Category: Articles

3 Days at the 2019 European Union Film Festival of India

eu film festival 2019 india

Reddit is one of the sites that I frequently visit these days, even more than Letterboxd and Twitter. And it was through the r/Mumbai community there that I came to know about the India edition of the European Union Film Festival (EUFF), a platform that showcases the best European cinema has to offer to the Indian populace and which is organized in several cities across the country every year as part of the ‘Europe in Your City’ programme through a partnership between the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (Directorate of Film Festivals), the Delegation of the European Union, and the consulates of respective European member states in India. It was in its 24th edition in 2019 and hosted 23 films from 23 European countries across eight cities between 24 June and 26 September. I managed to catch some of the films in Mumbai at the prestigious Films Division of India. This is an overview of my experience at and a recommendation of the festival for those who are interested in watching both little-known and popular European movies in a festival setting.

The European Union Film Festival of India

Abbreviated as EUFF India, it is one of the few annual film festivals celebrated in India. Although it is difficult to trace the history of the fest online (its website is new), it is safe to assume that it was started as a way to showcase European art of cinema to the cine enthusiasts of India and thereby bridge the gap between the artists from the two states. There’s no denying that it might even be a diplomatic activity aimed at strengthening the relations between India and the EU.

Films Division for euff 2019
A poster of EUFF India 2019 at the Films Division building

The 2019 edition was the 24th year the EUFF was celebrated across eight Indian cities: Chennai, New Delhi, Goa, Pune, Puducherry, Kolkata, Hyderabad, and Mumbai.[1]Interestingly, Mumbai was not in the list for the 2018 edition and it ran in eleven other cities. It was not there in 2017 either. The period of about three months is also reminiscent of how seriously the organizers take the event, using the resources offered by the Government of India for the screenings.

That is why the the entry to the festival is free of cost. Delegates are only supposed to be present at the screenings (the Mumbai screening details is mentioned in the last section here) and enjoy European cinema the best way the artform should be enjoyed in, without censorship and the poor behaviour that is rampant in mainstream theatres.

Special mention to Wishbox Studio for the beautiful EU Film Festival website design and merchandise. As you all know, I am a stationery fanatic and I am not ashamed to admit that I managed to take two cool-looking coasters home.

According to the EUFF website, the annual event is meant to celebrate the vitality and diversity of European cinema and culture. The films are a heady cocktail of romantic comedy, period drama, mockumentary, satire, and socio-political thriller.

My Experience at EUFF India 2019

I, for one, can attest to that fact about the cocktail as I managed to catch 11 of the 23 films that were screened. I attended 3 days of the festival and spent over 9 hours of courageous cinema marathon with 5 back-to-back films on the first day. It was the first time that I did that, an event that I’m told is common for film critics. In a way, I broke my own record of 3 films at the 2018 MAMI MFF, a feat that involved films Widows (2018), Climax (2018), and Leave No Trace (2018). It was exhausting to say the least but when I went to bed that night, it somehow felt good.

euff 2019 india screening
Before the start of the second screening on 21 September

I could not attend the entire festival because of work and some personal commitments. But, it was still fun. I liked the way the screenings were organized, very punctual, and a better crowd that the ones you find at MFF. It was not without its fair share of spectacles either. After the screening of the Austrian film Styx (2018) on 22 September 2019, a squabble broke out between a few viewers which quickly turned into a heated spat in Marathi. A group of elder enthusiasts began accusing a group of youngsters for being a nuisance. The former group got angry when the young men denied any wrongdoing. And it ended with the interference of the officials, even as the audience began preparing for the next screening.

Unlike at MAMI – the only other film festival I have attended so far – there was little time between the screenings. Although most of the titles were between 90 and 100 minutes of running time, it became really difficult to grab a bite between the shows. That is why you always carry some energy bars and a water bottle for a film festival. (Looks like it’s time I devise my own guide as I wait for the 2019 edition of the MFF.) But if you want it right now here’s a nice little guide by Berlin-based travel blogger Adam doling out some great tips to follow while at a film festival.

