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Mumbai Diary page: Wednesday Whispers

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

Home, steal home
What may seem like an embarrassing statement to some, could be a popularity booster for others. Last week, Prasad Lad, chairman of MHADA’s Mumbai Repair and Reconstruction Board, vehemently declared that encroachers in transit homes should be allowed to stay.

The mid-day story about transit camp encroachments, now part of a hoarding at Pratiksha Nagar. Pic/Suresh KK
The mid-day story about transit camp encroachments, now part of a hoarding at Pratiksha Nagar. Pic/Suresh KK

Putting it in dramatic terms, he said: “If a poor man’s transit home has been bought by another poor man, then I don’t think it’s illegal.” It sounded preposterous to many readers but apparently it’s something that may find favour with of course the beneficiaries of this largesse.

Perhaps taking that into account, the entire story as it appeared on the front page of mid-day has been reproduced on a hastily-erected hoarding at Pratiksha Nagar (the city’s largest cluster of transit homes) in Sion.

The hoarding lauds the statement by Lad, who however may have forgotten that transit residents have no ownership rights, as the homes they are occupying are temporary. So the second “poor man” who has “bought” the transit home will have no leg to stand on. Wonder if politicians think these things through before putting up magnified hoardings!

Brought home by hunger pangs
It took less than 24 hours for a runaway boy to be found that too after he had fled from Goa to Mumbai. While the police of both states were on the job, it was the boy himself who rang up his father the same night he had run away. Not so much out of remorse, but because he was feeling hungry!

Muhammad Farooq Shaffi had taken the extreme step of fleeing on the Mandovi Express in end-April, as he had failed in the ninth-standard exam, and his parents had threatened to send him to a boarding school if he failed.

His relieved father, after being reunited with the boy, told Wednesday Whispers: “He called me at 9 pm as he was hungry. I immediately informed the police. I am thankful my son is safe. We won’t pressurise him henceforth.”

When they learnt that the boy had a cellphone, the Thane RPF contacted him at Thane station, and an officer caught up with him. After a day in RPF custody (including, of course, meals), he was sent back home safely.

Rush hour on high
In case you thought it’s only long-suffering commuters who face overcrowding, think again. In Mumbai, crowds are everywhere and even the rich are not spared, as a recent incident in the city showed. People having paid, we hear, Rs 5,000 per head were clubbing away on the 37th and 38th floors of a midtown hotel-cum-mall complex.

Crowds affect everyone, it seems
Crowds affect everyone, it seems

A friend of Wednesday Whispers who was on the 38th floor recounts that one of the high-speed lifts was malfunctioning, so the remaining lifts were overcrowded.

When one lift finally reached the 38th floor they realised that it was already overflowing with people from the 37th floor who were trying to leave the building. And this was the story with the other lifts too.

It being Mumbai, even the high-fliers are enterprising and some thought of taking the stairs yes, all 38 floors down. To their dismay, however, the stairwells were blocked with construction material and debris.

And then, in a scene out of a thriller, when they tried to go back to the elevator lobby they found that the exit doors could not be opened again from the stairwell.

After much shouting the stranded people were rescued, but the incident highlights how unsafe some of these swank buildings probably are.

If there had been an untoward incident, the people would have been trapped on those high floors. We hope this opens building managements’ eyes to the principle of “safety first”. And to the revellers we say, “Welcome to rush hour!”

Good conductor!
IT WAS a late-evening trip on a BEST bus in the city. Right at the front was a visually-challenged man. He had boarded and shown his pass to the conductor but had omitted to say where he wanted to disembark. The driver asked him at one point where he was going, and it was then he realised he had overshot his destination by two stops.

The man was in a quandary as he had reached an unfamiliar area, and was unaccompanied. It was then that the legendary BEST spirit came to the fore. There were just three other passengers in the bus and the conductor asked if they would tolerate a few minutes’ delay.

No one minded, so at the next stop, the conductor guided the man across the road to the stop on the other side, and asked a street food vendor to ensure that he caught the bus going in the other direction. When the conductor returned and our bus continued its journey, one of the passengers remarked, “You did a good thing.

The poor man would have been in difficulties, as it is getting late.” The conductor said, “It’s nothing, anyone would have done the same. But if you tell anyone that we did this, they will ask why we delayed the bus by these few minutes.” And that is why we cannot tell you the route or even the area. We can just silently applaud the crew of that BEST bus.

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