Mumbai diary: Sunday Shorts

Oct 05, 2014, 09:01 IST | Shakti Shetty, Hemal Ashar and Anu Prabhakar

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

Calm before the storm
Every evening, when the sun is about to set, platform no. 7 at Kurla station comes into its own. Without fail, the crowd grows thicker and the flow of trains grows thinner. What’s unmistakable though is that no other platform — during the aforementioned timeframe — comes remotely close to gathering people to such extent.

A restless crowd looks on as a train arrives on the platform

None of those waiting for the delayed mode of transportation want to stand a minute longer than what the overhead indicator insists. But they are forced to. And this carnival carries on well into the night. It goes without saying that the lack of adequate trains on Harbour Line (HL) is steadily contributing to this peculiar mess. It took only one heavy shower to remind HL of its place of significance in the pecking order. We wonder what really goes on in the planning room. With an annual growth of 9.22 per cent, HL is probably India’s fastest growing suburban segment. But how exactly are the commuters benefiting from this growth? Fast trains are obviously out of question, given the narrow bridge that connects Mumbai to Navi Mumbai.

Passengers make their way into an already packed compartment

So when is the frequency of slow trains going to increase? Especially during rush hour when the people literally forget that they are human beings and try to get into the already jampacked train compartments. A train line that brings two cities closer certainly merits an overhaul, if not in execution, then at least in vision.

Swachh toll gate, anyone?
For Navi Mumbaiites, the big news of the week was not Modi in Madison. It wasn’t the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly elections nor the Clean India movement. To those who commute by road, the big news that caught their attention (and their goat) was the hiked fares at the Navi Mumbai toll point, which kicked in on October 1.

The Vashi toll naka

The resultant chaos was beyond frustrating. At 12.30 pm on a weekday, this diarist had to wait for nearly half an hour before being able to get anywhere near the gate. And this was in the afternoon — one shudders to think of the commotion at peak traffic hours in the morning. On Saturday it was even worse, with vehicles moving at a snail’s pace.

Apparently, not everyone took the hike lightly. When this diarist asked one of the men manning the gate about the jam, he rued, “Arrey, yeh log bahut problem create karte hain,” before asking us to scoot. My taxi driver even said that a motorist got out of his car and argued with the men that for the extra five bucks that he has to pay at the toll gate, he has to burn petrol worth R20 while stranded in the jam. According to reports, the Shiv Sena and BJP have called toll collection a ‘scam’. The Congress has vowed to ‘abolish’ it if voted to power in the state. So, can we look forward to a swachh toll gate? One can only wait and watch.

Activism and elections
Well-known anti-mobile tower radiation activist Prakash Munshi held a press meet at the Press Club at Azad Maidan in Mumbai, last week. The chief speaker at the meet was Dr Devra Davis, a US- based scientist, who was speaking on safe cell phone usage and the hazards of mobile tower antennae. Actor Juhi Chawla, who has become the poster girl for anti-mobile tower radiation, especially in SoBo, was present, too.

SPEAK UP: Activist Prakash Munshi (r ) with Dr Dariusz Leszcynski professor from Finland at an anti-mobile tower radiation talk held at the Press Club, earlier to the one with Dr Devra Davis.  Pic/Suresh KK

As the meet wound down, the floor opened for questions. The speakers were peppered with questions. Then, one journalist asked Munshi why has he made this cause his passion. “Why are you bringing this up now? Is it because the elections are around the corner?” A startled, activist in overdrive, Munshi answered that this is a cause they have pushed for years now. “We bring it up frequently, and not just when elections are around the corner. Please come to my house and I will explain that to you,” he said.

Devra looked clueless as the question and answer was in Hindi. While Munshi, Chawla & Co have held numerous seminars across town to raise awareness about the issue, they do face the occasional ‘bouncer’ or uncomfortable question from the press. Some time ago, at a seminar at the Nehru Science Centre, Mahalaxmi, a journalist had asked Chawla how she could talk on this subject and what knowledge she had of it, as she was not a scientist but an actor. Activism may have its perks like inherent satisfaction, but it also has its irks.  

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