“We are the 99%”

This is the most powerful slogan from the Occupy Wall Street movement. This was a protest in 2011 addressing to tackle the hardcore capitalistic agenda of decades which created the social and economic divide in the Amercian society. This was not a leader led movement but people led in its true sense. “the 99%” says it all. It captures the emotions of the general population that has been victimised under the hands of a few “1%”. People felt they were cheated of their fare share of opportunities.

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From moment to movement

I went through a similar feeling last week. A few like minded parents of the Shishuvan school, where my children go, met under the King’s Circle bridge in Matunga. The agenda was to discuss the mass resignations happening in school. The Principal, Vice Principal had resigned in protest along with four other staff members. The school is managed by a Trust that belongs to a minority community. The protest was against this Trust that has set in motion a divide in ideology and the founding principles of the School. “From an open and inclusive culture it has started to become stifling”, said one of the staff members who resigned. The trust component was missing now. Rumours said that many more resignations were in pipeline.

When the school reopened this academic year, it seemed not ready yet. Small things like diaries and ID cards were missing. Children from primary section were asked to bring cash for their books, which was unheard of before. Some may argue these are smaller issues, but I have heard its where the rot begins.

School’s ERP system was up in toss. The teacher retention is poor, despite 80% increase in fees in the past three years. Parents were all anxious and shaken by the current upheaval and decided to write an open letter. The idea of an open letter turned to an online petition addressing the Trust and the Shishuvan staff. Soon a whatsapp group was created, “Save Shishuvan”. The title so apt, must have struck a chord with the larger community of parents. From a group of 7-8, we were 150 parents in a matter of few hours. A well defined and curated petition was floated. Very efficiently the petition found its way in all the groups of all grades. Many called their fellow parents hoping to wake them up from slumber. The expectation was only 200 signatories but it snowballed to 900+ signatures in 4 days. Our petition demanded a parents sabha, an open forum where the members of the Trust, Shishuvan staff and Parent body come together to discuss the resignations. We were 900 hopeful parents. We had the voice and we had spoken!

A group of 60+ parents got together to submit the petition in person to the Trust’s office but found a “closed door”. Later during the day the management announced that they accepted the resignations and the handover was to be done in two days. The chitter-chatter and the notification dings in the groups stopped. Though only for a few seconds, but the silence was killing. Then phone calls to each other began and frantic typing on groups started again. One of the parent said, “they nuked us”.

We were idealists and maybe even romantics. Seeking the change like its our right. We misinterpreted the strength of the 1%. We were so hopeful, that it made us dream again for the future of our children. I am disappointed and now doubting if I was also delusional. Didn’t I see it coming? But hope is infectious. Like one of the other poster in the OWS movement says, “You may say I am a dreamer, but I am the only one awake”.

Feeling proud to have been part of this journey.


My childhood memory

One of my fond memories of childhood is taking these long journeys in train. There’s something about the whole experience that has left an indelible mark in my mind. I remember them quite fondly, it wasn’t nice or special, rather it was contrary. It used to be one of the very few intriguing experiences a typical Indian middle class family could offer 8 year olds. At least till 20 years ago. Especially for us, me and my brother, it can only get as adventurous as this, since we had a very protective childhood.

We were from Kerala but lived in Surat, Gujarat. My father served in the Air Force for 15 years wherein he travelled the length and breadth of our country in trains. Later he joined the banking sector and got domesticated. This is very normal for us Kerallites, we are largely non residents. Like most migratory birds, as summer approaches we flock together southward. And the great Indian Railways was our only solace. Connecting regions unknown like stitching mismatched pieces of cloth. Or what else binds them, Ahmedabad and Kolkata; Jaipur and Delhi; Okha and Eranakulum except for these railway tracks. Indian railways is the fourth largest rail network in the world and carries about 22 million passengers every single day. It is a saga in itself.

Train travelling is not all that easy, it gets sweaty in the sleeper class and sometimes the compartments had cockroaches. The fetid stench of the bathrooms can put a person of any size to coma. But yet it was not boring. At nightfall, me and my brother would fight to sleep on the upper berth. Once my father figured to stop us from fighting it was best to put both of us to task. He asked us to jot down all the stations and rivers that went by. He made us believe that he had this master list from the train’s driver, a Malayali from the same village. Upon hearing this my brother had a quizzical look, after some back and forth, he looked convinced, then I too would join the game. One such night I insisted that I would sleep sitting near the window, or I shall miss all the stations going by at night. I was fascinated by names of stations like Guntakal, Jowalarpattai and Kuruduwadi. Sceneries would keep changing as we moved kilometres, it goes from warmly green to sparse mountains to the dry boulder stretches of Deccan or the lush green coconut and palm trees of Kerala. Many valleys and rivers would pass under our feet. Not to mention the varied scripts written in yellow/black on the stations.

