apart the) News!

Genre: Current Affairs

The ghastly train collision between Mewad Express and Goa Express near Mathura yesterday once again gave the Indian news channels fodder to go into an overdrive of over-reacting, broadcasting unverified blasphenous theories and in general create an atmosphere of chaos and confusion among the common junta who tends to believe whatever is said in news as the truth.

The background - Yesterday around 04:45am IST, Vasco-Nizamuddin Goa Express rammed into Udaipur-Nizamuddin Mewad Express outside Mathura in Uttar Pradesh resulting in the death of more than 25 passengers and injuring hundreds of others. The reason for the accident is not known but prima facie it looks like the Loco Pilot of Goa Express overshot a red signal resulting in rear-end collision with Mewad Express waiting ahead. As soon as the news about the accident spread, all the "intelligent" news channels were out in the field reporting their own "theories" and "exclusive reports" about the cause of the accident in what seemed like a competition to prove their Stupidity Quotient. Sample this-

So, first we have Times Now with a reporter shouting from the accident site, starting off with "This Goa Kranti blah blah" and two minutes later, re-christening the train - " here you see Goa Sampark Express.. blah blah" without giving a damn to the goof-up. Goa Sampark Kranti Express is a completely different train from the Goa Express which was involved in the collision. Imagine the plight of relatives of passengers travelling by Goa Sampark Kranti Express who would be getting all worried about the whereabouts of their loved ones after seeing this report when the fact is that the train mentioned by the reporter was thousand kilometeres away from the accident site!

Next comes NDTV's coverage (Click for Video) who went one step ahead and caught hold of an ignorant passenger who, only too eager to be on TV, cooked up an impromptu, absolutely illogical absurd "theory" claiming that the driver was not driving Goa Express properly and kept on changing tracks frequently (as if the train is an auto-rickshaw on a crowded street) resulting in the collision. I do not blame the poor passenger for not knowing that changing tracks is not under the control of the train driver- it is automatically monitored from control towers; but NDTV should have atleast taken the effort to verify if this theory is plausible before broadcasting it on national television.

There were reports that someone pulled the Emergency Chain in Mewad Express causing it to halt on the tracks and Goa Express running right behind had no time to stop and rammed into Mewad Express from behind. But IBN thought this is not juicy enough, so they decided to add a filmy twist to the tale- their version of the accident claims that there was a dreaded dacoit from Kota being transported in Mewad Express who decided to flee from running train. So, the police on board pulled the Emergency Chain to chase the dacoit but he managed to run away! Wow! Let's have a big round of applause!

And then comes the greatest of them all- Aaj Tak! After spending around five minutes shouting in their typical style, begins the "insightful discussion" on the cause of the collision where a reporter shouts at the top of his voice "The biggest question we are asking is...Why were both trains running on the same track? The adjacent track was empty... why did the driver of Goa Express not turn his train to the adjacent track???" What the hell! Even a school kid knows that on double track sections, one track is for Up trains and other is for Down trains. It's not some Delhi road where you can drive in any lane as per your wish!

Enough! Stop it you bloody idiots! It's high time these publicity-hungry channels are taken to task for making a complete mockery of news reporting. My heart goes out to the Loco Pilot of Goa Express and the Guard of Mewad Express who bore the most serious brunt, and to all the passengers who lost their lives in this unfortunate accident.

P.S.: I am still waiting to hear India TV's take on this. If someone finds it, please let me know.

P.P.S. (for railfans only): The damaged loco is GZB WAP-4 #22723

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"Amrika Me Aisa Kya Hai...?"

Genre: Humor

I usually do not write consecutive posts on same/similar topics but making an exception this time owing to popular demand. Ever since I moved to अमरीका के संयुक्त राज्य (USA for the uninitiated) from Mumbai two months back, I have been bugged with queries on the lines of “America me aisa kya hai jo India me nahi?”. So here we go- some interesting (and not-so-interesting) observations about life in USA viz-a-viz life in India-

Cleanliness and Discipline – Tonnes of paper (and Gbs of webspace) has been wasted on this topic so I will not add much to the clutter, but add just a few pennies- what struck me (and fellow Desis) the most immediately on landing on American soil was the difference in level of cleanliness all around- till date we have not been able to figure out after all where does all the dirt, dust and assorted pollutants go in this country? It's so clean that I don't feel the need to take a bath for days together! (Oops! I revealed a closely-guarded secret!)

Discipline (especially on the roads) is another aspect that is hard to digest for us Desi people. After all, while in India, when was the last time (or maybe the only time) you actually searched around for a Zebra Crossing to cross a two-lane street? Here, pedestrians crossing the road is considered an event bigger than The Big Bang and the moment you step onto a road, all cars will stop for the VIP (i.e. you) to cross! Similarly, if you are driving on a multi-lane road, at a red signal, you will find 25 cars halting one behind the other in one lane even when the adjacent lane is completely empty! Compare this with the scene in India where on a two lane road, we have a left lane and a right lane interspersed with a scooter lane, rickshaw lane and occasionally a cow/bullock cart lane! So much is the obsession with discipline that all the footpaths are color-coded with different colors representing different rules on stopping/parking- this is something I realised only when I gave my Driving License Test- I always used to think the colors are purely for decorative purpose!

Manners and Dressing – We were told umpteen times during the various Pre-departure orientations that Americans are very friendly people and this seems true, atleast in the first month of arrival- random people will greet/smile at you on the streets and everyone, including the Bus Driver says “Hi” and “Thank You” to boarding / disembarking passengers. Imagine the driver and conductor of BEST's 84 Ltd doing that in morning peak hours! Another interesting point worth mentioning here is that while we think that Americans are very formal and cleanliness-freaks, the fact is that will sit down virtually anywhere – on the pavement, in the aisle in the bus, in the corridors...and you thought this happened only on our railway stations in India!

When it comes to American dressing, I am sure the fashion-conscious (Indian) girls would have a lot to crib about – wearing non color-coordinated, un-ironed, mis-fitting (too large or too small) clothes is the trend here! Another area that is a potential research topic (provided VT gives us funding for it) is trying to figure out the genetic mutation that makes the American girls feel cold only in upper half of the body- after all what explains wearing full-sleeved tshirts an jackets teamed with mini-skirts?  

The Crowd – I do not know if this is a pan-USA phenomenon or limited to the College Town of Blacksburg, but I have found the crowd (read: students) to be very courteous and friendly। Everyone will hold the door open for you, make liberal use of “Hi”, “Sorry” and “Thank You” and most of them (especially the undergrad girls) will smile back if you just look at them! A related point worth noting here- a lot of Spanish/Latin American girls on campus look very similar to Indian girls and I have found out that the only way to clear out the confusion is to just look at her and smile- if she smiles back, she is Spanish/Latin American; if she gives a grumpy “Who are you?” look, she is Indian for sure.  

The Bollywood Connection - Even before you finish saying "Indian movie...", every single soul here will jump back with "Yeah! I have seen Slumdog Millionaire!". Tell them that is NOT an Indian movie, and then the real fun begins. So we have all possible samples from Li Hu, the Chinese PhD student who entertained us with an (awful) rendition of "Tum Paas Aaye" from Mohabbatein to Matt, my Black Manager at Food Court who raves about seeing Dhoom to the Nepali co-worker who, of all the movies, decides to give me a detailed appreciation of TIRANGA ("Nana Patekar. Solid!"). Three cheers to Bollywood- Taking India to the World!

I guess I will stop here before the “moral police” comes with a danda, branding me “Anti-Indian”!

१०० में से ८० बेईमान,
फिर भी मेरा भारत महान!

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