Candy Shops for Bibliophiles 3

After the initial post on bibliophilia [here], and book shops in Nagpur [here] and Pune [here] we now come to the third in this series. The city of Mumbai [formerly known as Bombay] . There is too much to write about Mumbai, the way it was, it is and it will be in the future to come. Since it is my current location since about three years, and it is to be so for the coming few years, I have developed a special bond with the city. When I was in Pune, I had come quite a few times to Mumbai, with one of my friends who belonged here. It was during my visits in those years that I came to know about the Old/Used book markets in the city.

The first one which I will describe is in the heart of the Mumbai, The Fort area. Currently there is no Fort in this area, but there was in the early days of Nineteenth Century. The Fort has long gone since then, for making space for civilian and other buildings, and now only the name remains.

There are too many things in the small area which are of interest to me. I cannot maybe describe them all in this blog. Maybe, The Fort, needs a blog entirely for itself. But lets not divulge too much into it, as right now the thing that we are interested in are the Candy Shops for Bibliophiles. The Fort area presents the bibliophiles with a wide opportunity to shop, right from the old/used books to one of the quite old shops in Mumbai the Strand Books.

I recommend that you start from the CST [Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus formerly known as Victoria Terminus or VT] and take on the D N Road [Dadabhai Nowrojee Road]. Start walking from the Western end of the road, the end at which Mc Donalds is present. Almost right up to the Flora Fountain, one finds a sort of subway created by the arches of the buildings of Victorian architecture.
Along these corridors there are a lot of proper book stores. Some notable among them are the Computer Book Shop, Bookzone, Ashish Book Stores.
See the map below. Ashish Book Stores also have a annual exhibition in which you get lot of books at heavily discounted prices. Usually the book fair is at the Sunderbai Hall, near Churchgate.

On the other side of the road is the Sterling Book Stores, which will give you an enormous variety of technical books to get. They have substantial sections on Physics, Mathematics, Philosophy and Psychology. In most of these shops you will get about upto 10-15% discount on the list price.

Along the corridor you may find one or two old book sellers. One at very beginning and one may be in the middle of the passage. They were frequent a few years back. I got my copy of Albert Einstein : Philosopher and Scientist here in these shops. In fact a lot of old booksellers were present till a few years back, most of them now being removed, I guess in the anti-encroachment drive. But the walk through these ‘corridors’ is worth for the books that await you at the end of this walk.

You can drop by to the Khadi Bhavan, which is on the way to do some nice shopping. If you take a left turn at the Khadi Bhavan Chowk, it will lead you to Strand Booksellers. They have good collection of books on all subjects. You won’t find too technical books here, but books for general reading are more than abundant. Every year Strand people have the Strand Book Festival, which is a must visit. The book fair is usually during January end of February beginning, at the Sunderbai Hall, Near Churchgate. Huge discounts are on the offering in this mania of books. So make it a point to visit it!!


Now, if you go straight this will lead you to the American Express Building. Along side the walls of this building are the old book sellers. A few years back they were quite spread out, some of them had shops along the walls of the High Court building also. But now they have been contained in this small pocket here.

The sellers here are quite knowledgable about the books that they keep. They know the books by title and author. Some also make it a point to keep the books according to authors. The books most of the times are neatly classified by geners or subjets. They know almost all books by Arthur C Clarke and Carl Sagan. The more popular a book, more are the chances that you might find them here. But sometimes you get jewels here. I got my Why’s of a Philosophical Scrivener by Martin Gardner here.

The book sellers also have a library system, which means that after reading the book you can return the book and get some amount back. But who wants to depart with a book, especially if you are a bibliophile? The most common books that you will get here are the novels of all kinds. Bargaining can be done, and you can get books in quite cheap rates, especially if you are a regular.

The best time to visit is a late Sunday afternoon. When you can have all the time to browse through endless piles of books, to find what you are searching for.
One thing that you might miss on a Sunday is that many of the proper book shops mentioned above including Sterling and Strand, and the Khadi Bhandar are closed on Sundays. But the advantage to go on Sunday is a drastic reduction in the crowd that is present on the weekdays. So if you want to visit them all, the best day is a Saturday.


Till last year some sporadic old book shops were also present along the footpaths, of the Old Bombay University Building, the side on the opposite to FabIndia and Globus, near Kala Ghoda end. Here some of the sellers used to sell books for a cheap but fixed price. Some of lots would have Rs. 10/20/30 for a book. Sometimes I have found quite interesting titles here. But recently in a last few months I did not find these stalls. Maybe they were removed from there permanently. I have also found similar shops along walls of the Post and Telegraph Office. But they are not always there. If you are lucky you probably might get them.

While returning to CST do not forget to visit the Fort Book Distributors, opposite the main entrance to CST [Legend 2 in the map]. This is a unique proper book shop which also sells old/used books at quite cheap prices. They also have exhibition and sales of books at different places in Mumbai, so keep an eye out for them in the newspapers. My last visit to their FBD Book Fair was quite fruitful.

So much for the south part of Mumbai. In next post I will cover the Old Book sellers in the so called college district of Mumbai, the Matunga Area.

Till then happy book hunting!!

Update: As per comment of Square Peg below, I have not mentioned the New and Secondhand Book Shop. Yes! It is there from quite some time if I remember correctly since early days of last century and I did not know about it.

Only recently I came to know about it from Arvind Gupta. And I have not mentioned it. I was going to… but procrastination has its own strange ways in which it works…

So here it is :

The New and Second Hand Book Shop:
For this wonderful shop go to the Metro Cinema Square. There is a shop of musical instruments opposite Metro Cinema [well not exactly opposite, but across the street]. So when you keep your back towards Metro and are standing in front of this Music Store, start walking along the road towards right. After a few shops you have a lane going to left of the road. Just at this corner is the New and Second Hand Book shop. But beware the entrance is a bit small. Two times it happened that I went and saw that the shutters were down so just came back. Third time when I went there, I saw somebody coming out of what I thought was a closed shop. So this is where I discovered the entrance to the shop. They are open till 7 in the evening and closed on sundays.
Visiting the shop makes you feel as if you are visiting an old library. The shop has books lined up nicely according to subjects. The shelves have subject labels on them. Browsing through the shelves can, at times, become tedious. The section on social sciences is quite large. You get 30% discount on all the new books. For the old books the prices are mentioned on the cover and on that you get additional 30% discount. Most of the books are more than reasonably priced; they are cheap :). Also don’t forget to visit the second floor also.

So do visit this shop, till then happy book hunting…

[Map coming soon]

Delhi April-May 2009 Day 1

I am finally in Delhi after two year gap. Last time I was here was in the summer of 2007. Since then much water has flown below the bridge. But this time I am on an `official’ visit.

Anyways. Since the train tickets were not booked too early, there was no chance that I would have got any reservation. So had to fly. Then I tried for the `no frills’ flights. The week I checked them they were ~ [LaTeX code: $\sim$ ;)] 2.5 K. But the next week the same flight cost me ~ 4.2 K. So this was a `no frills’ flight whose cost nearly as same as that with a flight with frills.

During my last visit I had a fiasco with train which I was supposed to board to go to Nagpur, which is another story. That travelogue is still in analog form, have not yet blogged it. Two years down the line. But since then I become quite nervous and anxious when I am about to leave for a longish journey. During one or two days prior to the journey, I sort of become OCDed, I check the tickets and timings again and again. And as if I have lost confidence in myself, I confirm the date with others also. So this flight was scheduled on Friday the 24th of April at 17:10 hrs. So when I checked and rechecked the flight status, finally the day arrived and I was ready to go.

I reached the airport comfortably two hours before the departure. The check in was done in five minutes and I had the boarding pass in my hand. The airlines people were asking for photo-id from others, some how for me they did not. [Does my name and personality match so much?] So after I just went ahead with the security check of mine and the cabin luggage. I put all my accessories in the bag itself. And was myself clean. I waited for my turn before they would frisk my body with a metal detector. It seemed like eternity. Finally my turn came. As I did not have any metal things, the security guy did not have the much to do. But he was a bit taken aback with my waist watch. I mean those of you who remember the Fastrack advertise of girls hanging ulta from trees and asking यार टाईम क्या हुअा है? will understand. So the way he was standing he could not obviously understand the placing the watch on my waist and then not being able to make any sense out of it. He asked me to take it out, and had a look at it, so as to understand what kind of watch was that. But then, finally he gave up, put the watch down along with the security stamp on my boarding pass. The cabin luggage [bag] also had been cleared for security.

Then I went to the waiting area. I called up people to bask on my achievements of clearing the security check so quickly. There is a Cafe Coffee Day counter, inside the security area.
So after ordering a cappucino I sat with a view of the airplanes just about to board. Every now and then I would also have glimpse at the flights that had just taken off. Having sips of coffee with such a splendid view are moments to be cherished.

In the waiting area, aptly called so, people come from the security checks wait there for some time and then go for the flights. This for me was like wathcing a time-lapse movie when I was having my sips of coffee. Just outside the waiting room, the world is entirely different. There are all kinds of activities and vehicles going around there, in seemingly chaotic manner. But, there is clearly a method in this madness. How do these people communicate with each others, I do not know, but everyone was seemed to know where they wanted to go.

