Monday, January 30, 2006

Another ad/life blog

Thanks everyone who shared their comments on the previous blog about big cities and small towns. I notice that the feeling is catching on. I saw an ad for Wagon R today (an MUV from Maruti, India's largest car maker) and it was about a young guy, ex-investment banker, who gives up his job to start an adventure sports company. 'My office is now 10 X 4', goes the vocie over, and has him sitting on a fold up chair in the white silver sands of Rishikesh, catching trout for supper and relaxing with a girl by his side. The tagline is something about the next generation.
This actually takes the Tata Dicor, 'Make your own road' ad a step further in terms of thought. That had the guy in an underground tunnel with the now-famous 'I always wanted to quit on a Monday morning' and urged people to make their own path in life. This Wagon R ad (and both are vehicles) actually shows a guy who has done that -- quit a plush city job to set up base in the mountains and the river, and enjoying himself to the hilt, no regret in sight.
This is obviously a reflection of how we are feeling and heading. Every other day I come across someone who has either quit or wants to quit their job to do something else. Maybe even just social work, without money (a blog on that later). In fact, there is a blogger who is with a top notch consultancy and is quitting his job to pursue full-time writing. I know a colleague who is quitting to do some social work with kids, and I know a high profile executive who nurtures dreams to work with an NGO soon. This generation has not seen a real war, alienation, separation, partition. Not up close at least. I know that my only brush with the partition is through stories, and even those are not peppered with gore anymore as grandparents find themselves having forgotten or chosen to forget the horrors and settled into a somewhat comfortable environment. This generation has been born into homes with cars and computers, OK not iPods, but micros, fridges, ovens yes and the basic comforts of life were a given. Which is why they have the balls to actually think of doing this. Can you imagine our dad and mums quitting their jobs to set up adventure camps or a shaadi.com or some such? It's interesting, the freedom that a booming economy brings. You can actually afford to unleash yourself from the 'let's make pots of money race' which is precisely what the country is doing, and do something different, because it's only when the going's good that people have the money to spend on your 'different' service. If it wasn't you'd too be behind that 9-9 desk looking at that ad which goes 'I always wanted to quit on a Monday morning' and thinking, 'Yeah man, I so want that'.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Mumbaikar? What does it mean?

Bombay, Mumbai, Mumbaiyya, Mumbaikar... what is the cut off point? When do you stop being an outsider and become a Mumbaikar? When does Delhi, Kanpur, Nagpur, Kolkata stop mattering? Is it five years or 10? Or is it one year for some? Or are some people Mumbaikars before they even come here? In their state of mind, in their thinking... Are they just perfectly fitted to come here and gel with the masses that throb and throng this bustling metropolis? When do these people stop saying 'I live in Mumbai but I originally belong to ...' Are there some people who never have to say that at all?
I don't know. I don't think I totally fit in yet. If fitting in means becoming tolerant and insensitive to the muck and the traffic snarls and the huge health menace the open drains and the gutters pose, then I never want to fit in. Not in Mumbai, not anywhere else. If becoming immune to deaths by building collapses and immune to open spaces being sold to the highest bidder which choke the city's lungs means fitting in, then I never want to fit in. But yes if it means crusading for the city we live in, to make it a better more breathable place, then I would like to fit in. Unfortunately that isn't happening. Suhel Seth had written a huge piece in HT the other day while he was in Mumbai attending the Luxury Conference and I'm afraid, for once I have to agree with the man. I can't imagine anyone from Delhi coming here and not wanting to head right back in two days, if for nothing else but to just breathe in peace. To see green. Real green, not in a new fashion creation by Surily Goel, but in trees, in leaves, in the grass.
Yes I was miserable initially and I did miss Delhi and I did realise that how much ever I never prided myself on being a Delhiite (I still don't fully consider myself one, since I wasn't born there and didn't spend my formative years there) I think I definitely connect more to Delhi. For one, it's predominantly Punjabi so I understand the language, the culture, the habits, the people. unlike Mumbai where I don't understand Marathi and Gujarati but that won't stop people from speaking in the language when they spot a fellow being. Plus, Delhi has green spaces. On my drive to work I used to pass through the ridge and it was green. The areas around Connaught Place like Prithviraj Road are beautiful in the winter with all the trees in blossom. So is Chandigarh. The main sector 17 and 18 road, down from Sector 8 is just gorgeous. I think I would seriously be a happier person if I was closer to nature, because that's how I grew up. I am so missing having a dog these days that I think about it every day. This is the first time in my life that I don't have a pet. But a pet in Mumbai is like torture for the animal, and if you've ever loved animals, then you'll know that you don't just get a pet to make yourself happy.
Sometimes I really want to shift to a smaller town, like a Pune, which incidentally I've never even been to. So one won't have to travel two hours to meet a friend. Like Shobhaa De says. The other day she wrote in her Bombay Times column that she's stopped accepting invitations beyond Kemp's Corner (she lives in Cuffe Parade) and much as that sounds horribly snooty I can't help but agree with her. Because most people would accept and then just not show up; she has the courtesy to refuse it upfront. What is the point, I ask you, in getting ready and be stuck in traffic for over two hours? Surely you have to be a saint to arrive at a party in a good mood, knowing the return trip is going to take as long. But in Mumbai, that's a done thing. They all understand it, live with it and it's cool. But it's not cool for me, and that's not what I consider fun. Or a life.
Is this metro life? Opportunity yes, freedom yes, money yes, but also zero infrastructure, pathetic roads, jammed airports, traffic snarls, and absolutely no green. Quality of life isn't even worth a thought here.
It's already happening other parts of the world. I read in the paper the other day that a very rich group of urban elites in China have given up their jobs and their companies and moved to a faraway area which they have bought. They constructed houses, they grow their own fruits and vegetables and they live a self sufficient life. Sooner or later, more and more Indians are going to adopt this approach too. I can guarantee that urban elites are going to burn out sooner, seek a spiritual quest, and seek a better and healthier, less stressful life and opt to shift out of this sardines-packed life to a better place. If you have the money, buy yourself a plot of land in a smaller town or near it. It will not go waste.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

One year in Bombay

It's been a year sicne I shifted to Bombay. A year in my new job. This city, for all its problems, has given me a lot of firsts; there are things I've been able to do here that I haven't been able to do anywhere else. Which is exciting.
A blog on my one year in this city, soon.