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Mumbai Diary page: Thursday Theme

The city — sliced, diced and served with a dash of sauce

Cabinet 'flooded', just not with decisions
The much-talked-about makeover project of Mantralaya has become a nightmare for all ministers, bureaucrats and visitors as no one seems happy with the work, and requests for repairs and readjustments of sections on the renovated fourth, fifth and sixth floors keep pouring in daily.

The Mantralaya makeover is far from complete
The Mantralaya makeover is far from complete

One of the renovated sections includes the swanky cabinet meeting hall on the seventh floor, which the administration was keen to start using. The chief fire safety officer had to give the customary okay before it could be used, and he recommended that the sprinkler system be checked before the room was used.

What should have been a routine testing, last week, turned out to be a shock for the government, when a portion of the false ceiling itself gave way, and the room was covered with water. Not fresh rain but water from the sprinklers! The entire floor has now been sealed off until the ceiling is fixed. Perhaps this was divine justice trying to show the administration what it is like for the occupants of leaking buildings!

Bullet train memories
All the talk about Modi and bullet trains post the Railway budget takes this diarist back to 1994, when we were in Hiroshima (Japan) to report on the 1994 Asian Games. At that time, a clutch of overseas journalists
were offered a trip to another place in Japan which was to host a Youth Games, post the Asian Games.

The place was getting its stadia ready for the same, and the journalists were offered a trip to see the facilities. One remembers going to the place in a Japanese bullet train or Shinkansen as it is called in Japan. Japanese announcements on a busy Hiroshima station.

The sleek and eerily silent train glides to a halt, dot on time and the Japanese and some awe-struck Indian journalists get in. The ride was smooth and incredibly fast. What we remember most though about the bullet train back to Hiroshima was that a peanut seller entered the compartment.

Not like our ‘sing chana’ on local trains, he was a licensed seller, who wore the bag containing peanuts packets around his neck. He did not speak English well, he simply had a sign that said peanuts. A couple of Japanese commuters did buy the peanuts, all of them throwing the packet into a small trash bin on the side.

The seller bowed to the compartment in general after selling his wares and exited. Most commuters were poker faced, silent, and it all seemed robotic. Meanwhile, we remember the peanuts being prohibitively expensive (many, many yen) and at that time, the thought crossed our mind that you get nothing for peanuts in Japan. Not even peanuts, in fact.

Musical journey
The mention of Ashadhi Ekadashi brings to mind images of pilgrims to Pandharpur singing and dancing in the name of Lord Vithoba.

Ashadhi Ekadashi celebrated by the Dombivili-CST commuters and (above) a board at the venue explaining their objectives. Pics/Shrikant Khuperkar
Ashadhi Ekadashi celebrated by the Dombivili-CST commuters and (above) a board at the venue explaining their objectives. Pics/Shrikant Khuperkar

The late Pandit Bhimsen Joshi’s divine rendering of the bhajan “Teerth Vitthal, Kshetra Vitthal” is probably one of the most evocative pieces relating to this tradition. In fact, music and rain go together on Ashadhi Ekadashi, a day on which many people observe a fast. For regular commuters of the 9.06am slow to CST from Dombivili, it is a day when they organise their special bhajan event.

The commuters sing in the train every day in any case, and go under the name of the Hari Om Railway Pravasi Bhajani Mandal. The organisation is in its third year and now has some 70 members. Yesterday, bhajans were held at Dombivili station on the occasion, with a decorated altar, where many commuters stopped for darshan before catching their trains.

Sweet washing!
A city supermarket chain is offering a kilogram of sugar free with a certain amount of laundry detergent. Coming on the heels of the municipality’s water cut announcement, this seems a little odd, so to say. Does it mean that if there is not enough water to wash our clothes, we should just grit our teeth and bear it with a dose of sugar? We wonder...

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