Oct 31, 2007

Encounter Specialist: Vijay Salaskar

Vijay Salaskar (age 50) was killed in Mumbai terrorist attacks on November 27th at Metro Cinema. More Here

Only terrorist arrested has confessed to killing Mr. Salaskar. How did the final events unfold?

With Tuesday’s encounter, the number of criminals shot dead by inspector Vijay Salaskar touched 78. Salaskar, who was reportedly sidelined for the last two years for unearthing the gutka-underworld nexus, was recently attached to the crime branch, where he currently heads the anti-extortion cell. An officer of the 1983 batch, Salaskar in his 24 years of service has eliminated many criminals. Amar Naik, Jaggu Shetty, Sadhu Shetty, Kundan Singh Rawat, Zahoor Makhanda are some of the gangsters who have fallen to Salaskar’s bullets. According to sources, the police officer had once even gone hunting for former don Arun Gawli. “But Gawli fled from the scene, forcing Salaskar to return empty-handed. However, Salaskar got even by killing his two trusted men, Sada Pawle and Vijay Tandel, in 1997, triggering allegations that the encounters were fake. After this, Gawli was so scared that during the 2005 elections, he complained to the government that Salaskar was trying to kill him and requested that he be transferred,’’ sources said.

This is what Salaskar said in 2004 about Mr, Gawli.

Gawli may have become an MLA. But for me, he continues to remain a former Mumbai don and I have to keep tabs on his activities. If I get any information of his group's involvement in a crime or learn about any shady activity going on at Dagdi Chawl, I will not hesitate to raid his Byculla residence. If I have to arrest him, I will not refrain from doing so. Now that Gawli is an MLA, arresting him will involve certain procedures. I will not bow to any political pressure. I will only take orders from the police commissioner, who is my supreme commander.

It was embarrassing that khaki-clad policemen would be deployed to protect Gawli. In the past, we refused him police protection on several occasions. At that time, I had gunned down several of his top henchmen and so he was scared of me. But if Gawli is really reformed, he should not be afraid of me or any other policeman. We do not target innocent persons.

Diwali Sweets: Diabetes and Coronary rolled into one

Diwali Sweets

Mumbai has changed quite a bit over the years. Just listen to the music played during the Ganesh Utsav. Dress code has changed quiet a bit and we have started celebrating Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and even Boss's Day.
One things that has not changed in this "six pack" world yet is the "Sweets of Diwali".
These fat pills are diabetes and coronary rolled into one nice delivery mechanism.

Oct 29, 2007

Mumbai Shoreline Erosion

Western India, 65 million years ago. Huge volcanic eruptions convulse the surface of the earth. Lava spews out of a longitudinal scar running all the way from Mumbai to Nagpur. As the ground cools, basalt formations like Malabar Hill and Gilbert Hill crystallize. A few hundred kilometres up north, the Western Ghats start to swell up. With the passage of time, a turbulent sea carves out more land and soon a string of islands are formed.

For those unsure about the long-term effects of coastal erosion on India’s commercial capital, visions of the post-Jurassic Age may hold the key to some answers. Scientists believe there was a time when not only were dinosaurs in this part of the world wiped out but large rocky outcrops jutting out from the mainland got severed and were left marooned in the Arabian Sea.

Mumbai’s geological history reveals a pattern of soil erosion, which explains the emergence of the seven islands and the presence of partly submerged isles like Butcher and Elephanta around it. A team from the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) has recently helped reinforce this view by establishing a rate of sea level rise along the Arabian coast over the past century, thus suggesting an age-old decline in land mass. “The process taking place today is the key to the past,’’ says geologist and erstwhile Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) professor V Subramaniam, who has spent years studying physical features along the city’s coastline. Over the past three decades, Subramaniam has inspected beachfronts and bays running down from Cuffe Parade to Marve and found ample evidence of the terrain wearing away under constant buffeting by waves. “I have seen walls around buildings disappearing at Versova, you can imagine what is happening there,’’ he adds.

Down the ages, the shoreline is in fact believed to have evolved from a straight configuration into one indented by bays and creeks owing to such pressure. With tides going up to five metres and strong currents swirling close to land, the Mumbai coast is under active and constant attack. And the same activity, when extrapolated over millions of years under the influence of global warming and melting glaciers, leads scientists to believe there will be further ‘separation’ of portions from the mainland. “It may seem incredible, but Butcher Island and Elephanta were once part of the same land mass as Mumbai. To understand this phenomenon, you must look at terrain around Malabar Hill,’’ says Subramaniam.

