Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Boy Meets Girl - Chapter 1

It was a Saturday evening. Varun's cell phone had been ringing continuously since 6.30. Various friends from his different friend groups were calling Varun to join them for a drink, a drive, a movie, and a party and everything that youth do on a weekend. But Varun lay still on his bed, uninterested in anything worldly and social. He was depressed at the turn of events. He longed to be alone and peace his mind of the turmoil that had been waging for the last few days.

Blip blip, the phone lights flickered in harmony. It was another call that Varun wanted to avoid. After about three or four rings, Varun answered.

"Hello dude, what's up?" said the impatient voice.

"Oh hi, Neeraj. What's up? How're you doing?" replied Varun.

"Where the hell are you, man? We're waiting at Queen's gate for you!" yelled Neeraj.

"Oh, I'm home man. Don't feel like going out tonight. You guys carry on..." said Varun in a low tone.

"What bullshit, man? Are you on one of your solitary trips again? I want to see your ass here in the next ten minutes." commanded Neeraj.

Varun chuckled. He liked the informality he shared with Neeraj and replied, "Alright man. I'll be there in ten minutes."

"That's more like you, come fast, bye!" Neeraj hung up.

Varun drove his car straight to Queen's gate to meet Neeraj and gang. After a brief round of catching up, they were all headed to Caspian Lounge, a local lounge bar that had a juke box and was frequented by young crowds. The scene at the bar was that of a typical Saturday evening. Groups of four or five cramped around a small table littered with beer bottles, cigarette packets, ashtrays, and chakna.

We will rock you! blared out of the four speakers placed at four corners of the room. A couple of guys with long hair, wearing black t-shirts crowded around an LCD monitor placed on the bar counter. Another group of four women sat on a table across the room, drinking pinacoladas, bloody maries, and screw drivers. Their incessant and loud laughter drowned in the noise and could be heard only at the change of a song.

Varun, Neeraj, Irfan, and Peter headed for the empty table in the center of the room. Neeraj waved to waiter and shook hands with him before settling on to his chair.

"Call for some chilled beer man! My system is thirsty for some lager flowing down my throat" blurted Peter.

Peter was the typical maka-pav guy, brought up in an environment where beer was considered an alternative to water. His short spiky haircut matched his lean, dark body. Wearing a rock-band tee, and a goatee growing on his chin, Peter was the typical representative of the youth working at a call center.

"Haha! Looks like someone's gonna get drunk tonight" said Neeraj. Peter replied with a smirk and a nudge.

The waiter came to the table to take the order with a tiny pad in one hand and a pen in another.

"Two Fosters, one Coke, a packet of Classic Milds... and err.. Varun what are you having?" asked Neeraj.

"I'll have beer too, man!" replied Varun.

"Okay, make that three Fosters, one coke, and a packet of Classic Milds, thank you."

The waiter repeated the order and was on his heel to attend to other tables. Soon enough, there were four goblets placed on the table and beer was poured into three of them. Irfan, being a teetotaler, didn't mind joining his friends to bars but abstained from all forms of alcohol. The waiter emptied the can of Coke into Irfan's goblet and went to get the cigarettes and the ash tray. Soon enough, all glasses were full and the music was blaring - this time, it was Turn the page.

The four boys raised their glasses and yelled in unison, "Cheers to health, wealth and happiness!"

"And to Neeraj's new job!" added Varun.

After sipping about one-fourth of the beer in one gulp, Varun flipped his phone to type an SMS.

Hi swthrt, out wid guys. I hate wats hapenin. Miss u!

"Ohh, look at Mr.Loverboy! He can't stay without his girl friend a single evening!" commented Neeraj.

Varun replied to him with a blank stare. He picked up a cigarette from the packet and flipped his zippo with one hand and used the other hand to cover the cigarette. He looked up at the ceiling taking a long drag and closed his eyes.

"Did you check out the new Lancer Cedia? It's super cool man!" said Peter, interrupting Varun's thoughts.

"Yea man, it looks cool. Finally a makeover for the Lancer after so many years" said Neeraj.

The noise levels at the bar made each one yell to speak to one another. Irfan got up from his chair and headed towards the LCD monitor on the bar counter.

"Play some Floyd, man" exclaimed Peter.

Soon enough, the song changed to She will be loved. This song reminded Varun of Priya. It was his favorite song when he fell in love with Priya. The beer in his goblet, smoke in his lungs, and Priya in his mind were a perfect combination for a perfect Saturday evening of soltitude and misery, even while being around his good friends and his favorite type of music.

Boy Meets Girl - Prelude

"Can you leave me alone, please!” he yelled on the phone.

"Oh Varun! You're just the limit! - click " came the reply.

Varun replayed the recent events in his head. For the last few days, such had been the tone of the conversation between Varun and his girl friend, Priya. The engaged tone on the phone line reminded Varun of a time when he spent hours talking to Priya. Each night, the duo in love would talk about everything from news, literature, poetry, gossip, love, relationships, marriage, and even the names of their unborn children. Everything was beautiful between them. They shared perfect understanding and Varun thought their mental frequencies matched.

"For once! For once, I thought I was stable in a relationship!" thought Varun and banged his fist on the table. Lately, everything between Varun and Priya had soured. Sour to the point of total lack of effective communication.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Flamingo Watch at Sewree, Mumbai

Flamingos are the talk of the season. An article in TOI caught my attention to the fact that these birds have been coming to the Sewree mudflats only since the 90s. Moreover, the article estimated the number of birds at 15,000. After seeing the photo in the TOI, the photographer in me decided to get a few shots of these migratory birds. Even more so because I now had the confidence provided by the 70-300 zoom lens. Probably, the career-making kind of shots, I thought. After juggling my schedules and taking time out, I finally made it to the Sewree mudflats on Saturday, the 28th of January, 2006.