If finding time for lunch or evening snack is difficult, convincing your body to maintain its posture and not fidget for streaks of 90+ minutes with small intervals between them is where you’ll need a bit of practice and the ability to deviate from your lifestyle (diet and rest preferences). Active film festival attendees around the world (who visit the Big Three or other big ones like Sundance and TIFF) can do this without much effort. I have read stories.

european film festival schedule
The 2019 Mumbai schedule put up at the Films Division building

If you are a disciplined person who eats on time and sleeps on time, then I’m afraid attending film festivals is going to be tough. It is usually very difficult to cajole the fest organizers to push a 2 PM show by an hour because it overlaps with your lunchtime. If you are friends with the organizers and somehow manage to do it, let me know in the comments. I’ll execute your bragging rights.

It should be noted that due to a lack of popularity, none of the screenings I attended were houseful. But that was a relief because in most cases I could enjoy the films in silence with no disturbance from fellow viewers. Most of the audience were discerning and did not engage in activities that are barred from my own imaginary theatre if it is ever built.

Films Watched

I caught the following eleven films at the 2019 EUFF India (in the order of the viewing):

  1. Bubblegum (2017, Bulgaria, dir. Stanislav Todorov)
  2. Tulipani (2017, Netherlands, dir. Mike Van Diem)
  3. The Troupe (2018, Hungary, dir. Pal Sandor)
  4. Diamantino (2018, Portugal, dir. Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt)
  5. The Charmer (2018, Denmark, dir. Milad Alami)
  6. Drifters (2015, Sweden, dir. Peter Gronlund)
  7. Styx (2018, Austria, dir. Woflgang Fischer)
  8. Ashes in the Snow (2018, Lithuania, Marius Markevicius)
  9. #Female Pleasure (2018, Switzerland, dir. Barbara Miller)
  10. Me and Kaminski (Germany, 2015, dir. Wolfgang Becker)
  11. Maria (And Everybody Else) (2016, Spain, dir. Nely Reguera)

As you can see, the festival also focuses on old films that are supposed to be essential viewing from those specific countries. Some of these European states are not prolific producers like India or the USA, which is another point that the original 23-film list conveys. You can see the entire list for the 2019 edition here on IMDb. The sole documentary on atrocities on women in the 21st century was also a good watch. It should be essential viewing for today’s youth.

euff 2019 films brochure
Two of the films I could not catch

My favourite film out of the lot is Diamantino, which is a satire on government propaganda and cloning experiments as seen from the perspective of an innocent, disgraced footballer whose life has an uncanny resemblance to that of Cristiano Ronaldo who is a Portugal national…

I also liked Me and Kaminski, Maria (And Everybody Else), and The Charmer. All great stories with a touch of uniqueness. (And I also kept wondering why there was no film from the UK. The Brexit deal is still not in motion so technically the UK is still a part of the EU. Right?)

Overall, EUFF India was a fun experience for me. I watched more films than I had originally intended to and was able to do it without any hiccups. I also got to explore tony Pedder Road, Cumbala Hills, and Mahalaxmi areas of Mumbai, which I have not been exposed to much. If I could, I would have attended the fest in its entirety, but that is something that I intend to do for MAMI MFF 2019 as well as for the upcoming 10th Jagran Film Festival (starts 26 September 2019) in Mumbai and the 50th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa (starts 20 November 2019).

Guide for Future Delegates

The entry to the European Union Film Festival is free. Only people above 18 years of age are allowed as the films are not censored. Most of the titles I watched in 2019 had some sort of nudity and sexual content in them with one film (The Charmer) going a bit over the top. It also did not have disclaimers, which is another quality I love about festivals.

All films are with English subtitles.

If you are interested for the 2020 edition and if they run it in your city, keep an eye on their website and social media profiles. They (EU in India) are quite active on both Facebook and Twitter.

Plan your itinerary before and make sure you reach the screenings at least 10 minutes before to get the seat that you want. Other than, it’s just basic film festival etiquette. The location for Mumbai is given below. The most economic way to get to the venue (if its Films Division in future editions also) is to get down at Grant Road station in the Western line of the Mumbai Suburban Railway (local train) and take the #155 Limited BEST bus to Cumbala Hills Post Office. Good luck. TN.