Our journeys were as long as 50 hours, after we alighted, I would still feel the ground beneath me swaying for a day or two. Food for the train was made with special care and packed with precision. My mother would make them semi-dry so that it would last long. We had a designated food bag, a multi-tier steel tiffin that otherwise never came out of the attic. Pulli sadam (tamarind rice) and nimbu sadam (lemon rice) would be meticulously spread in thalis for a session of cool down under the whirling ceiling fan. It will then be packed in portion sizes in roasted banana leaves which again would be wrapped in a newspaper and again in a plastic packet. Aloo bhaji, puris, tomato and onions chutneys, hard boiled eggs (my father’s favourite), pickles of mango and lemon would go in the tiffin. Mor kuttan (buttermilk curry) or rasam in Kissan Jam glass bottles. Dry snacks like murrukku and paka wada which would be prepared days in advance and we would know about them only when she takes them out in the train. She would also take Rasna, the coloured squash drink that many of the children from 80’s would remember. We had the Milton’s Kool Keg for drinking water which was so huge that it qualified as another piece of luggage. These were the good old days before the plastic bottled water. Refilling the keg was a big deal as according to my father water can’t be refilled at every stations, it had to be a “junction” like Vasai or Erode. Apparently thats the time when coaches also get refilled. Obviously we had time in hand. I remember opening the lid of the kool keg and finding the tiny plastic cups stacked underneath the lid and its tap perpetually dripping. The keg would sit on the upper berth with its nozzle perching out where my mother would put either a piece of cloth or some newspaper to soak the water.

If we didn’t get reserved tickets for all then we would be sharing the berth. Me and my mother would fit in one berth with our heads on opposite ends. I always then wondered how she slept in a saree. We made friends with our co-passengers. Mothers with other mothers and kids with other kids. My mother would be chatting heart galore with other ladies, as no household chores or homework of kids bothered them here.

It would be very unfortunate, if I couldn’t get my kids to be a part of this saga. So I soon will one day embark again, this time I will be the mother.

Black and White

I haven’t picked my side yet, but I will have to. This is a very peculiar phase in one’s life. Some of you would have been here, if not already, in a while you will one day. All of sudden you find yourself on the other side but feel cheated because no one told you in the first place. The more I think about it the more I observe it in people around me. My house maid, most of my colleagues, few my aunts, friends, acquaintances, all of them do it. But the common denominator is that they are all women. Men flaunt and women hide it.
Recently my mother had come to stay over. She happened to notice my ever casual attitude in this regard and it greatly perturbed her. Even at the slightest mention, I would be on guard. She had expected this reaction but it made me introspect. So I took a long look at myself in the mirror and found the evidence. I was ageing and rounding off to forty. There was no going back. We are all ageing to die one day. My heart sank, only when I was about to get things right in life, now I can’t look the same. I assured myself it’s post partum, erosion of calcium, lack of B12, D3, pollution, stress, blah blah… But there is no fooling oneself. The clock is ticking and its showing on my face. After a while I started side parting my hair, stuffing the silvery strands behind the blacks but it was only a temporary relief. Nothing seemed to work and I was under attack with vengeance. So I insisted it was the growing wisdom. Well the truth of which was self evident to people around me.
Anyhow, I noticed that men hardly care. Despite the ease of it compared to women, they look least bothered. And of course they have Richard Gere, George Clooney, Milind Somans to look forward to. Women have no one. None in Bollywood or media. There are many successful women in business but there’s hardly anyone gutsy enough to flaunt it. When it comes to women success is directly related with the way you look. In some marketing research, they figured out that 85% of American women colour their hair. They find that it affects their confidence level and how they are accepted among their colleagues. Mother of a friend of mine, used to dye her hair for ages and recently gave up. She says, “You can’t imagine, what a relief this is! I have decided to go grey with dignity.”
Even though gradually I hope find peace with the whites. Isn’t that the beauty of it…everything is very gradual on the time scale.

Maharashtra Nature’s Park, Dharavi, Mumbai

Maharashtra Nature’s Park in Mahim is one of those places that is tucked away from the eyes of many of us. This site is a 37 acre green patch abutting the ever polluted Mithi (“sweet”) River. Its located on the Sion Bandra Link Road, opposite Dharavi Bus Depot.

