Friday, December 19, 2008

Mumbai Railway Motormen Go on Strike — Passengers Stranded

I rely on the public transport in Mumbai. Compared to the rest of the cities in the country this city really manages to hold up against millions of commuters daily.
Now the Western Railway motormen had decided to go on a hunger strike from the 18th — today. I had seen posters of the same...stuck on trains and on railway foot bridges. It is a protest against the working conditions and a reconsideration of their salaries.
I happened to be on one of the trains when the motormen decided to slow down and come to a complete standstill. I could not believe this was happening to me. I have never walked along the tracks...to scared to do it. Today I was not alone — two men, a 30-something guy and a senior Parsi gentleman were with me. Neither was keen on getting off and walking to Mahalaxmi station. An empty track separated us from the adjacent train and we had no idea when a train would pass through on that one!
After over 20-odd minutes, everyone's patience had run out and we could a long line of commuters making a beeline for the nearby Mahalaxmi station (2). Suddenly out of nowhere, a fast train came around the bend, blew its horn nice and long, and sped through over the empty track!
What a fright that gave all those who were walking in the middle of the track. We saw a lady narrowly miss getting hit when the train came round the bend. She leaped out of the way...the rest of the people quickly jumped aside and stood near the stationary train. Totally freaked us out.
"It was a good thing we didn't get off, no!?" – You bet!
You saw that b**** just sped by!" – I know!!
I hoped something wasn't wrong when I boarded a 20:43 on the slow track at 21:05. It happens some times. But today the train stalled just before Mahalaxmi.

My RouteAfter ages – it was already almost 22:00...after a fast train whizzed by and an outstation train chugged past us towards Bombay Central, our train pushed ahead slowly. The three of us were ready to get off at Bombay Central and take a bus or walk it up. But the train stopped again and we saw the motormen alight from the train opposite ours...this was the slow train which was being trailed by another behind. The old uncle called out to him and demanded to know what was going on...the motormen didn't reply, took their briefcases and walked away...the third guy mumbled, "technical problem" and locked himself up inside the control cabin. That was it. The strike was officially on. If the motormen had let on that they were going on strike — they would have been beaten up. They were aware of it and so kept quiet.
By this time we knew we had to get off and walk it towards the station. Since the elderly man was also there, we took a safer route towards the outstation part of Bombay Central (3). All three of us were grumbling about the state of affairs...this hunger strike...one said they should pop off and let a new bunch come on...I said they must have fainted while at the controls...we were tired, it was almost 23:00 — 2 hours from the time I left Andheri (1)...I usually get home in 1 hour 15 minutes. I have been through worse, I thought, and hailed a cab after I got out of the station. It was a good thing I found company in two sensible people. (Thanks Mr. B and Uncle D!)

I reached home, my dad was watching T.V. and confirmed that it was the strike alright. I read the news now and came to know 2 motormen did collapse after all, during the day-long hunger strike and at 21:30, trains came to a painful halt.
Am glad we were close to our destination...for those at Churchgate, yet to begin their journey home...some having to travel 20 to over 30 Km...must have been such a pain.
200 motormen went on strike. 200 motormen ferry over 2.6 million commuters daily on the western line alone! I hope railway authorities consider their demands and things get back to normal. After all, they are humans and need a break too.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

O Holy Night Instrumental

Yesterday my church had quite a big Christmas program. It was combined with the Children's Sunday program and it makes sense to keep it before everyone takes off on a holiday. The program was open to those who are not believers too, to understand the meaning of christmas. The program included carols sung by kids, a skit and a little dance.
Now, I was asked to look for instrumental versions of some of the carols the kids were going to sing - as accompaniments. All we had were the originals - it is difficult to remove vocals from a soundtrack. My wife was to sing "O Holy Night", so there I was searching for a suitable instrumental for her - not too high, not too low...and I came across this acoustic version. What can I say, it fit perfectly with what she wanted and they are really good! Take some time out and listen to the instrumental version of this lovely song — O Holy Night.

Behra - The Deaf One

This photograph was taken exactly a month ago outside my former employer's office. I took this with my phone and it was late in the night. So it is not very clear...neither was the subject very willing to look straight into the camera.
The subject in the picture — namely, the dog — took a liking to me while I was there. He could probably smell my dog on my jeans. He would come and nose me for food and then suddenly get on his hind legs and leave his paw prints on my jeans and t-shirt!
The first time he did that — I still remember it so well — he had just woken up and got out of a muddy ditch. I didn't notice his grubby black paws. Before I realized it he had left his mark.
There a lot of dogs around that place and they are quite healthy because a nearby butcher throws extras to them. This little guy is peculiar — one ear (the left one) is always down. Our vet had once mentioned in passing that my dog needed more calcium if we wanted her ears to perk up, instead of drooping towards each other. I doubt that's the reason for him...it was probably an ear infection.
But anyway...a few months back, while we were on a tea break my little friend came by and nudged me. He is usually near a small cigarette stall, so one of the locals shouted "Eh! Behra!" He probably thought I would freak. I made some small talk, said it is ok, petted "Behra" and walked towards the tea stall...
Behra, I thought to myself, so that's what his name is...how fitting. Poor chap...not a very a nice name, come to think of it...almost derogatory...but fitting, at the same time. In Hindi it means, "deaf one" (Gender: Male, to be precise).
I miss Behra now that I have moved to a new place but I still pass the old lane and see him some times. He is too busy to notice me anymore (remember the butcher and the cars he has to chase) and I am too rushed to stop and give him a scratch — we are all too busy living a dog's life...

A Smiley in the Sky

I thought I was the only one who noticed the "smiley" in the sky. It turns out that I wasn't.
Unfortunately the "smiley" appeared around the time when my city was attacked by a bunch of young, gun-totting, grenade-launching terrorists. I kept this post as a draft since then...it did not feel appropriate.
Here's to a better and a safer year.

P.S.: That's Venus on the left, Jupiter to the right and I do not need to tell you who is doing the smiling. I believe this picture was taken in Philippines.

It Ended...to Start Something New

After the terrorist attack the city visited the Gateway of India (close to where the first gunfire was heard, opposite the Taj Mahal Hotel and also the same place which witnessed a violent blast in August 2003).
It was a peaceful and fitting reply to the people involved in spreading terror and to our dear, dear politicians. You guys make the terrorists look so good.
Here are some pictures collated by someone, of the rally.

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