The Hill, home to the city’s rich and famous, is a promontory that is lashed by waves on either side. Situated at the southern edge of a ridge that runs down through Cumballa Hill, parts of Worli and Pali Hill, it’s an area that lends itself to coastal disintegration. The early signs of stress along the shore near Raj Bhavan is visible to the expert’s eye; if unchecked, it could lead to corrosion and development of caves and small arches. Further on, as terrain crumbles and roofs collapse, the stage may be set for the strip to break away.

The question is, when? Conservative thinkers believe that given the rate at which the sea is rising, any such destruction can be slowed down or mitigated by constructing promenades and protective walls like the ones at Marine Drive or Carter Road. However, others fear there are changes coming which may be immediate. Debi Goenka, who’s at the forefront of Mumbai’s environmental movement, says new data shows “the Arctic ice caps are melting faster than thought to earlier’’ and this could have a profound impact on the behaviour of the sea.

Of course, doomsday predictions are leavened by oceanographers who are unwilling to rule out the possibility that coastal erosion along a stretch can reverse owing to shifts in wave fields and currents. A vanishing beach can have sand being deposited along it in the distant future. “I remember as a young boy how tiny Miramar beach used to be,’’ says a greying NIO director S R Shetye, whose institute overlooks the waterfront in Goa. “Today the same beach has widened in size and has sand constantly being deposited along it.’’

Oct 28, 2007

Nargis and Sunil Dutt love Story

Everything was going well until the wind changed direction. Suddenly Nargis was trapped inside a ring of fire. In a manner reminiscent of his daredevil days in Khurd, Sunil leapt into the flames. Strangely, Nargis had made no attempt to get out of the fire. She later said she was listening to some higher power which told her to stay there, and was 'ambiguous' about being rescued. But when Sunil reached her, she allowed him to lead her out. They were both badly burnt. Sunil had burns on his face and chest, and she had burns on her hands. Had Sunil not acted swiftly, Nargis could have lost her life in the fire.

She was only 28 years old then.

Bombay was too far for the injured couple to travel, so Mehboob sent them to recuperate in his homestead in Billimora, 35 miles from Umra… Once at Billimora, Nargis felt better after swallowing some painkillers, but she was horrified when she went into Sunil's room. He had high fever and was drifting in and out of consciousness. Nargis felt her inaction during the fire was responsible for his state. She sat by his side, changed the bandages, gave him his medicine and kept vigil over him. She placed wet bandages on his fevered brow, brought him food, and sat with him throughout the night, carefully monitoring his comfort. She anxiously waited for him to open his eyes, and was surprised at the rush of relief she felt when he did… Sunil was deeply moved by her efforts to look after him. After all, she was a famous film star and he was still a newcomer. Yet, she was making him feel as though they had known each other for ages. His natural reticence in front of women began to recede. Soon they were talking like friends-sharing ideas, thoughts, dreams. Their fortnight in Billimora became a turning point: incredibly, they had fallen in love.
As she sat by his bedside, she realized that his courage in pulling her out of the fire had impressed her. It was a long time since someone had sacrificed anything for her. She was the one who always did things for others, whether it was for her family or Raj. Though they were both close to 30 years of age, when she looked at Sunil she saw something of the ideals she had once possessed.

His shy and gentle style, quite unlike Raj's flirtatiousness, was like a balm to her. Unusually, she was spending time with a man who treated her like a normal human being.

To her own surprise, as she talked to Sunil, she realized she had stopped caring for Raj a long, long time ago. And even if she had loved him, it had never been like this. What she felt now was a powerful emotion that engulfed her and made her happy beyond belief. The depression she had been through evaporated in the face of this love. She admitted that she may have ended her life because of the 'turmoil' in it, had he (Sunil) not said, 'I want you to live.' Raj had come into her life when she was 19 and ready for a relationship. If it hadn't been Raj, it would have been someone else; he just happened to be her first boyfriend.

She said she was 'shameless' in discussing every detail of her life, and was not worried because she knew 'that his (Sunil's) shoulders were always there for me to cry on-and I also knew that his garments will absorb my tears and not scatter them out for people to make fun of me.' As the days merged into one another, Sunil discovered how difficult the last few years had been for Nargis, caught in a hopeless relationship with a man who did not care for her reputation or her future, and only wanted to exploit her. More and more he wanted to protect her and look after her forever. She confessed to Sunil that her relations with Raj had been on a 'razor's edge', and that she had been 'desperately' trying to cling to him without any response. She told him that Raj 'had started making me feel disgusting even to myself' and that before she met Sunil, she had 'no reason to be living-I was like that beautiful plant which wanted to bloom but could not because there was poison in the soil.'