Featured image courtesy: EUFF India

Update: Added bus route option to get to the EUFF venue in Mumbai. (27 September 2019)

footnotes   [ + ]

1. Interestingly, Mumbai was not in the list for the 2018 edition and it ran in eleven other cities. It was not there in 2017 either.

When I Run My Own Cinema Theatre…

rules and regulations of an ideal movie theatre

…I will officiate the following rules and restrictions. Patrons will be required to follow this cinema theatre etiquette charter and will be automatically agreeing to them as part of the ticket purchase.

  • Network jammers will be installed with a power radius of 300 meters to prevent mobile communication of any form inside and around the auditoriums.[1]According to the Indian Telegraph Act, the use of jammers by private establishments is illegal in the country. In special cases, an approval from the Cabinet Secretariat can be procured. Friendship with folks with political influence will then be put to use or the jammers will be installed and architecturally cloaked into invisibility during the construction of the theatre (Private entities can’t use jammers: Govt – Nivedita Mookerji, Business Standard, 17 July 2015) Patrons will be informed about this beforehand; heck even the tagline of the movie theatre will be: at Nair Talkies You Only Watch Movies
  • Show timings will be followed strictly. If a movie is scheduled to start at 8 PM, it will start at 8 PM. As in, the reel/copy supplied by the distributor will be switched ON, and lights will begin to dim
  • Auditorium doors will be closed ten minutes before the show timing. Latecomers will be sent back with a full refund (minus processing charges) or with a facility to reschedule their visit at no extra cost
  • Ushers will make sure patrons occupy their seats five minutes before the start of the show. Uncooperative persons will be shown the exit door without an alternative and without a refund
  • National anthem will not be played before a show; not even the 20-second shorter version or even if certain political outfits or moralists-activists threaten to vandalize my theatre or actually do it[2]According to the Union home ministry of India, “state governments have conveyed that at present there are no protocols on playing national anthem at public places.” Further, the Supreme Court of India in its 9 January 2018 verdict stated that it is up to the cinema hall owners to decide if they want to play the anthem or not. (National anthem in cinemas likely to stay ‘optional’ – Rahul Tripathi, The Economic Times, 19 June 2019)[3]I will decide not to play it.
  • No intervals regardless of the duration or type of the movie
  • Loo breaks will be discouraged and patrons will be strongly advised to make a visit before the start of the show. Emergency nature calls will be allowed but the names and Aadhaar card numbers of these people will be recorded in a database maintained and owned by the theatre. Three strikes will mean lifetime ban
  • There will be no canteen or cafeteria services but freestanding water fountains (mounted water dispensers) will be installed outside the auditorium entrance and exit gates and corridors
  • Complaints from patrons about other patrons (loud talking, snoring, obstructing the view, sexual activity) will be taken seriously and dealt in the same way as those taking loo breaks
  • Special couple seats will be designed (and located towards the end of the auditorium to keep prying eyes or the morality nazis from looking) to encourage platonic but silent and non-disruptive canoodling to heighten the movie-watching experience. Those involved in sexual acts will be warned but not banned because I understand and can confirm that sexual urge (i.e. the urge to procreate) is the second-most strongest human instinct (after that of survival)[4](It’s Normal! – page 112, Chapter 10 – Unsafe Sex (Sex and Illness), Dr. Mahinder Watsa, Penguin Books, 2015). Couples, regardless of their intentions, will be required to sit in these seats only unless all of the available ones are already occupied
  • People (kids) below the age of 13 years will not be allowed irrespective of the type of the film being screened. (If a child is turning 13 on the 20th of August he will be allowed to watch a movie in the theatre from the 20th)
  • No advertisements will be shown and instead movie trailers will be screened before a show. Trailers of Indian regional films will be preferably played over that of mainstream ones
  • Patrons will be mandated to enter the auditoriums freehand. They can choose to either safely dump their personal effects at the security or come directly without bringing anything other than their entry ticket (Film critics will be allowed to carry a pencil/pen and a paper). This essentially means mobile phones will not be allowed
  • All patrons will be frisked (by retired security professionals who have had at least three years of stint in airport security or in the immigration/customs department of India) before entering the building and the only things that will be allowed inside the auditoriums are listed below. Everything else will need to be dumped at the security and which can be collected after the show
    • the entry ticket
    • candies and toffees and mints not weighing more than 10 grams
    • water bottles
    • 3D glasses (depending upon the show)
  • Intoxication of any type will not be allowed inside the building; films without disclaimers will be encouraged
  • Patrons photographically caught littering will be permanently banned without preamble or the ability to contest it
  • Audio and video equalizers will be continuously moderated throughout a show. No show will run on preset or general settings of the entire auditorium, including that of the air conditioning, the humidifiers, and the ventilation
  • There will be no restrictions regarding clothes, footwear, and eyeglasses
movie end credits mandatory
All patrons will be required to sit through the end credits
  • All patrons will be mandated to sit through the entire end credits roll even when it’s not a Marvel movie so that they can sit and appreciate those behind the camera as well as cool down from the in-movie experience
  • The entire building will be friendly to all types of people above the age of 13 regardless of their physical capabilities or incapabilities
  • Theatre staff will be made up of people hired through a lenient recruitment process which will importantly not assess the candidates based on their sexual orientation, caste, religion, or the quality of their exposure to films. Freshers will be trained by me.