While waiting in the `waiting area’ I browsed through a lot of newspapers. Most of it was trash. Babes in skimpy clothes, ads for which I had least interest and politics. With the soaring temperatures of summer, it seems that election heat is also increasing. But, this time around I have least interest in who is going to be in power. Anyways, the day before was the Phase 2 of elections in Maharashtra. So the news papers had quite some photos of the people who had successfully voted in these elections.

They say that the percentage of people who came for voting is on average ~ 50%. So this is supposed to be worrying trend. Out of all the photos that I saw, there was one of an old lady. People posed with blackened fingers to assert that they had indeed voted. The indelible ink. This lady was about 70 years of age. And they had put the indelible ink on her middle finger. And she was showing a blackened middle finger with pride to the entire nation. Where is the moral brigade now? Won’t anybody charge her of obscenity in public place?

In the middle part of ceiling in the waiting area, they have created a glass ceiling. Not the one which is here but the real one. Well, one can say that, this is a glass ceiling which separates the flys and fly-nots [literally, no pun or metaphor intended], but then I rest my case. The view from this ceiling was amazing. The sky was blue and a few white clouds here and there were coming in view. From the large ventilation pipes overhead, this little [well, not very little] window gave a different view as to tell the passengers awaiting there in the waiting room that the sky above was waiting for them. Every now and then a flight would be visible. moving across the skyline. There were two people who were cleaning the glass above. They cleaned the very glass which separated them [fly-nots] from the rest of us [flys]. But, this, I think is true in our society everywhere. People from the oppressed lot are used to oppress people. I felt bad about them and all the cleaners and other people who are class 3 or 4 employees. They see so many flights, everyday. They are ones who make the operation of the entire airport possible, but they may in all their lives never get a chance to fly. They are like birds with their wings clipped, so that they cannot fly.

Well, coming back to the flight, they announced that there will be 10 minute delay in the flight, as the incoming flight from Goa was late. So, I was a bit disappointed. After a lot of wait, and it was not 10 minutes definitely, we boarded the flight. The air crew from the previous flight tended to us till we were seated. I had booked a window seat this time, as never I had had a window seat.

Well then the ‘cabin baggage’ nicely tucked in the overhead compartment, I sat, watching the view outside from my little window [this time I mean it]. The flight plan was announced by the hostess, with names of the captain and the attending staff being told.

”हम दिल्ली जाएगें”

She said in a sweet voice. Well after a few minutes from that, the plane finally began to move. I had a sigh of relief. But soon this relief turned to frustration, as for the next 20-25 minutes we were on the runway. This gave me all the views of the airport, especially the slums around it. Heaps of garbage and kids playing on it, seemed like a shot straight out of Slumdog Millionaire [see my post here]. When Danny Boyle had landed in Mumbai, he must have seen these kids and made it into the first part of the film. I saw two flights land from a bug’s eye-view. So finally after a long wait we were on the runway. And we ran away to the sky…

When the flight is gaining altitude [as they call it], you experience a force, which is not very pleasant. One could see the almost completed Worli-Bandra sea link, from a bird’s eye-view. I could recognise many of the areas, like Mahim creek and all that. But that was it. We flew Westwards towards the sea, never to comeback to the city of Mumbai below. With the acrobatics the plane was performing, there was an illusion, with the position that the plane was in, the sea went up. Till I could see out of my window, I could just see grey waters below. The experience was very dis-orienting.


We soon went over the clouds and the picture above would make you see what I saw. The clouds seemed like a carpet [cotton] spread over the entire area below. It was an amazing sight…


Soon the light began to fade, and sun from a blazing yellow went towards deep orange.


The horizon seems endless from this height. The contrast in the colors below and above horizon during Sunset become most stark. Below, you have a dark mass of unknown regions, the horizon it self becomes blazing line of orange. And above that you have a gradient from orange to dark blue. It thought I saw a few stars here and there…


So the final moments of Sunset in the picture above.


And this is what the horizon looks after the Sunset. This condition stayed on for a while. Then the darkness ascended. Now both the sky above and the land below were darkened. No visibility. This is the twilight.

Soon the one could see lights here and there in the land below. At a few times I saw intense orange lights [Sodium vapor ones], but apparently randomly placed. I could not find any structure in them.

Soon the formless light structures, gave way to villages and hamlets. One could make out the roads, which were straight and were lighted regularly. The cities from above looked like fractal structure. The sight was amazing.

Delhi, light everywhere…

All was Light…

But, unfortunately I could not get it pictures, or was it for my eyes only.

Seemed like golden and silver dust has been sprayed in the darkness of the night and what forms is the city below. Streams of cars and highways were in all directions. The cars coming towards us were all yellow, and those away were all red.

The flight lands after a long delay.

We are finally in Delhi, it is officially announced.

So much for the first day.

Dunno whether be able to continue this for the later days..

till then ciao

D

Slumdog Oscarpati!!!!!!!!

Slumdog Oscarpati!!!!!!!! 

Slumdog Oscarpati!!!!!!!!And the Oscar goes to ….. Slumdog Millionaire!!!

Well finally it happened. A Oscar to a film made in India with all Indian actors. An when it rains here, it pours, literally. So when Uncle Oscar came to India, he did not come alone, but bought an entire gang with him.

Now with the number of Oscars that have been awarded to the movie, I think it should be rather called Slumdog Oscarpati!!

Well, we Indians have a snobbish way of putting things. We do not appreciate the work done by our fellow people, unless it is appreciated by the West. In this case it went the other way round. Since the people in the West appreciated Slumdog, people in India are smelling rats and fishes. Here are some of them:

How can a movie as ordinary as Slumdog Millionaire win 8 Oscars?

Why was Rahman given Oscar for this movie, he has done much better job elsewhere?

If it was presented as movie made by Indians, [formally for the Oscars Slumdog was a British Production] we would not have won the Oscars?

We are selling our poverty to get the world attention.

The film makers exploited the child actors. Did not pay them lot of money, but made loads of money themselves.

The film is anti-Hindu।

The film portrays India in a bad light.

The movie did not deserve the Oscars.

The Oscars are a ploy to enter into the lucrative Indian movie market by the Western people.

etc. etc. etc.
[No matter how long a list I make, there will be always some objection/criticism that will not be included in this list. Is this is a consequence of the Godel’s incompleteness theorem?]

Given all the objections that are raised, I think the movie should have not have been made. It would have been better, remained as the book Q & A which it was written by Vikas Swarup. The criticisms fall into three categories as I see them

1. Actors and media people, who did not get a part in the Slumdog M.
2. People who smell conspiracy in everything that they hear/see.
3. Indian people who have an inferiority complex, who think that Indians are not good at anything.

I do not have any grudges against any of these people, but I will be presenting my point of view over all these objections. After all, this is my blog.

There is a tirade of media people criticizing the content of Slumdog, as it glorifies the poverty in India. But is this not true? Are there no people who are living in India, with exactly the conditions or even worse that are shown in the movie? Just visit to a nearby slum, and see for yourself. So what is so wrong in depicting what is actually present there? Its not as if all of India lives above poverty line and the movie is falsely depicting the people living in poverty. It is no fiction.

Have no films been made in India which depict the poor? If that had been the case, one might have agreed to the criticisms. But then this theme is not at all alien to Indian cinema, a poor protagonist is a goringly boring theme, is it not? What hurts us is the fact that some firang and not a desi has done this. Shame. Shame. Shame.

Of all the actors that are criticizing the movie, including Amitabh, Preity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty amongst others, would they have dared the same if they thenselves had acted in that movie. Do they ever dare to criticize the movies that they work in? I can smell something burning. Given a chance most of them would have jump at offers from overseas, and it would be considered prestigious for them too, then why this farce?

As for Rahman, yes I know he has done much better work elsewhere. But, then, good music also needs other good things in the movie to make an impact. Personally if you ask me Dil Se is one of the best works he has done.

Cinematography wise the film is brilliant. Period. Though while watching the movie, sometimes I felt faint traces of the Cidade de Deus [The City of God] running among the sequences and camera shots.

Also lets not forget another thing, that there is no point in comparing the movie with the movies which were made before and won the awards. The movie needs to be compared with the movies that it was competing with now, not with all the great movies that were produced world over before. How many times does it happen that a movie certainly deserving an oscar, did not get one. When there is more than one movie which is good, certainly there are hits and misses. Definitely we have much better movies made before Slumdog M, but then it did not compete with them before the award. So we have to compare Slumdog M with the movies that it was competing with now, not all of the movies made before it. And maybe it was the best of the lot, for this year.

Also if we are taking the film apart as we have done, we are not doing any justice to the actors in the film, who gave their efforts for the characters that they were playing. Was that all part of the bigger conspiracy?

Has not this production brought some deserving youngsters to the fame in international cinema? What about them are they not happy for that? Ask them and you will know the answer…

Now the second group. There are two types of people in this world, one who find conspiracies in everything and others who find conspiracies only in somethings. I think I myself fall in the later category.

Some people think this is a propaganda by the Western people to proliferate the Indian production houses and reap the profits from Indian audiences. But why do they need to come to India for that? I mean lot of english movies made without any reference to India or Indians involved in the production have done quite well in India. Remember Titanic?

The others especially, the Sangh Pariwar people see this as a conspiracy to defame hindus. Well, where is that they do not see a conspiracy to defame hindus? All the media [national and international] is against them, well except what they themselves publish [I think sometime later even that might go against them ;)]. So it is no surprise to me that they see this as conspiracy. O
The following quotes from here summarizes the sentiments of the Sang Pariwar.