With Sunil, things were different. To begin with, he was not as complicated a person as Raj. He was a straightforward, plainspeaking man with a deep respect for women. He could never put his woman on a pedestal one minute and abuse her the next. He was also far less experienced in matters of the heart. Apart from a few mild flirtations, he had never been with a woman, or even had a girlfriend. It was this naïveté that appealed to Nargis, no longer the young girl who had been swept away by twinkling blue eyes. She longed for someone steady and thoughtful. She found in him all the old values of chivalry that made her feel safe. Finally, she had met someone whom she could respect as well. And even more wonderfully, she loved him and he loved her back!

In her letters she was open and blunt about her affection. And within the fortnight they had decided to get married. But it would be a while before they could share their secret with the world. Mother India was still under production, and had people suspected an affair between Nargis and Sunil, it could have led to a scandal.

To avoid their relationship becoming public, the couple began to employ all sorts of strategies. They decided that they would not speak about it to anybody, or at least to as few as possible. As a result, even to this day, most people, even family and friends closest to them, have no idea how often they met in those early days. It was usually in secret, at night. Since they couldn't meet openly, they constantly wrote to each other. In their letters and in the journal each one kept, they addressed each other as 'Pia' and 'Hey There'. When they sent telegrams to each other, they would sign as 'Pia' and 'Hey There'.

Another set of fun pseudonyms was 'Marilyn Monroe' and 'Elvis Presley'.

In her correspondence with Sunil, Nargis reveals herself to be a woman hungry to show her love. Almost as though she could gaze into the future, she wrote to him, 'Darling, don't get angry, but remember even if I die, I will always be there with you spiritually. I am so much attached to you that even death can't take me away completely from you.' These lines would probably comfort Sunil much later, but right now it was the constant separation and the rumours which had him worried.

Oct 26, 2007

Jet Airways's Naresh Goyal

Naresh Goyal

Naresh Goyal is an inscrutable man. If you’re not in his line of fire, being around him can be a lot of fun. He’s got a great sense of humour. He laughs so often that it’s impossible not to laugh with him. He’s a great conversationalist with a few million stories to tell—and he tells them well. And then there is his legendary hospitality—Goyal is on first name terms with the who’s who at every major city in the world. It is, therefore, easy to imagine the promoter of Jet Airways as an uncomplicated man who’s done a pretty good job of creating a pretty good airline.

Those feelings are reinforced when you walk into his office in suburban Mumbai. You’re struck by the absence of a work desk with all the mandatory trappings like a laptop, PDAs and customised stationary—only a table around which eight people can be seated and a few sofas to lounge around on. And his words are crafted to disarm you. “I’m not a very educated man. I don’t need all that,” he says and delivers his trademark, high pitched laugh.

But accepting these assumptions and his selfdeprecatory remarks at face value would be rather naïve. People who’ve seen him at close quarters will tell you Goyal doesn’t need a desk to write on. Every scrap of information is filed away in his head for posterity. And he never forgets—anything. It’s the people around him who take instructions and do all the writing. The table is for them. “He’s a bloody tough boss to be with,” mutters an executive who’s seen him from close quarters.

But then, airlines are built by tough men. Goyal started creating one when only two kinds of airlines existed in the country. Those run by the state like Air India and Indian Airlines, which didn’t give a rat’s backside what people thought. And while newer entrants like East West and Damania tried hard to make a living, for various reasons they went belly up. As Goyal says, “The quickest way to become a millionaire is to first become a billionaire and then get into the airline business.” Just making it through those years needed ruthless grit. To Goyal’s credit, he manoeuvred his way through a seemingly impossible system to create an airline that has for all practical purposes defined how Indians view the flying experience. “I have no personality, so I can fit in anywhere,” he says.

You would be forgiven therefore for imagining that now, all is well in Goyal’s world. Truth is, nothing is what it seems. Aviation analysts reckon when this financial year closes, collectively, the business will have to absorb $500 million in losses. In large part, this is a function of too many airplanes chasing too few passengers. Last year for instance, passenger traffic grew at roughly 40-45%. But airline capacity grew at 50%. Supply outstripped demand and airlines dropped fares to fill their planes. Lower fares, however, meant the passenger load factor had to be in excess of 80% for airlines to break even. For most players—Jet included—it has been in the region of 70%. Given these realities, it is difficult to imagine what shape Jet Airways will take in the future. Surely, Goyal knows.