But since no one will come to this theatre due to the restrictions and it will be a loss-making enterprise altogether, there will be no such establishment opening till I suddenly become a billionaire with the ability to bankroll such an enterprise without additional capital support and political influence. TN.

Featured image courtesy: Karen Zhao/Unsplash

footnotes   [ + ]

1. According to the Indian Telegraph Act, the use of jammers by private establishments is illegal in the country. In special cases, an approval from the Cabinet Secretariat can be procured. Friendship with folks with political influence will then be put to use or the jammers will be installed and architecturally cloaked into invisibility during the construction of the theatre (Private entities can’t use jammers: Govt – Nivedita Mookerji, Business Standard, 17 July 2015)
2. According to the Union home ministry of India, “state governments have conveyed that at present there are no protocols on playing national anthem at public places.” Further, the Supreme Court of India in its 9 January 2018 verdict stated that it is up to the cinema hall owners to decide if they want to play the anthem or not. (National anthem in cinemas likely to stay ‘optional’ – Rahul Tripathi, The Economic Times, 19 June 2019)
3. I will decide not to play it.
4. (It’s Normal! – page 112, Chapter 10 – Unsafe Sex (Sex and Illness), Dr. Mahinder Watsa, Penguin Books, 2015)

On Completing MA in English

The Catcher in the Rye new book cover

On 14 August 2019, a day before the day when half the people in India began their four-day-long leisure trip to some place and the rest half sat in anticipation to see the prime minister encourage patriotism on television, I successfully completed the Master of Arts in English Literature correspondence course from IGNOU.

A sense of pride and happiness engulfed me when I checked the results on my other computer, which dimmed a little when I calculated the final score (55.56%), a bit less than the first-year figure (60.75%). Not too great for someone who exaggerates his literary interests and reading skills, but still valid enough to justify this write-up.

There is a lot to talk about here, especially because I am originally a STEM student. But I’ll keep it to a few bullet points before I can write a detailed account of how I tackled the MEG programme and what I feel about the course provided by IGNOU, known as the best distance learning course for MA in English in India. Perhaps now tied to the one provided by Mumbai University’s IDOL (after it got the UGC accreditation recently).