Every art whether it be the mad jehadi painter Hussain portraying hindu godesses in the nude and obscene posters or the slum dog film portraying hindu gods and hindu customs and blackening the image of hindus and hindu gods or the novels of Arundhtai Roy and Arvind Adiga maligning hindus, their culture and traditions and their parents, become instant hits since enemies of hindus are national and international and sadly national media exaggerate every bit of it.

And another one from the same source:

The film is a plot made by the Americans to despise the Hindus. This is also one type of war. The film should be banned in India. just like De vinci was banned in India. The film is seriously affecting the sentiments of Hindus before International flora. Alas! there is nobody to protect the sentiments of Hindus.Srirama and srikrishna were shown as villains.Godhra riots were shown unnecessarily. The hero , a slum dog could identify the figure on the dollar but not Mahatma Gandhi on Indian currency.

Well Americans? AFAIK the Brits would not like to call themselves Americans. War? Where is that you people not see war? If war is against all Hindus [who technically speaking I am], I don’t quite agree to it.

The film is seriously affecting the sentiments of Hindus before International flora.

Which Hindus I may ask? Those who are already a part of the Global/International brigade of the Sangh Pariwar?

Srirama and srikrishna were shown as villains.

Well Sri Rama did play a part in the film, but Sri Krishna ? Well I think director forgot to portray him and I am sorry on his behalf. But then we have millions and millions of Hindu gods, why did you not depict them all? And as villains, I doubt it.

Godhra riots were shown unnecessarily.

Well, where the hell is Godhra shown in the film? The riots portrayed are the Mumbai riots, which happened at least 10 years before, please do watch the movie before you comment on it.

Why was the dude a Muslim and the dame a Hindu. Both should be Hindus! This is a [film about] Hindu nation!!

So far so good. Apart from religious zealots there are people who also smell fish in Slumdog M. But this is a different kind of conspiracy. The overall structure of this is like a communist propoganda. Financial gains. For the producers of the film. Well don’t the producers want the financial gains from the films that they make? It is a business for them, is it not?

This is a British ploy to enter in to Indian film industry. So be it. If the result is going to be better movies, I am all for it. So where does exploitation of the poor child actors come? If at all Slumdog M did not became a hit, will such a hype be made about this? How many struggling actors are present in Mumbai, who would go to extremes for just landing a small role in the films, let alone getting being underpaid? Success has a lot of enemies. If at all directors and producers knew what film would be always a hit, why would anybody make a movie which would eventually be a flop? Are there no flop movies in the world?

Anyways these are my views about this whole Slumdog Business, lets see what happens next…

Mumbai Locals…

Well Mumbai locals are the life line of the city. But ever wondered how many people can one local train carry? Here I try to estimate the carrying capacity of the local train.

We first want to make an order of magnitude guess for the carrying capacity of the
local train. First let us take the dimensions of one coach of the train.
Let us take the width of the coach to be ~ 3 m or 10 ft. We consider the length of the coach to be
of the order of ~50 ft. Then the floor area that we have in each coach is about 500
sq. ft. We neglect the actual seating arrangement in the local, and consider the
floor area only. We make an assumption that all the people are standing in the coach to
get an upper limit on the carrying capacity of the coach. The passengers are standing
as close to each other as possible. Now we make an estimate of how much area one
person requires to stand. One person would require about 1 sq. ft. area to stand.
Thus in a coach of about 500 sq. ft, about 500 people can stand. Actually there are
9 coaches, and their configuration is as follows. In the Central Railways , a 3-coach
unit is classified as 76, 70, or 72, where 76 is the leading motor coach, 70 is the motor
coach with a pantograph, and 72 is the trailer coach. So a nine-coach train has three
units in the following sequence (for the details and lot of other interesting information about Indian Railways visit here):

(76 -70 – 72)(72 – 70 – 76)(72 -70 – 76)

So in out of 9 coaches some space is lost to the motor coach [3 nos.], the driver
coach [2 nos.] and the eeffective area of the train is reduced. The motor coach has an
area of about 10 ft. and the driver coach of about 5 ft, so about 40 ft is reduced. So
the eeffective number of coaches are 8. Since each coach can hold about 500 people,
8 eeffective coaches will have about 4000 people. We have given about 1 sq. ft. for
one person to stand, but in reality especially in the peak hours the rush is much more
than that, so this estimate will have to be increased. We consider that about 1.5
people can stand in 1 square foot of area. Also the presence of the seats and partitions
in the coaches will reduce the eeffective area usable for standing so we assume that
about 10 % of the entire area is lost in furniture. So the number of people in one coach
450*1:5 = 675. So that in 8 coaches 675*8 = 5400 people can stand. But since not
all people can stand we also have to make a correction for this. About 100 people can
sit in a coach, who effectively take about 2 sqf ft. So about about 150 sq. ft. is taken
by them. So out of the 450 sq we are left with 300 sq ft, so eeffectively 300*1:5 = 450
people are standing. So the total number of people per coach is 450 + 100 = 550. So
that total number of people per train is 550* 8 = 4400. The figures that we get from
Wikipedia show that about 4500-5000 people travel in the local trains during the
peak hours.

So our guess is near about correct!!

This method of analysis is known as solving problem the Fermi way and the problems are Fermi problems. Named after the 20th century physicist Enrico Fermi, such problems typically involve making justified guesses about quantities that seem impossible to compute given limited available information. Fermi was known for his ability to make good approximate calculations with little or no actual data, hence the name.

Windwolf Re-Registered

The Plan

 To ride to Pune [पुणे] and get the registration of WindWolf done on the same day.
 This was something long overdue. I had to ride to Pune to get the registration of WindWolf done again. The validity of the registration was till 18th May 2008. When the date was written on the RC book [is it not a wrong nomenclature Registration Certificate Book?] five years ago, I thought this date was long in the future. Even now it is hard to believe that WindWolf has become a part of my life from last five years. It has been five years she has been with me! Now its almost impossible to think life without her…
The RC Book Cover

The Doom Day: 18/5/2008
Any way when that dreaded date became a reality, that the validity of the registration certificate for WindWolf would be over on the 18th. We missed one opportunity to ride to Pune, as the Insurance papers were missing. But thats another story….
Now the missing papers were found, and the time to the deadline was approaching, this ride was a must. So here we go. We ride for Pune on the 15th of May.
The Ride
The plan was to ride early in the morning, when the sun has yet to rise [Does it really everyday?]. Since it is summer, I did not want to face the sun when riding. So anyways the ride begins at 5:10 am. I had put on a jacket and gloves just in case, but they did prove to be useful Who says you do not need them in the summers?
Riding early in the dark gives you pleasures that you cannot get in the daylight. When you are alone for quite some distance; so to speak that there are no vehicles with their headlights on for quite some distance, the reflectors give you an awesome view. When you ride on the road with your headlights on, and there is no one else, the reflectors shine just for you. So your bike makes you feel special. You feel like as if you are The King of The Road. Just as you turn the beam of the headlight, the different reflectors just light up in the areas which were just a moment before completely dark. The path is made by you and it is made for you. You must be feeling like you are on an air strip, trying to land a plane [though I do not know what pilots feel!]. This is another thing that has to be felt, and cannot be understood only in the words, the feeling runs much deeper, much deeper than the words can dwell. Maybe this is the feeling The reflectors on the road light up till very far away, so that you get an effect of road going far, far away from you…
 
