Tag: Mumbai

Gazing at Hands in Mumbai Locals

I have recently increased the frequency of my commute to work through the local Mumbai Suburban Railway line. And during this transit and because of my higher-than-average height, I end up spending most of my time in the trains standing, looking at hands of hundreds of straphangers. Hands that tell stories. Hands that are descriptive enough to be videographed into a short film.

Strong hands, hairy hands, inked hands, frail hands, bony hands, sweaty hands, hands with two watches, dirty hands. So many different types I could add a new type every day. This has given me a lot of insights into what people do with their upper limbs while travelling and how they take care of them. Especially because I think they are a vital part of one’s ability to travel in Mumbai locals. I observe hands because there is nothing else to do while travelling in these trains, considered the crowdest in the world.

So, here are brief, broad takes on what I think about the hands of people who travel in Mumbai’s local trains. Especially in the Central and Harbour lines.

  • Most people still wear wristwatches. And they wear it on the left hand. Not that either of these is not obvious but I find it amusing how years ago some people had predicted that mobile phones would make wristwatches redundant. To their advantage, most – including me, sometimes – still look at their mobile phones to check time
  • Almost everyone is glued to their mobile phones, sometimes using both their hands, to either text on WhatsApp, play games like Ludo and Candy Crush, or read/watch fake news stories. I know this because ever since I have increased my frequency of local train travel, privacy has taken a backseat. Also the reason why I avoid using my phone. Another issue with this mobile usage in trains is that it prevents people from holding onto something, which increases the chance of an unfortunate accident
  • Hand tattoos are more common than I imagined; even more than the green-colored inking that some religious/superstitious mean wear on their arms
  • Very rarely do I see people standing hands-free and without holding onto something. These people also use the “crowd energy” to board and deboard the train where they slyly become a part of the whirlwind and flush in and out of the bogey with little effort, let alone the use of hands. I once tried this and immediately regretted it
  • People who lean out against the entrance doors evidently do not care a dot for their hands as I often see them flinging their limbs out, especially as a way to woo women while the train is slowing down at a station. I do wonder if this strategy has ever helped them find a partner

There may be a lot more such things that I have observed about commuters’ hands over the last few months but I do not remember them. To conclude, in all of this, what surprises me the most is how travellers have very little regard for their hands. It reminds me of that adage: You only realize the importance of something when you lose them. TN.

Packers, Movers, Unpackers

Unpackers

This could be a business idea for entrepreneurs looking to disrupt the status quo in the packing and moving industry. Or it could be a service you seriously consider the next time you move houses. Whatever you think it is, all I know is that there is a lack of enterprises in Mumbai (and elsewhere in India) that provide unpacking services, also known as destination services.

Of course, there might be a few odd agencies who go out of their way to mend this gap, perhaps for an extra charge. But a quick search on Google India for the term “movers and unpackers” yields results that are relevant only for a user from the US, the UK, and Australia. Other listings – which are relevant to an Indian – are that of either classifieds or homepages of active packers and movers (Agarwal, anyone?) who have no mention of “unpacking” anywhere in the description of their offerings.

There is this website of Shivam Cargo that has been optimized for that term above but after visiting it I’m not sure if they themselves do provide such a service. Then there is Excellent Packers & Movers who seem like they do offer unpacking service in several places including Pune and Mumbai and who also still use a stock image featuring Kriti Sanon on their ‘Contact Us’ page. (The Excellent guys should take some tips from my page.) Last relevant result is from Indiamart which just redirects to several listings none of whom promote unpacking services.

And all this makes me sad.

Why Unpacking?

Diane Schmidt from The Spruce has created a pretty nice and short guide about why you might need an unpacking service. She sympathizes with house movers and tells them that it is a good idea to hire a professional unpacker if just the thought of unpacking all those boxes alone puts them in a bad mood. She also mentions the need to keep aside some extra fund for this purpose because it can get really expensive depending upon the number and type of items in your house and your packer and mover does not give you a good package deal. Even worse when you have not already Marie Kondo-ed your belongings.