The perfectionist:

Problem is, Goyal isn’t telling. Asking him to answer the question is a no-brainer. Because he is the kind of man who plays his cards close. Take this time for instance when his A-team woke up one June morning in 2005 at their homes in Mumbai. Each one of them nearly choked on their coffee.

Business papers were full of Goyal’s decision to order 20 new wide bodied aircraft for Jet Airways at the Paris air show. All of it, the newspapers reported, was to be delivered and inducted into the airline’s fleet over 18 months. But nobody at the airline—not the CEO, not the directors on Goyal’s board, absolutely nobody—had a clue this was coming.

It is not clear why he did that. Some speculate Goyal had seen as far back as then that Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines would be a force to reckon with in the years to come. Goyal, they say, wanted the first mover advantage, never mind how impossible the task of inducting these planes into the fleet seemed. Then there are others who argue that Goyal is an emotional man—and that it was an impulsive decision driven by little reason.

Whatever the case be, says an executive who has since then quit the airline: “It was unheard of. And we didn’t even know what routes the planes would be deployed on. That was when I asked myself, what am I doing at this place?” Those were the days when ambiguity existed around the rules that permitted Indian airlines to fly abroad. Not just that, there were no trained pilots or engineers in the country who could manage the Boeing 777.

“I wonder what would have happened if the government hadn’t changed the rules!” says the executive. “I guess that is the difference between an entrepreneur and a CEO,” he adds. “CEOs are handsome. Entrepreneurs are ugly,” says Goyal and roars with laughter. So is it true, we ask him, that he is a control freak who gives nothing away? “I get into detail. That makes me passionate about my business, not a control freak,” he says.

People around him though “wish he interfered a little less in the daily operations”. Does that lead to complications? “Yes,” says a source at Jet Airways. “The chain of command is disrupted.” How does that matter, we press. When Goyal decided to acquire Air Sahara, says the source, there was no doubt in anybody’s mind it was a good deal—not because of what Air Sahara had managed to achieve, but because of what it could potentially bring to the table. “But Goyal doesn’t think too much of a chain of command. When he wants something done, he gets it done. It doesn’t matter who is mandated to do it. In this case, we couldn’t complete the due diligence. It was only after we closed the deal that skeletons started tumbling out of the closet.”

For instance? “Some planes were unfit to fly,” says the executive. “Then there was the fact that Sahara hadn’t put any money into maintaining its fleet for months. We didn’t know that.” So why does Goyal run things the way he does? “Look at it this way,” says the former Jet executive, “He holds 80% in the airline. This is his wealth. If it fails, he is paranoid he will be known forever as a failed entrepreneur. To that extent he is right.” Ask Goyal if the stories about him being a tough boss to work with are true, he looks back at you quizzically and laughs. “I’ve never sacked anybody in my life,” he says. “If I don’t want somebody, I give him newspapers to read. After three months of doing nothing else but reading the papers, they get the message and leave,” he says. “That doesn’t make me a tough boss,” he concludes.

Method to the madness:

By the middle of next year, the wide bodied aircraft that Goyal ordered, much to the chagrin of his team, will be deployed on international routes. Another three that have been ordered will be deployed in 2009. The assumption is this: Jet Airways will take losses for 12-18 months on each of the routes it operates on. That is the deadline Goyal has set his team to break even. The airline has already started making profits on the Mumbai-London, Mumbai-Singapore and Chennai-Singapore routes. If the relentless pace at which routes are being added tapers off, by 2010, all of the routes Jet Airways flies on will become profitable ones. By then, Goyal is hoping that 50% of all his business will come from international operations.

As far as domestic routes are concerned, the expectation is the market will grow at 25-30% for at least five years. Capacity additions, however, will be in the region of 12-15%. Coupled with consolidation in the industry and the argument that “however rich Mallya is, his resources are also finite,” the airline expects a certain amount of rationalisation to steady the business.