The petrol was not enough and we did hit the reserve just after Vashi [वाशी]. So had to fill in at the first pump. But did fill it in at the second one as the first one was exclusively for diesel vehicles.
With the petrol filled in we rolled on the highway. I used the JNPT [Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust] exit for leaving Panvel [पनवेल], which was discovered by me and Ritesh in a hard way while going to Karnala [कर्नाळा] last year. 
Windwolf and Damitr: The incredible duo.
I prefer this way because the traffic is very less as compared to the way through Panvel. From the ‘T’ point where the right way goes towards JNPT and the left one goes towards Goa and Pune. 
Here after the Panvel exit, the patch before the crossing of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, the once [in]famous dance bars come into view. Thanks to R. R. Patil, they have lost their old glory now, but their neon signs glow even now. There is still some fire left in the ashes, will they rise one day again? All along the way till Panvel there was smog in the lower parts, this maybe partly due to the brick ovens, or the factories that are in the Navi Mumbai [नवी मुबंई] area. The presence of smog gives a surreal look to the entire landscape. At one point there was a lot of free space, in which there were some sparse trees. All you could see was the trees and their tops, most of the ground was covered with smog. So the scene looked as if the trees were growing in clouds instead of land… 
Panvel from the JNPT bypass ‘T’ point early in the morning, looks as if it is sleeping cozily in the blankets of smog. Here I saw one very prominent feature of the mountain visible from Panvel, which I missed during all my last rides. This is Prabalgad [प्रबळगड]. Its peak looks impressive and is asking to be climbed…
Panvel in the morning haze, with Prabalgad in foreground, notice the clouds far away, they do look like mountains.
Prabalgad.
The weather was very fine. The cold wind kisses you on the cheeks and leaves you with a pleasant and warm feeling. The extra sheath of insulation was almost perfect for the kind of weather I was riding into. Another thing about riding in the dark, as the time goes by, the color of the sky changes gradually. The gradients of colors are amazing and cannot be described in words they have to be seen. There are things about riding which you cannot capture in words, but only can be experienced, so time and again I am referring to this feeling of being felt. [If you have not read Robert Pisrig’s Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance maybe you should.] For each phase before the dawn, there are different shades which are dominant. And if, the sky has some clouds, the colors and clouds can play amazing tricks on you. If the road is winding you see clouds in different directions, in different shades, shapes and sizes. Also if the sun is behind the mountains, it gives rise to spectacular silhouettes of the mountain; the mountain is dark black and the sky appears in shades of orange and red. In the background of the mountain range, the distant clouds at a particular time appear themselves as mountains. At the horizon you cannot distinguish between the lines of distant mountain ranges and the array of clouds present beyond them.  They appear so similar, that it is hard to tell them apart. But as the sun rises on the sky they become more demarcated, and they just dissolve. Many of them become thinner and then ultimately melt away… 
Another thing about riding the bike that thrills me is that the silence that you get with it. When you are riding alone, you are alone. There are no other sounds, except that of the firing of the engine and the voices of yourself that you hear in the head. The riding on the bike gives you a  solitude, which is so difficult to get with the lifestyle that we have adapted. This is a aloneness in which you can engage in a dialogue with yourself. I am saying dialogue with oneself, not a monologue; because many times I ask myself questions as somebody else, and answer the questions as somebody else. Some times is it the other way round? And I tend to forget myself in all this? Anywhere where am I? [See interesting and highly readable articles about “I in Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennet’s Mind’s I]
Since it is summer, and the spring is almost finished, the trees on the sides of the road greet you with their new and tender leaves. This is a different shade of green, which has its own charms. The green leaves, against the start blue background of the sky mark the summer and spring for me. This marks completion of another cycle for them. Here is a summer time song that I liked and echoes many of my feelings…
After Khopoli [खोपोली], the real climb begins. There is an Electric Power Station, run by the Tata’s, also there is the residential colony till half part of the climb. Just near the colony there is a very sexy curve, which sets the adrenaline up by many levels. O! I just can’t describe the feeling….
Windwolf in The Ghat.
After many windings on the road we finally touch upon the familiar yellow and blue bands which declare that now you are riding the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Here two wheelers and three wheelers are not allowed, and so are tractors and pedestrians not. After riding a little on the expressway, we get down at the Lonavala exit. The sun is quite high up now as compared to the time of the day. Anyway, now the scene created is interesting. As I am riding eastwards I face the rising sun, and it feels like summer, while in both the rear view mirrors I could see dark gray clouds rising. So these two were two entirely different world. One was the future, and one was the present, that of the forthcoming monsoon’s and that of the present summer. It was feeling as if the clouds were following you in the time, I felt as if I was the harbinger of the monsoons which will hit in the coming two weeks [The IMD website claims June 10 is the time it will hit Mumbai]…
You can see some  photos from a ride last year here.
By the time I reach Deccan plateau [दख्खनचे पठार] the sun is quite high, but the wind temperature is still low. Now the local road traffic beings to emerge, but sill is quite low. Near the Bhaje [भाजे लेण्या] caves, I can see the twin forts of Visapur [विसापुर] and Lohagad [लोहगड] still immersed in clouds. They are a sight to watch and trek in the Monsoons. I have done one and a half treks of Visapur fort. Both during the monsoons. I say half because that trek had to be abandoned midway, due to “footware” problems of a six foot hobbit ;). Lohagad I have trekked thrice and not one time in the monsoons. 
At 7:30 I had crossed Kamshet [कामशेट] and by 8:00 am I was riding happily in Wakad [वाकड]. They are making a fly-over there, good less jams. I was all happy for this wonderful ride and thought that this will never come to an end. The joy of riding was with me. But ….
As soon as I departed from the highway at the Hinjewadi [हिंजवाडी] junction, the ugly, chaotic, mean, non-rational, messy, unregulated traffic of Pune was attacking me, complimented by the pathetic and distressed conditions of the roads. It took me just over 20 minutes to reach IUCAA from Hinjewadi, but this was the worst part of the ride. UGhhhhh……..
There was dust in my eyes and they became sore. People here don’t respect traffic laws, everyone makes the rules, where all are equal, but they themselves are more equal than the others. So be it. If there is a demise of Pune as a city, the chaos of the roads and one that is on the roads will be one of the biggest reasons for sure. But let go prophecies and we are back to the reality that it was a nightmarish thing after such a wonderful time I had with her.
I reached IUCAA at Sam’s place at 8:25, which means that we reached here in about 3 hrs 15 mins, have to improve on this…
This is the sort of timing I remember for the various points in the ride; they maybe off by 10-15 minutes or so [except the start and end times].
0510 Ride Begins
0545 Petrol Pump
0610 Panvel Exit
0650 Khopoli Exit
0710 Lonavala Exit
0730 Kamshet
0800 Wakad
0825 Sam@IUCAA
So far so much for the ride now for the real work that had to be done. Which will take more of my time and energy and would be also less rewarding.
The RTO
Well my last visit to the Mumbai RTO for the learners license was not a particularly cheerful one. Last time I had visited the Pune RTO it was five years back in 2003, when I got the WindWolf transferred to my name. 
Pathi had come to Samir’s at 9:30 we chatted for a few minute. We started for the Alandi Road [अाळंदी रोड] RTO office, where I had last time got the extension, at about 10ish. We met another traffic snarl at the Holkar bridge, just before the area of The Bombay Sappers. There is a ghat here, which is just one of the numerous buildings built by the one of the able and admirable lady rulers of India, Ahilyabai Holkar [अहिल्याबाई होळकर] in the late 18th century. 
Ughhh, so much I hate these jams …. People just won’t listen, there were two wheelers even on the side footpaths, trying to get an edge [of  a few seconds] over the other riders [And then where are pedestrians supposed to go?]. All this for what, reaching their respective destinations just 2 minutes before? 
I knew we had to take a left turn after the Holkar bridge. But thereafter I did not remember the way… So I did the best, when in doubt, ask! And that we did. So finally we reached the RTO office, when I saw it I remembered it.
As soon as you are near the gate there is a line of ‘agents’ greeted us, though not they were not these ones here. But they all bore one similarity to the Agents of The Matrix, they all wore dark goggles. And no ordinary goggles were these; they were the ones not to be hidden. “Never Hide” says baseline of the latest ad campaign by Ray-Ban and believe me these people were following it religiously. And they were definitely not hiding. Maybe they will make a good footage for the next ad series. The goggles they wore were the same yet different, meaning they all had golden frames with dark glasses. No other type of Ray-Ban would suffice, it doesn’t fit the requirements.
The trend of wearing starched cotton shirts [preferably white], with one or two thick gold chains hanging down the neck and sporting a Ray-Ban is a sort of status symbol in Western Maharashtra. Every Tom-Dick and Harry, who is a bit affluent will have one Ray-Ban. And those who do not have one, want one. 
Anyways so all these agents ask is what work had to be done. Then I got one, and explained what exactly I wanted. So he agreed, and the cost was settled. I specifically told him that I wanted the papers today only, and that is why I am paying him his share. So then he told me the procedure. The procedure was very simple[?] and was as follows:
[FYI: There are two RTO offices in Pune city, one at Alandi Road, and another one near Sangam bridge [संगम पुल], the distance between them is about 8-9 kms. Its not that they are representing different regions, but they are part of the same office.]
Step 1: Fill a fee of Rs. 60. [This fee was told to me as Rs. 160, which I learnt later.]
But there is a catch here, as already told we were at the Alandi Road Office, this fee was to be deposited at the Sangam Bridge Office.
