Tuesday, June 07, 2005


The Jat lag has gone down a bit (oh sorry, am I offending someone?) and I can actually count ten fingers on someone else's hand. I am back! I got quite a few comments from people looking forward to reading about my India trip experience. That left me confused. Are people interested in my India trip or my India trip? How do I compose this post? How do I meet the burden of expectation? Ambivalent or AmbyValley? Safe or Saif? India or ExpectNation?

I am going to devote a few posts to my recent India trip, but here are bulleted highlights of some things that struck me

1. Money money money rules India
… like never before. Socialism has been buried for good by glitzy malls and cell phone owning vegetable owners. We are open for business, competition and the ilk. Middle class is moving up, upper class has more places to spend money, and the poor will feel the pinch like never before
2. Ka-Mall hi Ka-Mall hai
I visited the InOrbit mall in Bombay besides CitiMall and Infiniti close to my place. Clean spaces, working escalators, suited-buited guards, rich Gujarati house-wives, Ritu Kumar boutiques, food courts serving Rs. 40 popcorns, multiplexes, supermarkets, 2 for 1 deals … this place has everything. It was almost like being in the US except for the excess rush and lots of Indians. Of course, a ton of people were treating it like a tourist trip. Enjoy the air conditioning and do window shopping.
3. Rs.1000 is the new Rs.100
How often have you heard your father give you the ‘in my times, it used to cost 25 paise’ story? I think it is happening to me too. Everything is so costly now that a rupee is now redundant. I used to joke about what I would do with a 5 lakh salary in India now. I think to maintain a middle-class lifestyle with an upward drift, that kind of money would be necessary. A night a the movies, restaurant and café with your family will cost you a cool 1000.
4. Angrez chale gaye Andheri mein theatre chodd gaye
English movies meant a trip to the town for me. Andheri to Churchgate by compulsion and local train. The change brought a smile to my face. I saw Star Wars at a theatre 15 minutes walking distance from my house. Andheri was firmly the centre of Bombay for me. Now it is set in stone. I saw Star Wars and B&B in India with no other decent release and very little time on my hands. The theatres were Fun Republic and Fame Adlabs respectively. I was also mildly amused at them playing the national anthem before the movies. Were they playing it for this Non Reliable Indian?
5. From long ration lines to low necklines
Controversial topic, but I’ll broach it anyway. The necklines are plunging and the hemlines are rising. Does that explain the high temperatures in Bombay? Of course, my trip was largely limited to Lokhandwala which was always known for its hep-cat (that’s an expression I heard a few times on the trip) crowd. A prospect that would have been salivating a few years ago just ended up being mildly amusing for me given my years of stay in the US. I have no comments to make on it save the observation that there is a difference. Good, bad, radical, expected … that is a whole new debate.
6. Ek Mocha Aur De Do Thakur
This is a reuse of a blog title I had used a while back. While I visited the usual Baristas and CCD (Café Coffee Day for the uninitiated), the highlight was a trip to Café Mocha in Juhu. Sipping a Rs.200 milkshake with hookahs around me and the kids ‘chilling out’ made me uncomfortable at times. A gentle reminder that I never belonged here and the dollar conversion notwithstanding, I will never be at ease there. That might change over time, but somehow, this is a part of Bombay I was never familiar with.
7. Kyonki DD hi kabhi TV tha
I spent a lot of time surfing channels 1 through 97 on my parents’ archaic TV. Saw one episode each of Kyonki …, Jassi …, Koffee .., and a couple other serials and figured everything about the story. I cannot understand the Ekta Kapoor effect, but hey, I am just an NRI who doesn’t see too much Indian TV. Saw some Gujarati movies where the hero was the same (Naresh Kanodia), the heroine was the same (Snehalata) , the guy who played the father was the same, the comedian was the same and the stories too were almost similar. They were a riot. Of course, hated the remixes to the core, loved some of the new ads that have come and realized that news channels in India are almost as vacuous as those in the US
8. Well, what did I do this time?
Rock Beach, Vada Pav, Anupam samosas, road-side juices et al. I did get a chance to check it all out. The train journey to VT was fun and the day spent in town (Planet M to Gateway, Samrat to roadside DVD purchase) was great. Of course, since I was attending a couple of weddings, my food cravings were taken care off. Lots of lovely Indian food, no dishes to wash, no clothes to clean, no house to vacuum, what more does one need in life? Spent some quality time with my parents, enjoyed staying indoors in the oppressive heat and loved reading the Times of India print edition while my mom made coffee in the morning for me. Picked up Maximum City and some cheap print books at the traffic signal.
9. Regrets
Could not meet any friends other than Sushil (everyone was busy and couldn’t spare time on the one day that I had reserved for them ), could not go to my school or college, could not travel by BEST, could not spend more time with my grandfather, could not go to Surat to play cricket at my cousin’s reception (long story, fodder for another post), could not see my childhood photographs. However, regrets are good. They leave a reason for going back.

That about bulletizes my trip. I skimmed the surface, and the coffee beneath was hot. Bitter, sweet, pulsating. The India I know but can’t completely relate to. The India that I need to introduce myself to each time I go back. ExpectNation met my expectations to a large extent.

On my way back from Churchgate, I was trying to get down at Bandra station. Rendered immobile by the rush, I was trapped in between, limbs locked in the pack. As the station came, I disembarked, helped along by a push from the back, just in time to avoid the crowd that poured in. I had finally arrived in India.


aparna said...