From personal experience, I think the need to hire an unpacker arises from the dread of looking at and the thought of unpacking and setting items off all those unopened boxes the night after you have moved in. Considering yours is a regular household with regular items and even if you move to the new place on a Sunday and take 2-3 days off from work so that you can settle down, there will still be a feeling of terror that can only be defused by additional pairs of helping hands. It is actually better to hire an unpacker than turning your family members into enemies of each other. Or so I learned since I recently moved to my first own house.

Moreover, as far as I can tell, unpackers usually unpack with more compassion than their counterparts pack. And according to Schmidt, most agencies in the US employ professional organizers who know that books go in the shelf in the living room and expensive cutlery (that your mom has been saving for nearly a decade for that future auspicious day) in the upper cupboard in the bedroom. But I am not sure how much of that can be true in India where most packers and movers employ daily wage workers (taken in wholesale – for a lack of respectable wording – from labour markets like the APMC in Vashi, Navi Mumbai). However, as long as these fit, toiling men can help me settle down quickly as soon as I move in, I am not complaining. (Just be more gentle with my books and I’ll even tip big.)

Just Packing and Moving is Not Enough

As I stare at the unopened boxes stashed in the terrace of my own apartment here in Mumbai, I can’t stop saying more of why just packing and moving is not enough. If you want to settle down quickly and without the dread that comes along with moving houses, hiring an unpacker makes sense.

If you are in Mumbai or any other place in India, there is a high chance you may not find a professional unpacking service providers near you. So, try raising this idea with your preferred local packer and mover. They might just accept the extra responsibility for extra cash and that is all you need to move to the next phase of your new life: changing the address on your bank account, Aadhaar, driving licence, and electricity/gas connection.

Note – I was just speaking to an affluent friend of mine and looks like some people don’t even think about “petty” things like unpacking. They just have a single contractor for everything if and when they move houses – interior work, carpentry, and what-not. And talking about unpacking, they don’t even need that concept because new house means new stuff, right? Wrong, if you ask Miss Kondo. TN.

Featured image courtesy: Flickr/screwtape

List: Why Do People Honk

traffic noise in india

There’s a simple mantra that I use to avoid honking while driving. It is to assume and believe that everyone on the road at a given point of time is eager to reach their destination. No one – especially the ones in front of you – is voluntarily trying to delay their movement. It’s just that one of many external factors is influencing them at that specific point of time, be it a bratty auto-rickshaw driver or an illegally parked car or pedestrian traffic or a lost member of a bovine family (who apparently are safer in India). The mantra is basically about exercising self-control and is a trait that I think should be mandated by Regional Transport Offices (RTO) across the country as part of the tests for obtaining licence. Along with the reintroduction of and when to use indicators.

But it’s not an ideal world we live in. And self-control is not easy to master, particularly in Mumbai traffic. So, here’s a hypothetical list of reasons why I think people (in India) honk while on the road. Some of these may sound ridiculous but I assure you they are based on my own experiences ever since I got myself a driving licence in 2014.

People in India blow their vehicle’s horn while on the road because…

  • The button is right there in front of them
  • When they learned driving/riding, it was taught to them that honking has properties similar to that of nitrous oxide
  • They think the person/vehicle blocking their way is trying to settle down at that particular place on the highway/road
  • Of muscle memory
  • Telling a person to do something by irritating them almost always gets the job done unless you are in Gurugram. There, you just get shot
  • It’s a privilege
  • It is easier than exercising patience
  • The person behind is doing it too and they can’t let the chain break or else seven years of curse. Duh!
  • Everyone does it
  • They have a fancy/loud horn
  • It makes them look important/busy
  • They have nothing better to do (because the person on the other side of the phone call they are on just does not shut up)
  • The green light is just 30 seconds away
  • They think they own the road

There are more but I don’t want to extend this list because I think I have driven the point home.

One day I will invest in a startup that makes horn-less vehicles. And the day the startup becomes profitable is when I will retire this list from my website. Till then let us all exercise patience while driving and riding. TN.

