Of hot air, and balloons

Since May 26 is the new day of all things important in India, I have made a list of things which I did not want to write about today. Top of the list is the reason why May 26 is the most important thing in today’s India — a government was sworn into power at the Centre, did you hear about that. Everyone else is doing it anyway good days, bad days, so-so days and I have nothing to add. If anyone wore platinum shoes with their names picked out in diamonds on their heels, well that would be another matter. Did anyone or someone in particular? Disappointingly, no.

A man takes refuge from the summer heat under the shade of a tree in Mumbai. Plant more trees is what we should do, but then how will we have so many lovely air-conditioned malls? Don’t go out in the sun is the other bit of advice freely given, but how do you manage that when you’re a daily wage labourer? Representation Pic/AFP
A man takes refuge from the summer heat under the shade of a tree in Mumbai. Plant more trees is what we should do, but then how will we have so many lovely air-conditioned malls? Don’t go out in the sun is the other bit of advice freely given, but how do you manage that when you’re a daily wage labourer? Representation Pic/AFP

I can’t write about Bombay Velvet and whether it was about Bombay or Velvet or whether it was about anything at all either, because I haven’t seen it. I can write a lot about Bombay and Mumbai but when a film has 17 scriptwriters and 15 editors, it has done enough for itself in the writing or over-written department... I haven’t seen Piku either and probably won’t because I have enough problems in my own life without getting burdened with someone else’s potty problems. And the movie with many initials about the return of a wedding, well, you lost me right at the beginning. Yes, I am a movie philistine.

I can’t write about cricket and the Indian Premier League because I didn’t watch any of it. I am very happy that the Mumbai Indians won, on the basis that my allegiance for a tournament I did not watch is for the city to which I belong in spirit. Because that is how I understand leagues. Or perhaps I should be like those ingrates who live in Mumbai but support some team because Player X is sexy or actually good at cricket or because before they came to Mumbai they lived in some godforsaken place... O, wonderful. Now I sound like the Thackeray cousins. Anyway, Dehradun has no IPL team so no one can accuse me of anything.

I can write about the heat, but it’s so depressing. Over 600 people dead in the current heat wave. I sit here in dry hot North India and watch forest fires break out in the foothills of the Himalayas as all wood is like tinder. There is little hope of respite because the monsoon has got stuck somewhere and although black clouds have been seen in Mumbai I hear, the rest of India will have to wait a while. Plant more trees is what we should do, I suppose, but then how will we have so many lovely air-conditioned malls? Don’t go out in the sun is the other bit of advice freely given, but how do you manage that when you’re a daily wage labourer? Like I said earlier, depressing.

I could write about the war between Arvind Kejriwal and Najeeb Jung in New Delhi but, to be honest, I haven’t fully understood it. Sounds a bit like two screaming schoolboys at break time or a panel discussion on an Indian news channel every night. One said I want this lollipop, the other said you can only have a yellow or blue lollipop, the first one said I only want a red one. Either the yellow or the blue lollipop was locked out of the sweet shop and then a public rally was held in the heat. That’s about as much as I understood.

I did watch seven episodes of a Hindi soap opera which included a family of sweetmeat makers, a snake, a Godman and an evil aunt. Believe me, you don’t want to know.

What I did want to write about was five Unidentified Flying Objects which were seen floating about Mumbai Airport and reported by an aeroplane pilot. My whole life I have wondered why aliens only chose American small towns in those states in the middle to reveal themselves and why India only meant the Taj Mahal in all alien encounter movies. Here was Mumbai’s chance at last to shine in the world as the place where actual first contact was made.

But this is Mumbai. And they were advertising balloons. Just my luck. And how appropriate for the great day of May 26, eh?

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on Twitter @ranjona

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