Eventually, argues Goyal, he will leave his business to professionals to run “because my children aren’t interested in it. My son only wants to play cricket and my daughter has expressed no interest in it.” “Sooner or later, he will have to dilute his 80% stake. I suspect he will wait until the time he feels the valuations are right,” says an aviation analyst. “And in the future, if regulations permit, he may even bring in a foreign partner,” adds the analyst. Talk in aviation circles is that Lufthansa and British Airways are interested parties. But like everything else with Goyal, it is impossible to know until it happens. In the meantime, Goyal continues to work relentlessly. As he puts it, “To build an airline with the technical efficiency of Lufthansa, the on time performance of Swiss Air, the service quality of Singapore Airlines and the accident free record of Qantas.” By all accounts, he’s getting there.

Oct 21, 2007

Electricity in Mumbai

High tension transmission lines

Mumbai saw electric lighting for the first time in 1882. The place was the Crawford Market. The following year the Municipality entered into an agreement with the Eastern Electric Light and Power Company. Under the agreement, the Company was to provide electric lighting in the Crawford Market and on some of the roads. But the Company went into liquidation the following year, and the Market reverted to gas lighting. Thus ended the first scheme to provide electric lighting in the city.

Another scheme was taken up for consideration in 1891; and in 1894 the Municipality sanctioned funds for installing a plant to generate electricity. The current was to be supplied to the Municipal offices and Crawford Market. It was, and the two places were fitted up with electric lights. But by 1906, with the wear and tear of all those years, the machinery at the plant was in a bad way. The current would stop off and on. So, once again, Crawford Market went back to gas lighting. The Municipal offices, however, arranged to get the electricity it needed from the newly established "Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company".

This Company was originally established in England, as a subsidiary of the British Electric Traction Company, which had been trying since 1903 to bring electricity to Mumbai. The Brush Electrical Engineering Company was its agent. It applied to the Municipality and the Government of Bombay in 1904 for a license to supply electricity to the city. With the municipality approving the Company’s schedule of rates, the Government issued the necessary license : "The Bombay Electric License, 1905. When the Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company came into being, it entered into a contract with the original licensee to take over the right of supplying electricity to the city.

The Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company (B.E.S.T.) set up a generating station at Wadi Bunder in November 1905 to provide power for the tramway. The capacity of the station was 4,300 kws. The needs of the city and of the tramway in respect of electric power were bound to grow. At a rough estimate the full capacity of the Wadi Bunder plant was not going to be adequate beyond 1908. The plant could not be expanded much either. So it was decided to set up another generating station, one with a higher capacity, near Mazgaon (Kussara). It started functioning in 1912. The pace at which the demand for electricity grew can be gauged from the fact that within three years the Wadi Bunder Station proved to be inadequate. The tram service had been expanding, and more and more power was needed for the industrial and commercial establishments, as well as for domestic purposes.

Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company started supplying electricity to the city in 1905. Until 1926, the Company had been generating its own electricity for distribution to its consumers. Later, the Tata Electric Companies started supplying electricity to the BEST. The Tata Electric Companies (The Andhra Valley Power Supply Co. The Tata Power Supply Co., The Tata Hydroelectric Power Supply Co.) generated electricity from their reservoirs at Bhira, Bhivpuri and Khopoli in the Western Ghats. A major portion of it was transmitted through 110,000 Volts overhead lines to their Receiving Stations at Dharavi and Parel. In these Receiving Stations the voltage used to be transformed to 22,000 and 6,600 volts for ease of distribution. The Tata Electric Companies provided, through their cables, electricity at requisite voltage to the industries and mills, the Railways, the Bombay Suburban Electric Supply Company and the BEST.

In 1947, when the Company was taken over by the Municipal Corporation, the Undertaking was buying electricity from Tatas at nine receiving points known as : Kussara, Mahim, Kingsway, Jamnadas, Suparibag, Lalbaug, Esplanade, Palton and Backbay. At all these points, except Kussara, Kingsway and Mahim, the supply was received at 6,600 Volts. The supply was received at 22,000 Volts and transformed through Tatas’ transformers to 5,500 Volts at Kussara and to 6,600 Volts at Kingsway and Mahim. From these receiving points the cable network carried power to 247 Substations situated in different areas of the city. With the help of transformers at these substations, the voltage was further transformed to 400/230 Volts, suitable for use in the factory, shop and home. It was made available to the consumers through a low voltage distribution network and service cables to individual buildings. The major portion of electricity distributed was at Alternating Current (A.C.). But, in some areas of South Bombay, particularly Fort, Kalbadevi and Girgaum, Direct Current (D.C.) was supplied at a voltage of 460/230 Volts. To convert it into D.C., Rotary Converters were operated at Pathakwadi, Telwadi, Apollo and Palton Road Substations and Mercury Arc Rectifiers were used at Phirozshah Mehta Road substation.