PS – I recently also created two similar lists here (about seat belts in Uber cabs) and here (about helmets). Thank you.

Featured Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Last Day at MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2018

The final day of the 20th MAMI festival was the best of the week-long pilgrimage for me. I managed to watch three films – taking the total counter to 13 (a personal record) – one of which was the much-anticipated closing film by Steve McQueen. I was camped up at Regal Cinema, Colaba all day where I found a friend in fellow cinephile Mahesh Bariya and ended the fest with a lavish dinner at the historic Leopold Cafe.

Here’s a rundown of the three films and some experiences of day 7 of the 2018 edition.


Day 7 at MAMI 2018

I was supposed to catch Desiree Akhavan’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post at Regal in the morning but thanks to my sleep cycle, I missed it. So, I planned my train travel for the 2 PM show of Gaspar Noe’s Climax.

I had originally planned all my show at PVR Kurla because I had wanted to catch Ivan Ayr’s Soni – people were raving about it – but because they added a special screening of Climax and because I wanted to try my luck for the closing film, I headed to Colaba instead.

Not many people know this but if you don’t get to booking for a show online, you can still book it from the MAMI ticket counter. A screening at Regal can be booked from the counter of PVR at Juhu – and this is what I am going to do in 2019. As it is, you cannot totally depend on BookMyShow, and I don’t think I can ever forgive it for making me miss Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s Shoplifters. ūüôĀ

Three Back to Back Films at Regal

The first film on day 7 was Gaspar Noe’s upbeat and full-of-energy French dance thriller, Climax, in which dancers come together to rehearse at an old building only to find that their drinks have been spiked with LSD. It’s an overwhelming experience that might make you try the drug. But, don’t do it.

Tejas Nair at MAMI

That’s me right after the closing film. At Regal Cinema, Colaba.

Next up was Debra Grenik’s English-language drama Leave No Trace, which was too dull and uneventful for me. Mine seems to be the unpopular opinion, so I think I will just mention that I had some good food from a nearby restaurant before the screening. Which, in turn, made me a bit sleepy during the show. No complaints, though, because next up was the closing film.

It was sort of a mixed feeling to watch Steve McQueen’s Widows¬†because it was the final show of the 2018 edition of MAMI. Although I watch at least one film per day outside of MAMI, it still gave me the feels. Widows is a great thriller and a cool watch if you like heist dramas. My review here.

I even managed to snap a photo in front of the MAMI standee so that I can show it to my grandchildren if that’s possible or if they are ever born.

No National Anthem at Regal

The best thing about watching a film in MAMI at Regal was that they don’t play the national anthem before the screening. You just sit back, relax, and enjoy the movie without any government-infused interruptions, and that makes me happier. I am going to be watching more films at Regal now at every edition of MAMI.

The same thing is followed by Bandra’s Le Reve where I caught The Gentle Indifference of the World on day 6. Without the national anthem. It just feels so good that you don’t have to put up with patriotism when you just want to enjoy cinema in its purest form. I salute MAMI and its partners for that.


MAMI 2018 Personal Statistics

Here are some numbers that describe my overall experience at MAMI this year, starting from day o:

  • 7 – days experienced
  • 13 – total films watched
  • 13 – film reviews written on IMDb
  • 11 – films watched with pre-booked seats
  • 1400 – approximate minutes of total cinema viewing time
  • 6 – venues visited
  • 90 – approximate minutes spent standing in queues
  • 3 – Q&A sessions attended
  • 4 – times depended on McDonald’s for food
  • 2 – films watched sitting on the first row from the screen
  • 2 – workdays missed

It was a hell of an experience this year. I got to catch both the opening and closing films, which in itself makes the 2018 edition the most successful for me. I had a great time and I hope to have a better one next year.

The dates for the 2019 edition are out: 17 to 24 October! And I am already applying for leaves at work. TN.