Getting to Sewree is the quickest by train. I took the 3.55 CST local from Vashi and reached Sewri at 4.25. Because Sewree is an intermediate station with no major human settlement around, getting off at the station was a breeze. The only structures one can find around Sewree station are the huge petroleum refineries, automobile workshops, and the road to the harbour. I walked out of the station, crossed the railway tracks, and reached a paan-tapri. I asked the guy there, "How far is the water from here?" He replied "You want to see birds? Just go straight from here" and pointed at a dirty road ahead of me. I thanked him for providing the directions and set forth.

The road was quiet desolate, considering it is in Mumbai. There were men welding pieces of metal together on one side. On the other side, there was a man hammering a huge tank - the kinds that are mounted on trucks carrying milk, edible oil, and petroleum products. Each time the hammer struck the tank, it made a huge gong, almost to the tune of 105 dB and shook the insides of my head. Ahead of these 'work shops' was a huge wall with "prohibited area" written on it. What could possibly make this area so prohibited, I thought to myself. As I approached the end of the road, it bifurcated. In front of me was a group of buildings that looked like a residential complex. The name read "Giri Nagar” I saw a group of teenage boys wearing dark red shorts and cream shirts. I enquired again, "Which way to the mud flats?" in Marathi. One of the boys replied, "Phlemingo bhagaycha aahe ka tumhala? Ikdoon saral ja." and pointed to the right of the bifurcation. I thanked the boys and proceeded in the direction. Upon walking further, I saw an old dilapidated structure. There was a group of small kids playing cricket. An old woman sat on the steps and watched them play. Just a little ahead, there lay a signboard - "Sewri Mudflats" with an arrow pointing to my destined direction.

As I walked further, I saw two men and a woman - all wearing caps coming towards me. One of the men had a binocular in his hand and a binocular case that read Olympus. The other man had a smaller carrying case, which I presume held a miniDV handycam. By now, I could see the water and at distance of about a kilometer, I saw a faint orange-white patch that extended in all directions. These were our visitors. I felt the excitement of seeing so many big birds at once. I hastened my pace and almost ignored the cricket ball that flew past my ear. At the end of the road was the Sewree jetty. It had two massive metal boats tethered to the shore. It was a low tide and the boats lay still on the soil, devoid of any movement. Upon closer examination, I figured out that these boats had huge cranes for transporting cargo from sea to shore. A group of young women, probably on a picnic, sat by the edge of jetty, munching on chips. A lone lady stood by their side with a digital camera that had 12x imprinted on its left side. Meanwhile, I took my camera out and started clicking photos. I could see a group of juvenile flamingos close to the shore, but there were not even half as pretty as the full grown pink ones. I clicked a couple of photos with much reluctance because even the 300mm zoom didn't give me a good enough close up.

Soon enough, more people started pouring in. The edge of the jetty, which had just a few people watching and enjoying the magnificent birds, now had at least fifty people, including a group of school kids. I also saw a gentleman with binoculars. He looked like he was in his early forties and wore a dark green t-shirt, with "HSBC" and "Bird Race '06" written on it. One look at that and I knew he was a BNHS member. His binocular was the center of attention with all the school kids wanting a peek at the Flamingos that were about half a kilometer away. I struck a conversation with him and he introduced himself as Mr. Bhatt. At first, he seemed interested in my camera and asked for a view. He then gave me his binocular and told me to have a look at the birds. They were, indeed, beautiful. Hundreds of them walking in the low tide of the mudflats. All of a sudden, a group of about fifteen flamingos started, what I call the bird race, running and intermittently flying towards another group. The sight was spectacular to the say the least, and straight out of National Geographic. It was then that I realized - I should have come here with my Sony Handycam. The 20x optical zoom would have done a lot of good to my bird watching stint.

The edge of the jetty was now bustling with picnickers, bird lovers, kids, and local fisher men. Little boys threw pebbles into the mudflats, driving away the remaining of the juvenile flamingos, egrets, and gulls. The sun was setting, the light was fading. I reminded myself of the promise - I will not click another sunset. After a brief discussion with Mr.Bhatt on going 'digital' and the advantages of having a field guide on bird watching trips, I decided to call it a day. I thanked Mr.Bhatt for his inputs and also got invited to join the BNHS. Took the train back to Vashi to join Anand in his birthday celebrations.

Meanwhile, I wait for the photos. The roll is still to be developed. May be tomorrow, when I get my salary! I hope the photos of the birds shot at mini-seashore and Sagar Vihar in Vashi, along with the ones clicked at Sewree turn out to be good.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Re: Me Single. You got a problem?

Written in response to the Mid-day article. Read it here.

You've got your timing all wrong, babe. 12.30 pm? 1:30 pm? 2.45 am? Who made you a journo?

Although well-written, your news item has zero news value. You've tried to cash in on the publicity received by the South African model rape case to dish out your version of a sting operation.

What's more, you have very comfortably labeled every guy who hits on you a LOSER. Do you think every guy who looks at you wants to spike your drink and rape you?

Get real, write something with news value. I also find your writing to be utterly feminist and derogatory towards men.

For all you know, your boy friend/husband/brother must be hitting on good-looking women too. Is he a loser? Get a life!

Thursday, January 05, 2006


They say a photo speaks a thousand words. Sometimes, its just so true. This little girl lives in my building and loves playing. So much so, that she begins to cry when its time to go home. Clicked this on New Year’s Eve. Soon after, this little girl was in tears. For, it was time to go home, get ready and welcome 2006. Happy New Year, Huda!