Oct 20, 2007

New Scheme for Mumbai Taxis

Mumbai Taxi Meter Bombay

Mumbaiites will soon be able to hire a taxi of their choice. Fulora Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in Mumbai, plans to set up a new special purpose vehicle (SPV) called Mumbai Gold Cab (P) Ltd, which will own a fleet of yellow taxis that would be leased to several taxi drivers under a scheme designed to help taxi drivers and commuters.

A taxi driver joining the scheme will get a brand new vehicle in exchange for the old car. The driver will have to pay a daily instalment, which will depend on the type of car chosen. Those do not have the taxi permit will have to pay a security deposit of Rs 20,000, said Mr Arun Sabnis, CEO, Mumbai Gold Cab. The minimum daily instalment works out to about Rs 300. The SPV hopes to bank finance at one per cent lower than the market rate, he added.

Initially, the vehicle will be owned by the company and leased to the operator. After five years, the ownership will be transferred to the operator.

Mr Sabnis said that there would be three segments of the fleet - basic, medium and luxury. For every 1.5 km clocked by the vehicle, the customer would be charged Rs 15 (basic), Rs 19 (medium) and Rs 24 (luxury) respectively. The basic segment comprises vehicles such as Tata Indigo, Indigo Marina, Maruti Esteem and Hyundai Accent; medium segment has the Mitsubishi Lancer and the luxury segment the Toyota Corolla.

The new service will be carried out in three shifts of eight hours each. Thus, productivity will be high and drivers will earn more than what current black and yellow cab and cool cab drivers earn, said Mr Sabnis.

In comparison to the rates charged, the black and yellow cab currently charges a minimum of Rs 13, while the cool cab charges Rs 16.50 per 1.5 km. Under the scheme, the company will offer 24-hour service, bookings through fax, SMS, Internet, taxi terminals and radio booking through GPRS technology. Besides these services, the fleet will come with facilities like car audio and video entertainment, said Mr Sabnis.

Regular customers will be given a pre-paid charge card (Standard, Classic, Silver and Gold). Every card member will get bonus points that can be redeemed against normal taxi usages, while corporate card members will be provided with pre-sanctioned limited swipe cards.

Bindaas in Oxford English Dictionary

बिंदास A Hindi colloquial word normally used in Mumbai meaning:

No restraint.
With reckless abandon.
Full force.
Breaking all boundaries.

It means to be laid back or saying its all cool. Its when u are cool to the point of not caring at all.

"She ran the red stop light bindaas!"
"Man, you should bindaas go talk to that hot chick."

person 1: hey, are you ready for the big exam we have tomorrow?
bindaas person: bindaas (nothing to worry)

Residential Property Rates in Mumbai

More recent (Jan 2009) rates here

Here's a tabulation of real estate prices in Mumbai.

Transgenders of Mumbai

hijra eunuch transgender mumbai
If there a child born or if there is a wedding in the family in Mumbai, hijra's always visit to bless and collect money. Families gladly give them some mainly to get rid of them and not to create a scene. These hijras can be seen walking across slow moving Mumbai traffic. Hijras are eunuchs.
A eunuch is a castrated man; the term usually refers to those castrated in order to perform a specific social function, as was common in many societies of the past. In the culture of the Indian subcontinent a hijra (also known by a number of different names and romanized spellings) is usually considered a member of "the third sex" — neither man nor woman. Most are physically male or intersex, but some are female. Hijras usually refer to themselves as female at the language level, and usually dress as women. Census data does not exist, but estimates range from 50,000 to 5,000,000 in India alone.

Becoming a hijra is a process of socialization into a "hijra family" through a relationship characterised as chela "student" to guru "teacher", leading to a gradual assumption of femininity. Stereotypically each guru lives with at least five chelas; her chelas assume her surname and are considered part of his lineage. Chelas are expected to give their income to their guru, who manages the household. Hijra families are close knit communities, which often have their own houses.

hijra dancing eunuch mumbaiThis process may culminate in a religious ritual that includes emasculation (total removal of the penis, testes and scrotum in men). Not all hijras undergo emasculation, and the percentage of hijras that are eunuchs is unknown. The operation—referred to by hijras as a nirvan ("rebirth") and carried out by a dai (traditional midwife)—involves removing the penis and scrotum with a knife without anesthesia. In modern times, some hijras may undergo a vaginoplasty, allowing them sexual fulfillment through vaginal intercourse, but such cases are rare. The American transsexual activist Anne Ogborne became an initiated Hijra a few years ago. She is the first westerner to be a member of the Hijra community.