  • I signed up for the course in 2017, two years after I graduated as a Bachelor of Engineering from Mumbai University. At that time, it felt overwhelming – no classes, four subjects to tackle in the first year, four assignments that are to be handwritten, and four paper examination in about eight months from that point of time. I was supposed to take it up using the top skill in the world: self-studying
  • I have to admit my interest for the course after registering and paying the fees dwindled considerably as my responsibilities grew at work. Then I received the first set of study materials by mail sometime in February 2018 and so began my actual journey towards diving deep into English literature. By April 2018, I had a fairly good idea about the course and what was required of me if I wanted to crack it
  • The first-year exams went by like a breeze. It was three years since I had experienced the sit-in-a-classroom-for-three-hours-straight ritual that wrecked my right-hand fingers after each paper. Yet I managed to write well as the results proved later in August 2018
  • The exam experience took me back to my diploma and degree days, as I saw myself mimicking my preparation and writing strategy. I have always depended on current affairs and observations around me to enrich my answers and it was no different this time
  • The second-year exams were tougher despite me having selected three electives of my choice (MEG 6, MEG 7, and MEG 11). That last one only because it had an entire chapter on J D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. Laughably, I scored the least (50/100) in MEG 11
  • This course gave me a bit of travel experience too as I saw myself exploring the city of Bhiwandi as part of my second-year exams. On account of an error on my side, I chose a college in Bhiwandi as my exam center (because all these towns/cities were categorized as Thane and I chose Thane without realizing it) and it was probably the worst decision I made in 2019. As some of you might know, there is no direct local train from Mumbai/Navi Mumbai and you have to take a detour from Kalyan. It takes about 90 minutes to reach there which is why I had to depend on Uber while going and a combination of the good old Mumbai suburban train and auto rickshaws while coming back
  • One small, good part of this course was all the discussions that I had with a small group of fellow students in a WhatsApp group. When I was growing up and studying, I don’t think I had ever done group study or discussed notes with my friends or classmates. This changed during my MA and I think I enjoyed it
  • Probably the biggest change that this MA degree has brought in me is through its validation of my writing and literary bend. I now am more confident about my writing – as I sometimes do it professionally as a freelancer – which is what I had anticipated before signing up in 2017 even as I received puzzled looks from friends, colleagues, and family about my decision. I did this MA in English to validate and strengthen my experience and I think I got it
  • Lastly, I am a voracious reader now. Before 2019, I used to read less than 5 books a year on an average. In 2019, I have already read 14 books so far.

What Next?

I have been thinking about this for sometime now. Exams ended in June 2019 and I still haven’t decided.

I have always wanted to take a look into journalism and mass media, so it could be something on those lines next. Maybe that, or maybe a change in my full-time job because it’s been more than four years with Publicis now. Need a psychological change.

I also have plans to go over all the study materials of the MA course just to get a better understanding. This will also help me go over the topics that I had skipped during the exams. Could be a great use of my time till 2020 when I sign up for something or the other for sure. TN.

Featured image courtesy: Sean Somics at Creative Commons

Is No One Else Hyped About IKEA in Navi Mumbai?

IKEA sign

We spent that entire evening looking for a chic coffee table for our new home in Navi Mumbai. I remember we visited at least five different shops across Palm Beach Road in Vashi and Belapur in a span of three hours to get the first real furniture for the new apartment. By 10 PM we were running out of furniture shops so we ended the quest by feeding ourselves at a nearby bistro that my sister had wanted to try out for long. We went back home and that’s when I suddenly realized: IKEA is coming to Navi Mumbai in late 2019. Why not wait till then and use a bean bag as a teapoy in the meanwhile?

IKEA store in turbhe
The view of the IKEA store in Turbhe from the highway
IKEA in Navi Mumbai
A photo of the IKEA building I took from atop another building

(Note – The above photo is probably my first attempt at basic journalism. Since there’s no vantage point to get a proper glimpse of the entire property, I had to fib to an aged security guard of a dilapidated three-storie building nearby to get a good view. I climbed up to the terrace (while disregarding my breathing issues) and took this photo. Not great, I agree, but still something.)

That’s what I did and it’s been five months since then. We don’t have a coffee table in our house. And I have been waiting for IKEA to throw open their gates in Turbhe, Navi Mumbai ever since, hoping to be one of their first customers from Mumbai (unless people have flown to Hyderabad and paid a fortune to get something delivered back home). The trouble is I don’t know when it will open. The Hyderabad store opened in August 2018, so I’m inclined to guess it should be sometime around August here too, especially as it’s already breached its intended initial timeline.[1]NDTV, quoting PTI, reported that IKEA would open its Navi Mumbai store in January 2019. (IKEA Starts Work on Navi Mumbai Store; To Open In January 2019 – NDTV Profit, 18 May 2017)

While I wait with bated breath to hopefully get my hands on the Frakta tote bag that will continue to put Balenciaga to shame, what I also want to talk about is IKEA’s big plans for Mumbai.