Step 2: Fill up a form for the re-registration, which has to have the details of the vehicle. This form should have the chassis and engine number which has to be embossed from the vehicle body. Any vehicle has the chassis and engine number imprinted on the body itself. This is sort of an unique ID that the vehicle has got. 
With the form following documents were to be attached.
  1. The original RC book.
  2. Valid insurance papers.
  3. A PUC
I had all these so no need to worry.
Step 3: The RTO will then inspect the vehicle in terms of its condition, and the original papers along with their validity. Then the RTO will decide, whether to give the extension or not. Will stamp the RC book with his due sign.
This was it and we were done. 🙂
The Steps 2 and 3 were to be performed at the Alandi Road Office. Why this to and fro business between these two offices I do not understand [and I guess no body else does]!
So be it….
So the agent said that he will manage for paying the fees at the Sangam Bridge office, and also reassured that we wont have to do anything. Okay then he said he will be sending a person at the Sangam Bridge office and said that I give him the fees first, so I did. The time was about 10:30ish. We were told that by 12 we would be done with the work there. So by 12 it will be achieved what I had come to do. He said as soon as the person comes with the paid receipt from the Sangam Bridge office he will call me, till then i have to wait.
So me and Pathi went under a cozy shade of a tree nearby and  waited. We were standing in front of a ground where there were two huge figures of “8” where the novice riders were going to give their tests for their driving licenses. Supposedly if you can drive the bike around the figure of “8” you are eligible for the license. Why this test is so or who devised this test is something lost in the mists of time or I do not know where to ask this question. Some of the more adventurous ones were actually practicing on the track.
Pathi had a lot of nostalgic memories of being here, some 10-12 years back. He narrated the incidents that took place at that time, when the people who actually had come to give the test fell on the “8” track. They say “driving is a privilege not a right.” And to get this privilege you have to give this test. Maybe this was true in the times of Nehru and pre-liberalization, but has not driving vehicles become a sort of necessity in this era. Given the pathetic and bad shape of the public transport, why won’t people choose to get their own vehicles to reach their destinations? If the authorities can provide cheap and reliable public transport why won’t people use it? Why do most of the people choose to buy their own vehicle, rather than use the public transport? I think one of the main reasons is the un-reliability of the public transport. This is true especially for the PMT buses in Pune. Mumbai has I guess the best public transport systems in India both on tracks and on road. Though I did find Delhi’s metro service very good, but the same cannot be said about the buses, autos and rickshaws there. They say Kolkata’s metro service is also good, but i haven’t been there and seeing is believing. And for Bangalore [from what I have witnessed and heard] the situation is as same [or worse] as Pune. I think both the cities are competing with each other as to how worse you can get in terms of roads and the traffic on them. 
Most of the PMT buses are in really bad shape. They do not even look good even in the outer appearance, the engines are screaming to get in better shape and I think need an overhaul and servicing urgently. Ughhhh! Compared with the BEST buses PMT don’t stand any where near. Maybe they should learn a lesson or two from them. Some times the question comes to my why should be there so much difference between the buses. Is it due to the fact that most of BEST buses are Ashok Leyland make and most of the PMT buses are TATA make? 
This is for the traffic on the road, but what about the roads themselves? In Pune the roads that I saw this time, were worse that I ever saw in the ten years. All the roads are “repaired” of potholes, but the repairing is done in “patches.” So that you have a small patch of even, repaired road and then some bad road and then the cycle repeats endlessly. This is more irritating than having a road full of potholes. The only roads which were free of potholes were those made of concrete. So is making all the roads of Pune concretized, the only concrete solution to the problem? Or can it be done by managing properly what we already have? Everybody who had to visit through the University circle maybe 2-3 years back will have vivid memories of the kind of nasty jams that were present during the construction of the now completed fly-overs. The entire University road from Shivaji Nagar was taken hostage for the construction of these fly-overs. The scheduled date was far from over, but the fly-overs were far from over at that time [if I remember it correctly the scheduled date of completion was somewhere in October-November 2005]. The amount of work hours and petrol lost in those jams was a terrible wastage of resources. Now that fly-overs are complete had everybody forgot the horror that they were subject to during those days? People who were responsible for this “delay” must be brought forward and held accountable for it. It must be people, it cannot be the concrete or the pillars that caused the delay. So who was responsible, were it the builders or the government bureaucracy or was it the “common man” who did not react to the atrocities committed? 
So much for the road and the traffic now back to the RTO’s office in Alandi Road. It was already 11:30 and we were not called by the agent. So I went and enquired about it, he said that the person who had gone to the Sangam Bridge office had not come back. So we had to wait. Now the only worrying factor was that the original papers with him. Maybe it was nothing to worry for them but for me it was for I had no copies of the RC book or the insurance papers. Even if I had the copies original are original. As the time was passing and no information about the person at Sangam Bridge office I was getting impatient. I pinned the person many times about the same, but he assured me as soon as the person from the Sangam Bridge office would some my work would be done in 15 minutes.  
The RTO’s office at Alandi Road is huge in terms of the extent, but it has no amenities whatsoever. I mean it has a few trees, placed randomly, but for what would be called as office, there are a few tin roofed sheds. This place was almost the same of what I had seen last time, five years back. So much could be done for this place, so many facilities could have made the place a better one for the people who do their jobs here, and also for those who come here to get the work done. There was no visible sign of any toilet. When I enquired about one, they told me to go to a place behind an abandoned room. But behind that room the space was entirely open. I just could not go there. Then at the other corner of the plot there was a huge arrow with some thing written on the wall in huge alphabets, 
येथे लघवी करु नये
[Please do not pee here.]
And just besides that there was an arrow which said मुतारी [Urinal] and pointed towards a shabby looking shed in the corner. Well then this was it, it was the urinal of the office. I dared to go there and use it. And not at all to my surprise, the toilet was in bad shape. There was a clogging of the wastewater and the stench was unbearable. Why this should be so? Why can’t the people of India provided with decent toilets? This is the bane of India. Anywhere you go the toilets are usually in bad shape. If you think you have got the worse one, wait till you go to the next one, and you will have to redefine the definition of worse. And what about women? What about the torture they have to go through when they use the public toilets? The bad condition of toilets is not just the characteristics of the government offices, the schools, colleges, hotels, bus and railway stops are equally bad. And most of the people feel, bad but are [like me] oblivious when it comes to do something about it. Who is responsible for this? When we are paying taxes to the government is it too much to expect clean and hygienic toilets? I don’t know when the things are going to change….
At the Mumbai airport they charge you Rs. 2 for using the toilets. And the toilets are ordinary in construct and cleanliness. Why this should be so? 
And as far as some eateries or canteens are concerned the Alandi Road offers just a few taparis [टपरी], giving you vada pavs and other things. But hygiene is a big question mark. With the space available there, a decent canteen can easily be constructed, if the authorities will.
Anyways, back to the work. So the guy who was supposed to come back from the Sangam Bridge office, did came at about 12:45. My worry was that the work should get over before the lunch. So that we can have our own lunch in peace. But destiny had other plans for us. After that the ritual of filling up the form, in which they put the chassis number by rubbing a pencil on the paper, while the paper is pressed on the numbers embossed on the body of vehicle. With all the details filled in we went to the office of the officer-in-charge, which was really a room with a shed and a few windows. The officer had an attendant who checked all the documents before passing on to the officer-in-charge. When the documents were presented the officer came and looked at the chassis number on the vehicle. And asked me
ईडिंकेटर वैगरे सुरु अाहे ना?
[Are indicators etc. working?]
When he was assured of that he just signed the documents and we were done. Only a stamp from some office was required, which would  take 5 more minutes, I was told. So happy, I was. So after 5 minutes the actual sign and stamp happened and gave the remaining money. And then I was told something I was not at all prepared for. After the checkup here we were supposed to go back to the Sangam Bridge office and take the sign of another officer there, and get the work done registered in a register. What the Efff? [Mind you, Efff is a four letter word.] I meant this was not told to me originally, nor was part of the deal, I was not supposed to go to the Sangam Bridge office!! 
Anyways, he told me that at the Sangam Bridge office, the work is minimal and will be done very easily. It was a two step process. So add these two steps to the three I have already listed. 
Step 4: Get the Officers sign on the papers.
Step 5: Get these papers to a clerk, who will do the actual re-registration in a register. The clerk will do the actual stamping on the RC book, of the extended date. 
And after this we are really done.
Our agent said that after submission of the documents the clerk will tell us, after how many days we had to come back, to collect the documents. This news was not certainly good. I had to get the documents today. So I asked him, are there any other agents, who can help me there. He gave me number of some other guy there, who sits under Tree No. 4 [झाड क्रमांक ४] at the Sangam Bridge office. Curiously when we went there I saw that the trees are labelled by the numbers and the agents actually sit under them. 
We were feeling quite hungry, so decided to have lunch first and then go for the remaining work.
पहिले पेट पुजा, फिर काम दुजा.