Most hijras live at the margins of society with very low status; the very word "hijra" is sometimes used in a derogatory manner. Few employment opportunities are available to hijras. Many get their income from performing at ceremonies, begging, or prostitution — an occupation of eunuchs also recorded in premodern times. Violence against hijras, especially hijra sex workers, is often brutal, and occurs in public spaces, police stations, prisons, and their homes.[7] As with transgender people in most of the world, they face extreme discrimination in health, housing, education, employment, immigration, law, and any bureaucracy that is unable to place them into male or female gender categories. One hijra reports waiting in the emergency room of a hospital for hours while medical staff debated whether to admit her to the men's or women's ward.

Hijras have earned an income from the Indian government for collecting taxes from the villages and cities, the most effective method ever employed by the India government in collecting taxes still used in some cities.

Hijras are often encountered on streets, trains, and other public places demanding money from young men. If refused, the hijra may attempt to embarrass the man into giving money, using obscene gestures, profane language, and even sexual advances. Hijras also perform religious ceremonies at weddings and at the birth of male babies, involving music, singing, and sexually suggestive dancing. These are intended to bring good luck and fertility. Although the hijra are most often uninvited, the host usually pays the hijras a fee. Many fear the hijras' curse if they are not appeased, bringing bad luck or infertility, but for the fee they receive, they can bless goodwill and fortune on to the newly born. Hijras are said to be able to do this because, since they do not engage in sexual activities, they accumulate their sexual energy which they can use to either bestow a boon or a bane.

Oct 19, 2007

Monalisa Indian Style


As a tribute to the old masters of European art, and as a way of asserting his creative freedom, Gopal Swami Khetanchi has transformed classic paintings into Indian persona. On display at Nehru Center, Discovery of India building.

Very interesting. Though the idea is not new. Bollywood has been doing this for a while now.

Oct 17, 2007

Airport Slums to Disappear Soon

In another 18 months, people flying into the city may not have to hover in the sky over the airport before their aircraft receives permission to land. Around 80,000 shanties - a roadblock to infrastructure development - are finally getting a move on towards rehabilitation. Housing Development and Infrastructure Ltd (HDIL) has bagged the contract for rehabilitation of airport slum dwellers. Five construction firms participated in the bidding process.

According to the contract signed between Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL), the GVK-led private consortium modernising the airport, and the winning bidder, the slum rehabilitation process will be divided into four phrases.

The first phrase will be completed by April 2009. The airside infrastructure upgrade work will begin as soon as the first phrase is completed.

If all goes well, fliers can expect more taxiways, and maybe another runway After this kind of an upgrade, landing aircraft will be able vacate the runway easily and fast, reducing the distance between the tarmac and the car park.

"We are undertaking a model slum rehab exercise and are confident it will translate into a time-bound delivery of airport development," said MIAL Chairman G.V Krishna Reddy.

Airport sources, who requested anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media, said a survey of around 28,000 families eligible for rehabilitation had already been carried out.

The MMRDA, the nodal agency appointed by MIAL for slum rehabilitation will now act as the project implementing agency slum dwellers, however, were unaware about the development.

Update: Dharavi Project details are emerging.

Oct 16, 2007

Wankhede Stadium

Wankhede Cricket Stadium Mumbai

The Wankhede Stadium will be undergoing renovations and won't be open till 2010 after the one day between India and Australia on Oct 17th, 2007.

The Wankhede Stadium is the second largest cricket stadium in the Indian city of Mumbai. This ground was built after disputes between the Cricket Club of India which own the Brabourne Stadium, and the Mumbai Cricket Association over the allocation of tickets for cricket matches. This became severe after the Test between India and England in 1973. At the initiative of S. K. Wankhede, a politician and the secretary of the Mumbai Cricket Association, MCA built the new stadium in South Mumbai near the Churchgate station. It was built in six months and opened in time for the final Test between India and the West Indies in 1975. Since then the Wankhade stadium has taken over from Brabourne Stadium as the main cricketing venue in the city. The stadium has a capacity of 45,000 and is always in contention to host an international match in India.