Days 4, 5, and 6 at MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2018

After having enjoyed three films on day 3, I came back to my normal on days 4 and 5. Because I was working, I could only catch one movie per day. This time one at PVR Kurla and the other at PVR Mulund. I can say I really missed the hustle bustle of PVR ICON and PVR ECX.

Day 4 was strictly for Leena Yadav’s Rajma Chawal while day 5 had me sitting to watch a weird and one of the most disappointing films for me at MAMI this year, Ali Abbasi’s Border. Day 6 was slightly better with¬†Adilkhan Yerzhanov’s The Gentle Indifference of the World and¬†Shinichiro Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead. A friend described the former as a cherry on the cake this year. It is a brilliant LOL film and is bound to make your jaw pain from all the laughing.

MAMI 2018 screening

The screen just before a movie starts at MAMI 2018.

I also observed a few more things these past three days. Here they are in more detail.

Day 4 at MAMI 2018

It was not surprising to see that the queues outside auditorium 8 at PVR Kurla was the opposite of what I saw in the Andheri theaters. Hardly a few dozens had turned up initially, and so, everyone in the standby line could get in.

As usual, I skipped the PVR cafeteria and grabbed some snacks from the Phoenix Market City food court before the show. Rajma Chawal was screened at 8.15 and so began my first true Bollywood experience at the fest this year.

To be honest, it is not as good as Parched (2016), Yadav’s debut feature produced by Ajay Devgn. This Hindi-language drama here has its moments with Rishi Kapoor and Amyra Dastur being the only saving grace, but overall it’s still a cliched story about the father-son relationship. My short review here. If you still want to catch it, it will be out on Netflix sometime in November.

An Issue with the National Anthem, You Say?

Going back home on day 3 was when I read the news about director Vishal Bhardwaj criticizing the Films Division of India (FDI) for producing an erroneous version of the Indian national anthem. He tweeted that the song goes off-tune sometime in the middle, which apparently hurts the ear (I get it) and the soul (I don’t). I stopped following that news thereafter so I don’t know if the ministry rectified it.

I don’t really pay much attention to the song in the first place, but I did so on day 5…

Day 5 at MAMI 2018

I think I was the only one paying extra close attention to the national anthem that day at PVR Mulund. Honestly, I couldn’t pick up the error. But those who have replied to Bhardwaj’s tweet seem to be able to. Maybe they rectified it.

But what is more disappointing is that I had to sustain Ali Abbasi’s Swedish drama¬†Border that day for close to 100 minutes. Perhaps the only film I rated 3 stars out of 10¬†(spoilers!) this year, it almost put me to sleep. Although I get the theme and what director Abbasi wanted to convey, Border did not give me a pleasant experience. Which again is not a wrong thing because not all films can give you pleasure. Look what The Gentle Indifference of the World did to me…

Day 6 at MAMI 2018

I was at Le Reve, Bandra on day 6 of the fest. A plush theater with some great paintings on the walls. I think¬†Yerzhanov’s Kazakhstani dull drama was equally beautiful but not my type. To describe it in one word: ridiculous. It felt like the makers did not know what to do with the narrative, so they hired a 4-year old to complete it. Maybe that’s what happened. My review on IMDb here.

The second film of day 6 was at PVR Mulund and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Director Ueda’s Japanese horror-comedy¬†One Cut of the Dead is a brilliant zombie experience that only gets better as you move ahead in the narration. I was blown away.

A Lot of People Talking

At the last screening, for the first time, I asked someone to keep quiet. They were sitting right in front of me and discussing the film while it was being projected. I mean, what kind of a monster does one have to be to discuss a film while it’s playing? It was a group of three college students, I believe, who were just randomly commentating the film. As if they wanted to break down the film’s logic.

I truly believe that there should be a no-talking policy at MAMI. Anyone who is caught talking should be thrown out of the hall after one warning. Let them talk all they want outside the hall.

 

The total film counter is at ten right now. I hope to catch at least 3 more films on day 7, the final day, but I’m not sure about the closing film. If I can somehow manage to get a seat, I can confidently say that MAMI 2018 has been the best for me in all these years. TN.