So we went to Bamboo House in Shivaji Nagar and finished lunch by 2:15 and by 2:25 we were at the Sangam Bridge office. We had called the agent at the Sangam Bridge office saying that we, were coming there and that he should help us. When we went under Tree No. 4 the person we were looking for was not there, he had gone for lunch. We were told by the others agents that this was a work which was easily doable by us, and we should go to the third floor to get it done. So we did. We went to the third floor and in the corner was office of the officer concerned. Here again there was an assistant/clerk who checked the documents before sending it to the officer-in-charge. He checked and promptly sent it in. But after 15 minutes of wait there was no response. And at 1440 hrs the officer-in-charge went for lunch. Well, we wait. Then there came peon, who cleaned the office. So I enquired with him about the process that has to be done, he explained in details. 

Officer in charge came back at about 1520 hrs, all other people were going into his cabin for getting the documents signed. After the peon prompted I also went in. The officer-in-charge was already busy signing the heap of documents that was unleashed before him. I told him what my purpose was, and that I had already given the documents in. So he said in a very assuring tone:
तुम्ही दिले अाहे ना, मग होऊन जाईल.
[You have submitted [the documents], then it will be done.]
And done it was, in next five minutes the documents came to the clerk who was sitting outside the cabin. Then he told us that we had to go to the ground floor, for actually getting the registration done. And so we descended, to the lower floors. The life here was bustling with activity, people running around seemingly randomly. The system here is something like this. Every clerk has been alloted a few ‘series’ of the registration numbers. By this it is meant that each clerk only does work for a certain number, like lets say MH-12 AG or MJE etc. So first we had to find the clerk who has our series. In the lists that were present, my series MGE did not show up anywhere. I became a bit tense, everybody thought it was MJE and general confusion followed. Everywhere, everyone was busy. Then finally I was directed to one person, who seemed to be the master in all such matters. The situation became further tense for me, when someone told that this registration was at Nigdi [निगडी] RTO’s Office. Then someone saw the RC Book and to my reassurance told that, although the passing is from Nigdi office, it had been transferred to Pune Office. 
The know-it-all guy directed me to, one person, who was in all this chaos not looking busy at all. When I presented him with the papers, he told me that this was not his series to work with and asked me to go back to the know-it-all guy. Then I clarified to him that, ‘that’ guy only had send us to him and further added the newly acquired information about the transfer from Nigdi RTO. Then he looked at the watch it was 1530 hrs and told us to come back at 1700 hrs. I asked his whether the work would be done or not, he replied it would be definitely done.
So we had to wait till 1700 hrs. But at that time, I thought about the agent we had left under, Tree No. 4. I called him and asked him whether anything could be done. He did not reply positively. So I went and met him under the Tree No. 4. He was a bit pissed off that we did not come to him first, and was totally non-cooperative. He told that once we go directly to the clerks/officers there is no deal for them left. And was visibly annoyed, he also called the agent at Alandi Road office and told that we had done this. So anyways I asked him would he be of any help now, he said no, and we left him.
Now back in the office we had no other option but to wait. So we waited in the great hall on the ground floor, where all the counters for various activities were present. There were counters for licences, fees, registration etc. Also on the boards various rules and by rules were present, along with portraits of national heroes. The posters gave in written and details how complicated it was to get the work done, it actually told how many times one had to go to and fro even between the two offices, to get even simple work done. So be it. Also the various district wise numbers of the vehicles for Maharashtra state were given. 
After watching all this we felt a little bored it was 1600 hrs already. Pathi suggested that I go and check on the progress of the work. Main worry was the fact that we did not have any proof that we had submitted the documents to them, all the papers and receipts were attached with the form, so if the form is lost or misplaced I will be left with nothing. And the sort of chaos that was present there it was very likely that it will get lost. So I went to check. The clerk did have a good memory, for he recognised me immediately, and also reminded me that he had asked me to come at 1700 hrs. He sort of warned me that, why he should not ask me to come next day for collecting the documents? With this sort of warning I receded back to our hall where we sat from last few minutes. 
Just at the entrance to RTO’s office there is a cabin of the PRO. This cabin has a seat for the PRO and a CGI [computer graphical interface] which had the links to all the services that one could avail from this office. This console was touch sensitive and was courtesy of some IT company. So we went and checked with some details, they were explicit and well done. But you had to come here to access this, why cannot they put this on the internet? It would be great help if they do. Here in the great hall I noticed another thing, there were paan [पान] and gutkha [गुटखा]  spits on all the pillars, corners and walls inside the hall. This is another major thing that annoys me, people spitting where ever they find space. The problem is acute in the stairways, where the corners are especially targeted for this purpose. People don’t feel ashamed for this and they do it with pride. When will this attitude change? It they fined Rs. 500 per spit. I think some things will change…
So it was about 1650 hrs, the time that I was given was coming nearby. So I went to him and to my relief my they had found the records for series MGE and also located entry of my vehicle in that register. And after I had gone, they did the needful and entered the renewed registration in the register. Finally it was done, or so I thought.
The clerk who showed me the entries, told me that I have to submit xerox [carbon?] copies of the insurance and the RC book. Now after all this only these copies were not going to stop me. So I just dashed to get them, when he called me back again and told me that it was not needed, as he had checked the originals….
Phewwww…..
So finally the day came to a close at 1705 hrs. And below is the result of a complete days work.
The Doom Day Now Reset to 15/5/2013

I felt like resetting a nuclear device, to five years later, when this ordeal has to be repeated again. Till then 
I ride,
The WindWolf  with pride…

Flamingos!!

Flamingos are a genus of migratory birds which come to India in the summer. The classification is as given under [from Wikipedia]:

Kingdom : Animalia
Phylum : Chordata
Class : Aves
Order: Phoenicopteriformes [Furbringer, 1888]
Family : Phoeniconteridae [Bonaparte, 1831]
Genus : Phoenicopterus [Linnaeus 1758]

There are a total of six species of the flamingos, out of which two the Lesser Flamingo [Phoeniconaias minor] and the Greater Flamingo [Phoenicopterus roseus] come to India. In Mumbai the area near Sewri [शिवडी] mudflats form the Flamingo habitat zone. The mudflats and mangroves here at Sewri accumulate organic richness to draw lots of avians to this region. The Flamingos can be seen here from mid-October to May. The Lesser Flamingos are more abundant than the greater ones with numbers reaching and estimated ten to fifteen thousand. More information about the flamingos can be seen at the Wiki site.
Last year me and Ritesh had visited the Sewri site, but could not get a glimpse of the Flamingos as they were too far away for our eyes and instruments to see. But none the less we saw some sandpipers, ibises, kingfishers and kites et al. But no flamingos!! You can see the images of this trip below.


Bartailed Godwit Limosa lapponica (Linnaeus)

Common Sandpiper Tringa hypoleucos (Linnaeus)
A huge flock of plowers.
So this year we decided to go about it. Ritesh heard that form the Mahul Village boat rides are arranged so that we can get a closer look at the flamingos. Accordingly the plan was made. There was a group of 10 from HBCSE. And others were to join us from BARC. Mr. Krishna was supposed to arrange for the boats at Mahul village.
Anyway we left for Mahul village in autos and an Alto at about 10:45 am. We reached there at about 11:15 am. The auto fare was about Rs. 50. At Mahul village one has to take a turn from the main road to the jetty. Another option to go to Mahul village form HBCSE is to take the Best Bus No. 364 which takes you to Mahul Village and back, via Govandi. The road to the jetty goes through the Mahul village, which is largely a fishing community. On the road to the jetty and at the jetty itself there were posters advertising the Flamingo rides. So we finally reached the jetty and the boat which would take us there was already waiting. In case if any of people with me have not noticed the color of the boat was [Flamingo?] pink, and of course the name of the boat was Flamingo. See the picture below.
The two Koli brothers Shashikant and Chandrakant were the Captians of the boat. They can be contacted on the phone numbers on their visiting card given below to arrange for a ride to watch the Flamingos. They can also arrange for the ride to the Elephanta Island.
The Captain with the cap, Shashikant Koli [शशिकांत कोळी]
The first mate Chandrakant Koli [चंद्रकांत कोळी].
The area of Mahul jetty presents us with a combination of nature and urbanisation at the same time. Along the ground you can see lush green mangroves and just beyond them endless line of factories and other industries, along with power transmission cables form the Tata Power Station. Kudos to the Port authorities who have till date kept the area still habitable to the migratory avians who flock here every year.
We alighted the boat and the journey began, with paddles first then the petrol engine of Yamaha make. Out of the two Chandrakant had quite good knowledge of the bird species in the area, he told us that he had referred to Salim Ali’s book for the same. He could identify all of the bird species that we saw. Though not formally educated in Zoology his knowledge about the same was amazing.
When we went out of the channel from which the Mahul jetty emerges, the tide was still low and we could actually see the mudflats. The water is only about 3-4 feet deep here. We saw our first view of the Flamingos here. Refer to the map below drawn form Wikimapia image, to see how our journey went. In the lower right hand corner the scale of the map is provided. The are in pink denotes the Flamingo habitat zone along the mangroves and mudflats.

As we went by we saw numerous Flamingos who shied away as we went near them. Some of the best shots I took were from this region. The return journey was not that rewarding in terms of the closeness.
So here are the first few shots taken of the flamingos…
A more close up one.
It was a wonderful sight, rows of Flamingos standing on the mudflats, against the backdrop of the South Mumbai skyscrapers. Where else can such a scene be present?






White Ibis Threskiornis aethiopica (Latham).
Along with the Flamingos other waders such as Ibises and Egrets were found to be peacefully having their share of the algae in the mudflats.



Large Egret in flight.

Large Egret Ardea alba (Linnaeus)

Median or Smaller Egret Egretta intermedia (Wagler)

Common Tern Sterna aurantia (J. E. Gray)

Jack Snipe Gallinago minima (Brunnich) [?]

The New Captain of the Boat
The Flamingos in flight are a wonderful sight to see.








Also they make a sort of low humming sound, which is more like a sound of drums beating far away if I can remember it correctly. We had to go through a long route as we had to follow the water channel which was deep enough to take our boat.
During the ride I enquired about the cost of the boat. The cost they said was about Rs. 3 lakhs. The motor engine which was Yamaha made costed around Rs. 2 lakhs and the rest of the boat body which is made of fibre costed around Rs. 1 lakh. So this is an expensive toy to have ;)… So my dreams of having a small boat in the near future are all drowned.
Anyways we were sighting different smaller birds who were busy in finding some food in the mud which was exposed due to the low tide. On our left hand side we could see the Tata Power Plant, which is said to have constructed a bund, where there was none, this is supposedly affecting the ecosystem of the area. Further left, we could see the Elephanta and the Butcher islands. If you make a trip to the Elepahnta islands from here, it will be very easy as they are very near.
The tide was rising and we could feel the force of water rushing in on our little boat. The areas where the water was shallow were especially turbulent. And the waves were a bit high there. So it was decided that we wait in a bit deep water for some time and let the water rise a bit near the shores. When you are anchored in the water and the water is moving around you as in the case of a tide, this illusion as if the boat is also moving comes very strongly. The first time I experienced it was when I was returning to the land from Arnala [अर्नाळा] island fort. And believe me that this illusion can be really strong. We could see some fishes flying form water, and making multiple skips on the water surface before going back in water. Far away we could see a line of pink which got unusually bright at one particular spot. I think there was a great concentration of Flamingos at this spot.
The Great Pink Spot

During this we saw a flock of whistling ducks or teals, which made quite a few acrobatics before landing. But unfortunately we could not hear them whistle.