Quartz India reported that the Swedish furniture giant (I just can’t forget how Pepperfry CEO Ambareesh Murthy responded when he was asked about potential competition from IKEA)[2]He said and I quote via The Economic Times: “Nothing would give me greater joy than to open a studio in Sweden right outside of the IKEA office.” (Ambareesh Murthy’s biggest dream: Opening Pepperfry studio outside Sweden’s IKEA office¬†– Shannon Tellis, ET Bureau, 17 June 2019) began constructing a swanky 4,30,000 square feet store in Turbhe in May 2017. It also plans to launch smaller shops across Mumbai along with an ecommerce presence. Going by the images posted by users on Google Maps for the location (between Pawane and Turbhe at the highway side), it looks like they will kickoff at least by year-end.

More than the grandiose scale of the store, what has impressed me is the employment opportunities that it laid out. Other than the 5,000 and more workers that they are using to help build the store, they claim to double the number of jobs in the next three years.[3](Ikea to hire 5,000 workers for Navi Mumbai store; create 10-k jobs in 3 yrs – via PTI, Business Standard, 2 November 2018) And I like to believe that claim, thanks to what I saw in and around Navi Mumbai in the months of April and May.

IKEA job ad in Thane station
Arrays of hoardings promoting job opportunities at IKEA at a foot-over bridge in Thane railway station. This is the photo quality you get when you buy a Tenor (by Amazon) smartphone
IKEA ad in Kopar Khairane
Another ad by IKEA, this time in Kopar Khairane railway station

They also had a dedicated site for people looking to apply. But, the one glaring issue I observed in IKEA’s strategy was that they assumed blue-collar workers would have the skills to log on to a website and apply for jobs. I don’t see what they were expecting clearly because most of the jobs posted were for blue-collar work. I know because I logged in.

If you had visited their Indian website sometime in May 2019, you would have been redirected to a jobs portal where most of the jobs listed were associated with manual labour. None of them required Internet surfing skills, so I just sat there staring and thinking.

But then, IKEA may be targeting contractors. It is only last week I saw a few job openings that dealt with supply chain and store management. Looks like they did find what they were looking for and now need more.


All in all, this article is possibly an indication about my anticipating to visit the Turbhe store and get myself some furniture. Not because I like to have Scandinavian design in my living room or because I have needed a book shelf for ages for my collection, but because I like to lose my sanity every once in a while. TN.

Here’s the location on Google Maps for your reference:

footnotes   [ + ]

1. NDTV, quoting PTI, reported that IKEA would open its Navi Mumbai store in January 2019. (IKEA Starts Work on Navi Mumbai Store; To Open In January 2019 – NDTV Profit, 18 May 2017)
2. He said and I quote via The Economic Times: “Nothing would give me greater joy than to open a studio in Sweden right outside of the IKEA office.” (Ambareesh Murthy’s biggest dream: Opening Pepperfry studio outside Sweden’s IKEA office¬†– Shannon Tellis, ET Bureau, 17 June 2019)
3. (Ikea to hire 5,000 workers for Navi Mumbai store; create 10-k jobs in 3 yrs – via PTI, Business Standard, 2 November 2018)

The Menace of Slow Walkers

The train is scheduled to arrive at Currey Road station at 7.34 PM and leave for Thane a few seconds later. It’s 7.20 PM now and I have just left my office building in Lower Parel, all poised with shoelaces tied tight so that I can walk briskly and skillfully manoeuvre the potholes on the road and hands-free as I like to be all the time. I take a right from the exit of the building into the noisy roadside market and bam! I see the first of the type of people that is only second to the other menacing type of commuter people (the 4th person on a Mumbai local seat) you find in Mumbai: slow walkers.