Damn good!! i was grinning ear to ear :D good to have you back!

And i told you, about cellphones and shopping malls.

Looking forward to some more of err...YOUR india trip..and well your INDIA trip as well! :D

Akruti said...

Welcome back,missed your posts and at the end of it i am smiling away:)keep them coming:)

phucker said...

Nice to know some parts of ExpectNation met your expectations! But seriously, I'm sure u looked at somethings and thought: "The More Things Change, the more they stay the same!"

phucker said...

A word about the national anthem - that seems to be a b'bay (or even theatre-centric?) thing! They don't do anything like that in Delhi! Shiv Sena's influence possibly?

phucker said...

Sorry one last comment - 5 Lakh Salary!@@#!@!!
That's what a seasoned Call-centre worker (or software engineer ends up making - it is most definitely a middle-class income. I'm aiming for about a minimum of 12 Lakhs a year.... that would be nice!

Sukanya M said...

You hv been booktagged at http://saintfaron.blogspot.com

Parth said...

Its great to be back and great to hear from all of you too. Thanks :-)

Tarun, I was just being modest about the 5 lakh salary. You see, I am attuned to multiples of 43 :-) I remember seeing this national anthem growing up as a kid. Somehow it went away later. Is it a SS thing? Dunno. Maybe someone who stays in Bombay can help out over here.

Ragini said...

Exactly my sentiments about Bombay. But again bombay is another world. I dont think the rest of india is there yet. Although they are defenitely headed that way.

Nice to have you back and blogging.. write away !!!

sd said...

"As the station came, I disembarked, helped along by a push from the back, just in time to avoid the crowd that poured in. I had finally arrived in India. " - Ah! trains in Mumbai - somehow its one of my fav. things @ Mumbai! Last year when I went to India felt exactly the same. If I may ask - Is Sushil - Sushilendra (from mech)?

Parth said...

I meant Sushil More from Electrical. I think Sushilendra is somewhere in the US. Avinash might know his whereabouts if you wish to get in touch with him.

Meenal Mehta said...

enjoyed reading your blog ...writing comes effortlessly to you doesnt it ?:)

Archana said...

Hey!! Welcome back! :D
Not able to identify the India that you left and the India that you visted? I guess its the same problem...when one lives away from home for a long time and then returns for a while, everything seems to have changed. Some for better and the rest for worse. But the thing is that we would have grown with the changes if we were there. Now, it isnt so....and many changes are somewhat surprising and unacceptable me thinks :)

phucker said...

Hey archana, have to ask coz I'm curious - what changes are unacceptable?

Geetanjali said...

Now this is what I was looking forward to :-)

1. So so true...sometimes it's mind-boggling to think of the kind of money going around the immense economic disparity
2. Oh yes THOSE malls that we are SO proud of - if they could think of putting one up behind the Taj Mahal...can't say anymore can I?
3. LOL I've been talking like that you know - sometimes I hear myself saying stuff like, when I was in JC I didn't get this kind of money to blow up! LOL - and hey JUST a meal at a resto with your family could cost you 1000 bucks - or forget the movie dude!;-)
4. Oh but aren't those mulitplexes such a blessing? It's so nice to be able to easily catch all the movies without having to plan a trip southwards! As for the ntl anthem, I think it was a move started by the then Shiv Sena govt and later a High-court ruling to instill a nationalistic pride in the youth, the theory being that today's youngsters can sing to the latest Bollywoof flick tunes but don't know a single line frm the anthem. It's not mandatory (infact none of the theatres in Pune follow the rule) and sev theatres in Bbay don't follow the rule - diff versions of the anthem can be heard at diff theatres - short/long, instrumental/with vocals, traditional/modern!
5. HEP-CAT? I've been away too long ;-)
6. Ooooh didn't you try out the desserts at Mocha?
7. Let's not even go there...Ekta Kapoor has revolutionised TV viewing for sure, but to what effect!!!! :-(
8 & 9 - :-) That's the spirit dude!

Stone said...

Hey Parth, nice to see u back in blogger's park....and u have to see this http://badmantalking.blogspot.com/2005/06/tagged.html

Seema said...

hey!! welcome back!!! Loved reading about your trip and about your thoughts!!

Archana said...

Its the small little things...like for example, the last time I was in Bangalore, the greenest part of the city was torn down for the construction of a flyover which was absolutely not necessary. The blind modernisation the city is heading to...girls' skirt becoming shorter and shorter everytime; guys' jeans dropping down the waistline...too many such things :)

Sachin said...

True parth , a few things striking which we growing up in apna mumbai, never experienced.
the must trip to downtown mumbai (churchgate), our very first Mcds experiment, when I bought that icecream for 27 Rs, and u guys the sucky burger (it was sucky then as it is now).

For sure, the surprise of national anthem being sung in theatres before every movie and many more u have listed up, all are amazing changes and as u have correctly figured out, somehow we never find ourselves fit the bill and for sure eating Rs 200 milkshake ($5, too a large amount, even here) will always evoke uncomfort :)

Sachin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sagar said...

Hmm... so it was interesting trip overall --- any snaps from India?

Oh -- how terribly I miss her :(

sushil said...

hey parth,
great description i was smiling all along the blog. Good observations and very nicely written.

arZan said...

bumped into your post accidentally. great article.