Large Whistling Teal Dendrocygna bicolor (Vieillot)

One of us wanted to alight at Sewri, so the boat was taken there. Due to rocks under water there was a bit of delay for this, but ultimately it came through. Then we began our journey towards the birds. We could see the ruins of Sewri Fort on the coast, which we missed on the last visit to Sewri. This is the fort to be visited in the near future.

The Sewri Fort with Flamingos at the bottom.
The water had quite risen, even though at the deepest it was just 3-4 feet. The Flamingos were now standing with their feet almost in water. This was the time for them to leave for the dry lands. They would come back here with the low tide.
Meanwhile there were two people with pro-looking cameras who were in a smaller row boat, who went really close to the Flamingos. I wish I was there in that boat. Next time we take that boat instead of this bulky one so that we can get really close to the pink avians we have come to see here. But that is for the next time.
So one by one each flock of Flamingos was going to the dry lands. We went for one of last remaining ones. When they fly in rows they make a scene to watch. Also when they start to fly they take a sort of ‘run-up’ before they get airborne. We could see all this happening in a wave like fashion, as when one of the Flamingos got off the rest of the flock followed.

Just taking the flight



Videos of Flamingos in flight.
These words, photos and videos cannot capture the true beauty and awe of witnessing this thing phenomenon; you have to see it with your own eyes to understand what I mean…
When all were gone we left for the Mahul jetty and then back to the Centre. The return journey was much more easier as the water was now high, hence opening pathways which were not accessible initially. The total cost of the trip went to Rs. 100 per head for the ride, which was totally worth it. So you too find the road to Mahul and meet the pink avians if possible this year.!!!
So till next time ciao…
P.S. Which ones did we see?
Although it was said that we only saw the Lesser Flamingo, after looking at the features of the Greater Flamingo in Salim Ali’s book, we came to a more confusion. The final conclusion was that we saw both the species!!
Here is what Salim Ali’s book says about the identification of two species.
Greater Flamingo
Field Characteristics: A long-necked rosy white stork-like bird, with a heavy pink bill, turned down at an angle from about half its length. Sexes alike. In flight outstretched legs and neck, and the black bordered brilliant scarlet wings are diagnostic.

Lesser Flamingo
Field Characteristics: Upper mandible not overlapping with lower. Bill dark colored with crimson feathers around its base. Plumage darker rose-pink than in the flamingo. Size smaller. Crimson and dark underwings, shorter trailing legs in flight diagnostic.

So what do you say from the images and the sightings that we have?
Me and Ritesh concluded that we saw both!
Correct us if we are wrong…
Ciao
Reference

The Book of Indian Birds
Salim Ali
Oxford, 1996

Of Bibliophilia…



Well the other day while surfing the net I found some thing about me. Something about the things that I do has been so clearly defined,I never even wondered that there could be people who have defined and categorised terms like this one.

See this and you will understand. [Or is it this?]
This is one attribute that I certainly have. Collecting and reading books is a passion that I nurtured from my childhood. The ones that I had and read in my childhood were the comics. I read a whole lot of them, covering entire series. So when I went to collect `old’ comics at the Sita Bardi old book sellers, I did got interested in the other books they were selling. So I started buying them also. Initially the budgets were very low, so….
The major ones that I brought in this time were the Russian published Mir titles. I collected a lot over the years and they form one of the most prized collections that I have.
When I shifted to Pune visiting the Deccan `bridge’ became almost a ritual. Almost all the books I acquired during my stay in Pune were brought from Mr. Prabhakar and co. I don’t even have a photo of these guys, maybe next time I go, I will get one…


Update: This is the photo of Mr. Prabhakar that I took in the last trip..

I became one of the regulars there. And so were others….
Also another incident happened in Pune, which really made me in this regard. Me and Samir went to a certain prestigious library, where we were told by the librarian “We don’t need people like you in our library.” Well this really changed my attitude towards possession of books. Books are the key to the code of that knowledge, why it should not be open to all in a free society…
Ebooks are going to change this. You don’t loose an e-book when you give it to someone.
There is another thing that is a bit strange which has happened with me many times. It is cannot be certainly be put in rational sense. The idea that I have is that books call me! Yes you read it right. I many times feel incredibly attracted towards a book when I see it. I mean,  I feel that I have to have this book, there is no compromise….  I don’t know how to explain this, but the books that I have got by this `intuition’ have proved to be immensely useful to me one way or the other. They have at times opened an entirely different world altogether for me.
Some of the titles that I got by this `intuition’ are Larry Collins, Dominique La Pierre – Freedom at Midnight, Douglas Hofstadter, Daniel Dennett – Mind’s I, Martin Gardner – Why’s of a  Philosophical Scrivener among others.
I did not know before that such books even exist. Let alone their content. But when I saw these books I felt this very strong `urge’ that the book is saying, “Take Me with You.” Maybe you are wondering that this guy is nuts, maybe I am but this is what I have experienced.
My life is taking me westwards, literally. Nagpur to Pune, now Pune to Mumbai. Further west is the sea, where do I go from there?
Leaving Pune among other things I had one pain of leaving `the bridge’. Because I had become addicted to go there. Even if I had less money, had no other work, I had to go there. I dunno, maybe it had become an OCD.
Also another thing that I want to tell is about what I feel when I am going through a stack of books at the book seller. I have got used to the shops that I visit frequently so that I know where to look what I want. In exhibition it is  many times much more messier, as the organizers themselves don’t know what the stock of books is. Also when I scan a set of books I look for certain features that I cannot describe, maybe it is like the irrational Logic of Scientific Discovery which Karl Popper proposes. But here again I can find books which others cannot spot.
When I came to Bombay, I became a regular at the Fort and Matunga areas. It has been quite some months since I have visited Matunga, but fort I do frequent a lot.
Each time I go I have another subject or theme  which is added in the books that I look for. The broader subjects include
Physics, Mathematics, Astronomy, Electronics, Chemistry, History, Philosophy, Art, Education, Science fiction, psychology and so on…
Also with the ebooks, this collection has been taken to altogether another dimension, now I have about 7000 e-books [and counting]. In this case maybe the bibliomaniac definition is true for me.
Try these and I hope that you won’t be disappointed
ALL CREDITS TO THE ORIGINAL UPLOADERS!!
Space [both mental and physical] really becomes a problem when you have such more books to handle than you can. Anyways it has been and I guess will be a problem for me throughout my life. But I am happy that I have this problem.
Till then wish me another book…

Old Ex Libris for me!

Vasai and Arnala

The Aim: To Do Vasai [Bassien] and Arnala Forts in one single trip.

The day finally came when the planned trip to Vasai fort had been finalised. This fort was long overdue. Maybe from last 4-5 years. Finally the party was decided. Finally the party was Mr. Jagdale and me. Sumit descended from Pune the night before and the rendezvous point was first decided at Dadar, but then changed to Bandra.

I woke up at 5:15 and woke up Sumit at 5:30 am. The scheduled meet was at 6:30 at Bandra Station. At about 5:50 I left HBC, since I had to get a ticket first, I had to miss two trains, and when I had the ticket, there was no train for next 15 minutes. Anyways reached Bandra at 6:45 via Vadala Road. Sumit wasn’t still there yet. So had to let go three more trains. When the last one was missed I guess we were the only two guys left on the platform. Anyways the next one was at 7:05 Virar fast. So we hopped up on that.

When the salt plains of Bhayendar could be seen we went to the gate. Early in the morning the coolness that you feel is really good. I wish the weather in Mumbai was the same throughout the day.

When we crossed the Bassien or Vasai creek a sense of freedom from the city of came. Anyways got down at Vasai Road at about 8:15. Then we checked into an Udipi hotel, had breakfast of the South Indian type.

We took an auto to Vasai Fort for Rs. 50 which we realised later was a larger payment than required. The drive through Vasai village gives you a feel of the country side. Along the road there was a market in which the locally produced [I guess] veggies were being sold. I had a desire to go and buy some, but considering the long day in front of us, decided against it. At the bus depot we took a left turn towards the fort. The fort became visible as we passed the Vasai police station. A part of the outer wall has been torn down to make the road, from where we currently enter the fort.

The fort has 10 bastions and is totally European in its architecture. The bastions are shaped like arrowheads, as opposed to rounded ones in India. The fort is strategically located to the North of Bassien creek. To the west there is marsh land. To east at present is the Vasai koliwada, to the south is the sea. To the north is the current city of Vasai . Out of the 10 bastions 9 were supposedly named as Cavallerio, Nossa Senhora dos Remedios, Reis Magos Santiago, Sam Gonçalo, Madre de Deos, and Sam Sebastião, Sam Sebastião.

Below is a sketch map of the Vasai fort, drawn from the Wikimapia images.

Compare this with the old Portuguese maps, which I found here.



A brief history of fort is available at Wikipedia entry on the same. Also I found this site very informative with some original images of the fort. The Fort was won by Marathas under Chimaji Appa in 1739, with much casualties, before that it was the Portuguese capital of North Konkan. When in its full glory the Vasai fort must have been wonderful. Even the ruins of the fort are magnificent. You get a feeling of being transformed into their era when you are in them.