I bump into several more after that first interaction, taking me more than 10 minutes (compared to the otherwise 5-minute dash during non-peak hours) to reach the station, and I end up missing the train. Of course, I can leave 5 minutes early from work if I really want to catch that 7.24 Mumbai CST-sourced train but that’s not the point of this rant. So, let’s focus on slow walkers, some of their most nefarious qualities, and why I think they are a threat to the society at large.

Slow Walkers in Mumbai City

For a long-time walker and public transit commuter like me, the existence of slow walkers is something more than a source of irritation. They are a menace to the existence and forward-movement (literally in both life and on the road) of fast walkers simply because they slow everyone around them down.

a mumbai street
How many slow walkers can you spot in this Mumbai street? / Creative Commons

A true slow walker is someone who obstructs traffic by walking at a pace lower than the average. There are several reasons why someone would be tagged a slow walker. Reasons like short legs or short strides (both usually interchangeable), simultaneous use of mobile phones or headphones (usually also making the wearer look like a nut), talking on the phone while chewing the microphone to death by bacteria, talking to another slow walker, moderate or heavy activities like munching on a burger, looking for a cell of an atom in the bag, daydreaming, and voluntary slow walking. The last one, and so it sounds, is the most annoying of all.

I haven’t gone beyond Palghar, so I don’t know what the situation is in other countries. Hence, I will talk about and for the Maximum City alone. In Mumbai, slow walkers do not realise that they are moving slowly and testing the patience of everyone currently behind them and who will be behind them in the next few seconds, not even when a fast walker overtakes them. It is pretty normal for them to take their own sweet time to wherever they are going, which makes me even madder. But that’s the case if you leave them alone and go past them without giving them the eye or a scoff.

In the case you do, you are sure to receive an invisible expletive or two, possibly in the natural cursing tongue of the city specially used for emphasis: Marathi. In Lower Parel, you may also get an English “Dude” or “Relax” or their Hindi equivalents. It’s also fascinating to see the facial expressions, a lot diverse and nuanced than those by the people who pay good money to their teachers to ace one or two as part of their Bharatanatyam course. None of them are appealing to hear, if you hear that is, because as a fast walker if you are not hitting a speed of at least 4 kilometers per hour, you are in the middle of the spectrum. And no one writes about you.

Mumbai’s slow walkers, I feel, may not be much different than those found in New York or Beijing. Of course, the congestion here is extreme and that might add to the anxiety of individuals. The only difference that I assume makes sense to point out here is that they are not just present on the streets in the forms of students, daily wage workers, beggars, beggars in a suit, Grofers delivery guys when they are on foot, government officials with the trademark black boxy side bag, and loafers to name a few but are also found higher on the vertical plane. Be it metro stations or skywalks that will break down tomorrow, cause a few casualties, and then closed down for repairs or office premises in highrises, slow walkers have marked their presence and they will pull off their same slow-walkedness with unparalleled panache and audacity. Try sprinting from your desk to the loo and you will see what I’m talking about.

A crowded Mumbai street
This is an example of what I see in front of me every day when I leave from work. / Creative Commons

According to the TomTom Traffic Index 2018 which surveyed 403 cities across 56 countries on 6 continents, Mumbai is the most crowded city with a congestion level of a startling 63%. To put that into perspective, I require an extra travel time of 63% to go from A to B in the city than it takes on an average to do it in uncongested conditions.[1]TomTom methodology: An overall congestion level of 36% means that the extra travel time is 36% more than an average trip would take during uncongested conditions. (https://www.tomtom.com/en_gb/traffic-index/about) The difference is huge if I calculate the total extra time needed for an entire year and then place it alongside other data like the number of steps, number of kilometers walked, and the money spent on my imaginary gymnasium membership.

The Quality of a Slow Walker

A slow walker on the street is like a founder of a multi-level marketing campaign. They are themselves a blemish on Earth but then conspire to create a little gang of lesser blemishes that are collectively not doing any good to the society. Do keep in mind that such campaigns target both gullible persons and intelligent persons and they manage to convert both types. A slow walker, in sheer semblance, slows down both other slow walkers as well as fast walkers. It’s the perfect analogy.