This was initially called Mahim Nature Park which was many years ago a garbage dumping ground. Then with the initiative of WWF-India in 1976 a plan to convert this area to a nature park was conceived which was completed with the effort of MMRDA.Picture 1

This park houses more than 200 variety of trees and is a haven for close to 40 different varieties of butterflies and 80 different kinds of birds. During the migratory season one can watch hundred species of birds making here their temporary stay.

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Flamingoes in Transition

As soon as you step inside the gates of the garden, you will feel the drop in the temperature. The park opens every morning by 9.30 am and there is a very nominal entry fee for Rs. 5/-. You can also hire an attendant who will take you on a tour of about 2-3 hrs and show you around the vegetation and animals which includes variety of birds, reptiles, butterflies and mammals.

Survey says that there are about 14,000 trees in the park; Soccer ball, Kadamba, Red Silk Cotton Tree, Ashoka, Devils’s tree, Ballon Pant, Bottle Brusk Oak, Ficus Benjamin, Lasora, Teak, Golden Apple and Flame of Forest are just to name a few.

If you are a nature enthusiast (or will become one, once you are here) get your binoculars, hat and boots, because you will be entering a different world away from the traffic and tall towers. Some of the birds you can spot here are…Laughing Dove, Black kite, Greater Coucal, Shikara, Great Egret, Eurasian Wryneck, Purple Sunbird, Little Green Bee Eater, Blue throat and Barn swallow birds.

The park’s huge Mangroves’ expanse attracts different kinds of water birds and reptiles. Russell’s viper, Rat snake, Cobra and the Green vine snakes are some of the snakes. Also along the Mitthi river one can find varieties of frogs and lizards like Chameleon and Northern house Gecko.

Water birds like Greater spotted eagle, Ring Necked parakeets, Asian Pied Starling, Mahratta Woodpeckers and Barn owl can also be seen.

During the months of October through March the park hosts Mumbai’s Organic Farmers’ Market. Along with the market it hosts different events for the community too. It is a hub for music players and several NGOs who table their products.

Music Enthusiasts at the Organic Farmers’ Meet
Children putting their crayons at work under the Trees
People bustling at the Organic Farmers’ market
Small boy learning to work on a different kind of Charkha


Urban Leaves is one such organisation that hosts many of the events here. They aim to green the rooftops of Mumbai and inspire people to grow their own food. Here’s a link to their website, http://purvita10.wix.com/urbanleaves

Ways to get here: Its located on the Sion Bandra Link Road just opposite the Dharavi Bus Depot. It opens every day from 9.30 am. Be prepared to carry adequate gears like proper footwear, hat, sunglasses and I advice to wear the mosquito repellent.

The park does not have any website but there’s a Facebook page that one can check out for all the upcoming events. https://www.facebook.com/mnpdharavi

The Butter Story…

Butter is mankind’s most amazing invention, says the famous Julia Child, played by Meryl Streep in the 2009 American movie, Julie and Julia. Like me, some of you may not understand the greatness of this statement. As for me the most intelligent of inventions are the diapers. I know, to each his own. Anyhow, I was greatly intrigued by this statement and also by the last scene of the movie where Julie Powell, played by Amy Adams places this thick slab of butter in front of Julia’s picture, paying her a tribute. Indeed this should mean so much to them and to the mankind.

Btw, butter was actually discovered accidentally about 9,000 years ago according to Elaine Khosrova. In her book titled Butter: A Rich History, she describes that nomadic humans used some kind of sack made of animal skin to carry their milk which most likely came from goats or sheep. This milk would have been transported from place to place either on animal’s back or human’s and eventually got fermented. All this walking on bumpy roads did the churning bit to the milk which formed butter. Butter then and now were quite different and would have tasted quite rancid too. Not sure how many of us would like it.

Butter if you see has not undergone a great deal of change in the way its made, except that machines have replaced the hands that did the churning. Its one of the rarest foods that has not changed in the way it is made since it was discovered 9000 years ago. So I felt this urge to invent butter at home. How best to recreate a stone age scenario when you have 2-3 hours in hand. Am not a cooking enthusiast, but I like doing it sometimes. Some research say its a stress buster, it disengages your brain and you are actively involved with all your senses, yadi yada…

Key ingredients required are:

Thick creamy milk, a horse back (or a food processor, this is 2018 AD) and lots of patience.

I took 300 ml of milk cream which is the top creamy layer collected over a week’s time. If you are using homogenised milk then you won’t be able to do this. You are better off buying butter over the shelf.