The auto took us to the fort jetty by a straight road which goes through the fort. The jetty is at the southern end of the fort. From the jetty there is a gate to enter the fort. This is one of the original entrances to the fort, and was known as Porta do Mor. The other gate is on the land side of the fort and appropriately called Porta da Terra [This one we could not see, as we did not know that it existed, when we went to the fort]. There are two baobab trees at the entrance. The baobab trees are native of Africa, were supposedly introduced by the Portuguese in the area. Actually Sunjoy Monga’s book Mumbai Nature Guide lists Vasai fort as one of the sites which harbors the baobab trees in the vicinity of Mumbai, about 6 specimens are listed, out of which we could see 5. We missed a really large one which is at the right to the sea side entrance of the fort. The species that we have here is Adansonia digitata [known as गोरख चिंच [gorakh chinch] locally]. For interesting information see www.baobab.com

One interesting thing to note is that there still is a full wooden door, with all its ornamentation. I doubt it is the original one but it was a pleasant surprise nonetheless. As you enter the fort from this side there is a small temple on the left hand side, which was established by Chimaji Appa, when the fort was won.

The inner gate also has its wooden door intact.

We went up the stairs that are behind the small temple, which is one of the ten bastions of the fort [Though at that time we did not know that is was a bastion]. There were trees growing on the bastion floor!

The windows of the bastion overlook the Bassien creek and give a nice view of the mangroves below and the fishing ships beyond.


Sumit in one of the windows.

On the bastion a vine with yellow flowers was in full bloom. Ritesh the best taxonomer I know was not able to identify it [Id anybody?]. The plant was identified by Samir as Yellow Trumpet Creeper Macfadyena unguis-cati, also called Cat’s Claw. See the comment.
Then we went on to a cathedral. Deja-vu!! Simply because this location has been used in a lot of movies and also videos. Anyways the ceiling of one part of the cathedral is still intact. Though it has lost its lustre it must have been really magnificent.


This was our first major halt in the fort. The cathedral also has spiral staircase, which is very unique in construction. The steps and the axis are carved out in a single stone. See the picture and you will probably understand. Here again the bane of Indian archaeological sites viz. graffiti is abound. Some people are trying to make themselves known to the world at the cost of damaging and ruining our cultural heritage. Yuck!! I don’t know with what mentality people do this, are they trying to claim the place for themselves? Shame on them.

The tower below I guess is the highest point in what remains in the fort. There were parakeets on the overgrown trees on the top. Mr. Jagdale was full of adrenaline and he went along the walls to the otherside of the tower structure where this wonderful ceiling is present. He told that the ceiling part has been reinforced with concrete.

Here a lot of birds were seen, but could not ID[anyway I am not good at it] or take a shot at them. One bird of prey was in the sky above but did not get a good shot at it. [It is at moments like this I miss the telephoto lens 😦 which I do not have].
We walked through dense cover of trees through a path, which took us to the citadel of the fort. The most prominent trees are mango [which was in full bloom], tamarind and dates.
The citadel of the fort has an entrance which is small but very beautiful. There must have been a statue on the door; an empty space is a reminder of that. This is the initial fort of St. Sebastian which was extended into the larger fort.
The Portuguese coat-of-arms on the gate.

Here you can see two non-pillars; see the photo and you will understand.
There were fisher folks in the fort trying to process their webs with some sort of dye. Inside the citadel there is a small pond, which had some herons in it. We went along the wall to the end of it near a bastion. This bastion is circular though. When we went out of the citadel, we came up to the senate house of the fort. Next to the senate house is the lake which is almost at the center of the fort. Along side the lake are two temples, one of Vajreshwari and Nageshwar.
From here we took a right turn, where there were more ruins.


A stone plate with something in roman script [Can anyone translate this?].

From here we went inside towards the unknown, there were people sitting we asked them about more places to visit. They said that one of the old churches has been restored recently and that we should see it. They were the guardians of the mangoes of the fort. We went by the way told by the guardians and landed up at another place, which Wikimapia says is the Old Convent of St. Anthony.

Now this was an awesome place.


Arches are numerous as can be seen from the photos below.


One of the features of this place is the fact that the floor here has many graves. Some of them have coat of arms inscribed on them and some have names and the year of the burial all in roman script.

From the inside of the convent.



Then after this we went to the restored Augustinian Convent. Most of the restoration is of concrete :(.
Some initials which I would like to decipher. The date inscribed is 1626.

But the ceiling is all wood, and I guess has been done as it actually was.


From here on we hit back to the citadel where we came from. After passing the Nageshwar temple we came to the ruins of the Dominican convent. This is another place undergoing restoration. Lots of re-construction going on. This was also a hospital.


Is not the statue missing?
The coat of arms here too…

There was I guess a bell tower also here. From there we get to the main straight road which goes to the fort jetty. And across the road is the statue of the Chimaji Appa who captured the fort in 1739 from the Portuguese.

When the fort did not yield quickly Chimaji Appa said:

किल््ला हाती येत नाही, तर निदान माझे मस््तक तरी तोफेने उडवुन ते किल््लयात जाऊन पडेल असे करा.
Meaning: fort is not yet conquered, then put my head on the canon and at least make sure it lands inside the fort.
The geography of the Vasai fort is such that it allows attack option from the North only. On two sides the sea shore is there. And there are marsh lands on the other sides so blasting the walls with mines was not easy. But ultimately mines were laid and the Marathas got the entry through the Sebastian Bastion. Heavy casualties were inflicted on the Maratha side, about 12,000 as compared to about 800 on the Portuguese side. The Portuguese lost most of their generals and officers and the surrender was done by a Captain. The victory was described by Chimaji Appa thus:
या मागे युद््धे बहुत प््रापत झाली, परंतु मराठी फौजेस यासारखे युद््ध पडले नाही. सीमासीमाच केली. त््याचा िवस््तार िलहता विस््तार आहे. या जागा फत््ते होणे देवाची दया आहे.
Meaning [As I have understood, If you have understood it differently please let me know]: Before this Marathas have won many battles, but none like this one. This cannot be captured in words and this victory is beyond description. Conquest of this place is a grace of God.
The survivors were given a safe passage out of the fort and 8 days to take away movable properties. The fort and the buildings were ransacked and the bells in the churches were taken as mementos of victory. Two of the bells were installed at temples in Nashik and Sudhagad. You can see the pictures of the two here.
We went to the Sebastian bastion which lies to the backside of the Chimaji Appa statue. There again a magnificent baobab specimen is present.
The Sebastian bastion, from where Marathas gained entry.

The view of the bastions from the ground level, as they would have appeared to the attackers.

There is a small entrance here, which leads you out in the marshlands ahead. I took some shots of the bastions as they are seen from the ground level.
This was the end of our journey, we took an auto back to Vasai road station.
But this is one place I would surely like to visit in the Monsoons.
Now the journey continues to the next destination the Island fort of Arnala, but that will be another blog…

The Problem of Raj

Now that the dust is settling over the issue of `north indians’ in Mumbai, the central character in this issue Raj Thackrey has become known to more people that he was before.
The point I want to emphasize is that all of the media channels whether in print, electronic or otherwise have at most presented the half side of the story.

Most of them begin from the `provocative statements’ made by Raj, without mentioning the background with which they were made in. I am in no way supporting anybody, but then presenting a dialog as a monologue is is cheating on the people. What happened was unfortunate, but the way media portrays it is so bad, that as if the entire law and order situation in Mumbai has go bad. But this was not the case I was out on all the days in which the incidents took place, apart from the areas mentioned life was as usual in the other areas.

But the replaying of a 1 minute film of 1 incident 100 times does not mean that 100 incidents happened. This is what most of the people don’t understand, when a video clip is shown repeatedly they this is happening continuously, just enhancing the worries and tensions. Is this what media wants? To take the public in a rage; if the incidents were reported in a proper manner the mania around them, and characterization of Raj as a monster would not have happened. Media is behaving as irresponsibly as it can in this case. And the kind of `intellectualism’ that is being done is doing no good to the problem itself.

Let us take a look at the problem itself, which has caused this trouble. People from the `undeveloped’ parts of India come to Mumbai and other metros in search for the livelihood. This is most clearly seen in case of Mumbai, which also happens to be the financial hub of the country. So it is `natural’ for people to come here in large numbers. But why is this so? Since people in home states do not have enough employment opportunities they come here. So who is at fault here? Are the people in Mumbai at fault for the non-development of regions elsewhere? So my question is who is at fault?

Comments made by Raj has made a lot of people in lot of sections uncomfortable. Why is this so? His comments have exposed a lot things, about the `other’ states. If people call these events as failure of constitution in Mumbai, then what about other states. Going along these lines it seems that the constitutional machinery has failed people of these regions time and again, by not being able to provide them with ample and decent oppurtunities for employment. Thus the very politicians who are slamming Raj left and right are the real problem makers. If they being in power for so long like Lalu Yadav and Mulayam Singh could not do anything about their own state [like they wanted to ] what moral right do they have to call the situation in Mumbai a constitutional failure?

People who know this are the ones who are most uncomfortable…

Kala Ghoda …

Yesterday in the evening went to Kala Ghoda – The art festival – in the art district of Mumbai..

Did not have much cash to buy any thing….

But any way went there…

The atmosphere was charged, people all around dressed in the trends of the season…
All the cream of Mumbai had descended on here…

There were some drawing portraits of others, some art forms so weird that you cannot make sense out of it…