The stadium has been witness to great innings like Gavaskar's 205 against the Windies and Kallicharan's 187 in the same game in the 1978-79 series and all round heroics like Ian Botham's century and thirteen wickets in the Jubilee Test in 1980. which England won by ten wickets. The highest score by an Indian at Wankhede remains Vinod Kambli's 224 against England in 1992-93 in only his third Test. Incidentally Ravi Shastri's six sixes in an over off Baroda's Tilak Raj en route to the fastest double-hundred in first-class cricket was on this ground in 1984-85.

The cricket pitch is known to offer assistance to bowlers and is largely a spinner and pace friendly track. It offers spin and bounce to spin bowlers and swing to fast bowlers during the early part of each day due to the ground being close to sea.On days four and five of a test the pitch does tend to break up a fair bit which in turn offers great assistance to spinners. In 1995 the stadium was upgraded and lights were added to host day and night games. Later, in 1996 it hosted an India-Australia match in the 1996 Cricket World Cup.

The most recent Test match played was India versus England between March 18 and 22, 2006 in which England won by 212 runs to tie the series 1-1; an interesting fact with this is that only five sides have ever batted last at Wankhede in an international match and won; South Africa was the last side to achieve this feat, and was chasing 163 to win, unlike the last Test where India was set a ground-record of 313 on the final day to win.

International superstar Shakira held a concert on March 25, 2007 as part of her Oral Fixation Tour.

The main gates to the ground are named after Polly Umrigar and Vinoo Mankad. The stands are named after famous Mumbai cricketers like Vijay Merchant (West stand), Sunil Gavaskar (East stand upper) and Sachin Tendulkar (North stand).

Oct 15, 2007

Mumbai Bargirls and Navratri

Mumbai Bargirls

Mumbai dance bars have been officially closed for more than 18 months now. The girls of the dance bars have tried everything from protests to court cases. Maharashtra government has not budged.

Now the Navratri festival has provided a new avenue for these unemployed girls. 40,000 jobless bargirls are minting money by escorting single men to the festivities. The business is brisk.

The girls have been offered Rs. 15,000 per night of dancing and the figure is expected to go up. This will bring in the bargirls who refused to go the prostitution route.

Oct 13, 2007

Mumbai Traffic Police Bloody Coasters

These coasters were printed using special invisible red ink which spreads only when moistened. Mumbai Police placed them at tables and bar counters in Mumbai's prominent bars. When a customer placed his frosted, moist glass on it, the red ink starts spreading and the normal face starts bleeding.

Gandhi and Scotch Tape

This ad references Gandhi's famous spinning wheel. He used to spin yarn using this charkha as a means of symbolizing the need for India to be self-reliant in textiles and boycott English fabrics.

Mahatma's spinning wheel is the wheel you see on the Indian tri-color flag. This ad captures the wheel and connects it to daily life of modern India so well.

Save Trees Campaign Ad

Indian Culture has a ritual where married women worship banyan tree and pray for their husband's long life. With trees disappearing so fast, soon Indian women will have to look for a substitute, which is electrical lamppost in this case. (We cannot abolish this custom as it may mean contempt of our culture.) So, the only way we could save our culture is by planting more trees.
Agency website: http://sudler.com
Creative Director: Sudhakar More
Art Director: Parvej Pathan
Copywriter: Priyanka Sabnis
Photographer: Prashant Anjikar

Navratri in Mumbai

Navratri is a Hindu festival of worship and dance. The word literally means nine nights. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti -- which is a metaphor for goddess Durga are worshipped. Durga represents female divinity.

The following nine forms of goddesses are worshipped.

1. Durga -- the inaccessible one

2. Bhadrakali

3. Amba or Jagadamba -- the mother of universe

4. Annapurna -- the one who bestows grains

5. Sarvamangala -- the one who gives joy

6. Bhairavi

7. Chandi

8. Lalita

9. Bhavani

The Navratri begins on the first day of the Hindu lunar month of Ashwin. The first three days are devoted to Durga who destroys all impurities, vices, and defects. The next three days are devoted to Laxmi, who bestows inexhaustible wealth. The final three days devoted to Saraswati who bestows wisdom.

Nightly Garba and Dandiya dances can be observed all over Mumbai.

Oct 6, 2007

T20 Cricket World Champions

Indian team won the first ever T20 Cricket championship. The team was an underdog and won the tournament by beating the best teams England, South Africa, Australia, and Pakistan in the finals.
Mumbai is a cricket crazy city. The picture above shows the pedestrians gathering outside an electronics shop to watch the finals.

Wiping Gandhi's Tears

Mahatma Gandhi's statue is seen here getting the treatment before October 2nd celebrations on his birthday.