Their quality is so contagious that the moment you come in contact with them it stops being their quality and starts becoming that of the people they affect. Take, for instance, the slowness itself. You come across a dozen of slow walkers strategically placed across the path to your destination and you bump into each one of them, hindering your pace and eventually delaying your arrival at the destination. The slow-walking quality of the six people on the street has converted into the slowness of your own strides which at once were so praise-worthy you could have won an amateur sprint race.

They also add to your exasperation, not just at the thought of reaching your destination late but also at being handed a speed breaker without solicitation. It is like those Ola and Uber drivers who have their vehicles installed with speed limiters. They can’t go beyond 80 kmph and that adds to the annoyance of the drivers as well as those that they are ferrying (sometimes without the other more essential safety standards, I should add). Ask me!

Meeting a slow walker on a Mumbai road is particularly annoying because most of us fast walkers follow a pre-determined line of path like those sprinters do in a running track. We mindmap and follow this track to avoid potholes, puddles, animal dung, relatives, and many other unpleasant things. Bumping into a slow walker means changing this track abruptly, and once that happens, you have lost your planning. The road ahead becomes an open sea of bitumen and concrete and plastic without a plan or a map, making you look like a fifteenth-century sailor out on the sea hoping to become Amerigo Vespucci. Safe to say that I now add slow walkers to that list above.

The above situation worsens if you are out there during peak time. Conditions around railway stations in Mumbai are far worse and I personally hold a record of meeting 13 slow walkers one after another outside Lower Parel station as if the whole universe is trying to conspire against me despite me simply wanting to reach where I want to be and having read the book.

In Mumbai, another variation that you see is of slow walkers in groups. Those are the worst because you can’t even give them the eye for there is the risk of being manhandled. Not much difference in a group of civilized people and a group of uncivilized people in India. These are the hard times and any group of more than two people pose a risk to an individual and other groups of more than two. Such is the complementing atmosphere colored by the recent effervescence of nationalist politics in the country. If you are a woman, things will almost surely go south because then there is also the danger of someone out of that group flashing at you or executing a more unpleasant activity or engaging in a crime like it’s routine stuff.

The streets are definitely not safe and we all know that. We don’t need one more element that makes it inhabitable.

A Threat to Society

Well, I know what your first thought is. And I agree. Slow walkers are not a threat to society. They are just innocuous beings trying to come in terms with their inability to match the average speed of streetwalkers. And the blame is not on them. It’s on us. On me.

So much rant about people walking slower than you. If such a small thing can demand such a long article, then there is a lot to introspect about where my anxieties and insecurities lie. If it takes me 10+ minutes to reach from A to B instead of 5 minutes, why is it affecting me so much? Where am I going so quickly? Of course, not to summit a peak strewn with garbage. Then what is the hurry? Why so much animosity towards my fellow brethren?

I think it is time to ask ourselves why we hate slow walkers so much and then scramble for an urgent solution to put all of it to an end. Chelsea Wald at Nautilus thinks it’s got to do with our dwindling patience levels, but she does not provide a solution. So, let me try.

a man in a hurry
If I was in a hurry and had the obnoxious habit of walking on an escalator, this would be me / Creative Commons

The easiest and the best solution is to not be in a hurry. Do half the things that you have planned for the day and then take a break in the time that you had allotted for the other half. Stipulate more time for commute and do it like you would do the waking-up chore on a lazy Sunday. As far as I know, none of us wants to be in a hurry nor there is a task that needs an urgent action.

Tomorrow, leave from work at the same time as you usually do and put a relaxed gait forward. If you have been catching the 7.37 PM train, try taking the 7.47 PM train. I never thought I would say this but the only way to stop hating slow walkers is to gradually become one. Start now.

PS – The good thing about the article is that no one identifies themselves as a slow walker. So, this cannot be seen as a direct attack on them. I’m not looking forward to receiving death threats considering the over-sensitive atmosphere that has blanketed India since 2014. TN.

footnotes   [ + ]

1. TomTom methodology: An overall congestion level of 36% means that the extra travel time is 36% more than an average trip would take during uncongested conditions. (https://www.tomtom.com/en_gb/traffic-index/about)