Use your blender, put the cream in it and blend away…

At first it looks like nothing is happening, thats when you add load full of patience. What you have now is something that is changing its physical state. From being cream to something like the thick and smooth whipped cream. Close the lid now and blend again.

From that emulsion like consistency its deciding to part ways with liquid. The fat solids are forming an union now….close the lid and still blend for a few seconds till the separation is evident.

It could be quite frustrating when you are doing it for the first time. I also did watch some you tube videos to keep checking if am on the right path. The process is quite counter intuitive, there aren’t too many things to do, yet the end doesn’t seem to be close. That’s when you keep adding one of the key ingredients, patience.

Once the solids are distinctively separate, then remove the water from it (maybe with hands) and mix some salt to it. Thats it, you are done. You have now created the stone age creation and witnessed a part of evolution itself.

Lastly, clean up the mess. Am sure there would be lots of it to do. Tip: I started from the floor first.

Bombay Port Trust, Colaba, Mumbai

The Bombay Port Trust (BPT) garden or Sagar Upvan is a quintessential garden. Tucked at the end of the narrow lanes of Colaba causeway, this garden is quite well kept. This garden is open for two hours in the morning from 8-10 and in the evening from 4.30 to 8.30 pm. Not long enough, I say. The entry fees is trivial as I don’t remember how much it was.

There’s a cactus garden at the entrance which is housed under a neat semi open space. There are a handful of varieties of cacti species. All kinds of creepers and climbers are hugging the tree trunks. Our very own household money plant show off their huge lotus like leaves. An exposed uprooted tree trunk which is now a painted artwork, reminds me of an idyllic bonfire scene. Few precast benches under the trees provide a quiet space.

This garden is heavily wooded. There’s the grand old peepal tree, bamboo bushes, palms, mango, rainforest, flaming gulmohar, bright copper pod tress and several other. The muscular arms of this banyan tree sits with its vast canopy.

Somewhere in the middle of the garden under the shades is some open space on a mound. This is a picture of my daughter’s picnic scene, after the snack time they roll on the grass. IMG_4190

There’s a mud walking track all along the periphery of the garden. In the morning time one can see health enthusiasts zipping past you on the track. Also lined all along are a few benches, a great opportunity to admire the sunset.

Overall its a great place to spend few hours in the evening and if you have kids its a must go over a weekend. Hungry as we are for open and green spaces in this city, such places are a sigh of relief.

Chhota Kashmir, Mumbai

Chhota Kashmir means “small (or mini) Kashmir”. Simply put the person who named it looks inspired from the crowning glory state of natural beauty, Kashmir, the heaven on Earth. Looks like a complete trap to me, but why be judgmental.

Located in the vicinity of Aarey Milk colony, Goregaon in northern region of Mumbai city, it sits in the vast expanse of a 4000 acre lush green space. Immediately after you enter into the Aarey space you will feel the best sensuous trigger-a tingling temperature drop.

The roads are narrow and due for maintenance. Abutting these roads are some fields on either sides but not sure what grows in them, maybe just grass or weeds. Random shanties in those fields with their blue tarpaulin seem to be slowly and silent capturing the scene.

I am told that there was a time when schools used to take kids on educational excursion to the Aarey milk factory and the garden closeby. Our destination is this garden, the so called mini Kashmir which is on a small hill top. There’s of course the lake which is sort of ok. The google map indicates it to be a considerable size at least couple of acres. You can go on a boat ride, only if you have company as these are self rowing ones. There are also these joy rides- things that whirls on its own axis and around. Toy train and merry go round, all the usual stuff.



Young males are looking at you eagerly to buy tickets for these rides. We also find an enthusiastic goose, quite well mannered in the queue.

Towards the hill top, people have parked just anyhow on either sides, maybe quite reasonably so as the garden closes at 6 pm. The garden itself is a complete downer. The landscape is not attractive. Its full of trees and lush greens but no character. There’s an avenue of sorts with huge tall cactii which have become as large as trees, must be several years old. There are these random meanderings with stone paths which lead no where. I spot couple of gazebos with benches in them but they look rather ruinous to me. I try to find a calm place to sit and gaze into the sky but immediately feel uncomfortable in the company of couples who form silhouettes in every nook and corner.

I am not at ease and walk hurriedly through the garden space as if on some kind of surveillance. I observe that the whole place is dotted with plastic, packets and disposable water bottles. There are also toilets in this garden which is rather rare, but a word of caution before entering or you might just convulse due to the stench.

Walking out I try to write in the complaint book but there isn’t any. I talk to the security guy at the gate, but it might have sounded preachy. All in vain. I think about this person who named this garden, must be some sarkari babu. Completely delusional.