You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Writing’ category.

I’m shocked looking at the last published post I made here: April 2010.

I started this blog in February 2007 to figure out what this whole blogging thing was about. Over the years I have apparently written 51 posts and gathered exactly 51 comments, which gives me a neat and low ratio of 1 (0r 100% which sounds a bit better).

I have received a total of 72,655 views over those five years. My busiest day was November 20th, 2008, with 296 views. It’s a bit peculiar since that was in the middle of a quiet period in which I hadn’t blogged for months. Sometimes inactivity is the best activity it seems.

My most popular post of all time is now ‘Funny Signs – What not to do in India’, with a massive 39k views. It contained 3 words and a picture. My least popular post is ‘Vive la France’  a 366-word piece on Sarkozy’s election. I got 4 views. Again, less is more. Or a picture speaks…

What else? My blog is most commonly found through the following search terms: ‘funny signs’, ‘goth loli’ and to round of the top three ‘japanese fashion’. Who knew?

Recently my stats have taken a bit of a dip, only hitting about 4 per day. So, time to bring this blog back to life.

Advertisements

Two in the morning and in spite of the late hour the air smells of lingering heat, of bracing summer. An oven briefly switched off. In front of me a sixty-year old man, wearing thick-framed glasses, mutters to his wife to hurry up as she digs through her handbag for the passports. He has one of those loud management books in his hand, “Achieving Success – The Easy 6-Step Program,” or something like that. Indian airports must have the highest density of self-improvement books in the world. Jack Welch and cheap derivatives galore.

Suitcases papered on all sides with a return address fill the arrivals hall. They disappear in the jostling crowd. Outside, the streets are relatively empty as we drive through the western suburbs of the city past nearly completed fly-overs and dimly lit malls. Women appear in the headlights sweeping the road. Dust to dust.

We approach a building about to be demolished and the supervisor forgets to either block traffic or halt work. A fist-sized rock hurtles down and hits the side of the car. We drive on. Not much to do about it anyway.

It’s 2008 and we’re back.

Mumbai, Bombay, whatever you’d like to call it: The largest city in the world, slums bigger than anything in Asia, 7.2 of the city’s 18 million people live in them, the size of a small nation, 40% of India’s income spread across a tiny section of the population. Bollywood, the stock exchange, the gateway to India immersed in a sea of people, all intricately linked, both rich and poor

How can you come here and not be shocked into disbelief? The contrasts are more than you can take. You wake up in your nice, western hotel, have a light breakfast, some cereal, a cup of coffee and you venture out into the streets. Several doormen try to guide you to a waiting cab, one of half a dozen hoping to make fifty, maybe a hundred rupees double charging you, but you decide to go for a walk. You turn the corner

into a side street off Bombay Hospital. A waft of garbage, that familiar sun-drenched, rain-drenched rotting smell, and then it’s gone, in its stead a whiff from a street cart, fresh dumpling deep fried. The sidewalks are covered with blue plastic attached to the wall, the other side pulled down by ropes, kept in place by heavy stones. Underneath, bodies sleeping, children, half naked stumble out, rubbing the sleep from their eyes, they stare at you

a few blocks further and you’re in the markets of the Fort area, but it’s still too early, it’s a Sunday, it’s only 9 o’clock and the shutters are down, but the market’s not empty, it’s crowded, the sleeping crowd everywhere they fill the sidewalks, men, women, elderly, children, by the dozen, the hundred, some are cooking over a small fire, others line up for the one drain that’s working, washing their clothed bodies, a little while longer and the supply will be shut down for the remainder of the day

you’re at a loss and you jump into a passing taxi, driving north out of this scene as the city wakes up around you, soon the streets are filled with ox-carts, carts pushed by men, pulled by men, overburdened, chugging along in the morning cool, carrying god knows what. The car takes you away from the alleyways, and soon you hit a street, well-paved, a boulevard, palm trees appear, villas protected by 7-feet walls, shopping centers, Adidas, Nike, Reebok, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Baskin Robbins. A Mercedes dealership

you stop in front of a traffic light and they approach, hawkers selling gigantic balloons, fake flowers, bootleg copies of a Thousand Splendid Suns, you ignore them, try waving them away. The light hits green, the car lurches forward, stops again, more people come at you, beggars, a boy carrying a baby in a plastic bag, a man with horrific burns all across his chest, a mother her arms covered in scabs: two rupees, please sir, sir, sir, sir, two rupees, sir, an arm enters the window, a hand touches your face and you roll up the window, and as you do it, you hate this city for making you, but what else can you do

ten minutes later and you get out at a Hindu temple, you take off your shoes, and walk bare-feet up the dusty step, surrounded by a gentle mass of human beings, small bowls of flowers and coconuts in their hands, upstairs they are blessed by the priests, everything is calm and serene, as friendly as a crowd can be. Then as you walk down the stairs a drop falls from the suddenly darkened sky, a minute later it’s as if a huge bucket has been emptied over the city, visibility brought down to a few meters, the rain hammers the ground, drowning out all sound, causing torrents in the streets

you hop back in a car, further north along the coast you go, passing slums, malls, more slums, more malls, it never stops, and all through it the rain keeps coming back, slowly tearing down the buildings, rotting the city as it waits by the sea, and yet mumbai has what only a few cities in the world have, a unique energy that you can’t define, but when you visit the city you feel it and remember it and will want to come back for it, until once again you can take no more

From Nonchalant Pictures

Trafalgar Terrace is quiet. It is late. Outside, the Mercedeses – the SLK-convertibles, the A-class – await the start of a new working day. The battered Fiat Punto, poison green, cheapest car on the block, is picked out mercilessly by a street lantern. On the side walk, at the bottom of a short staircase, a mobility scooter hides under an impermeable cover. A little further down, a bright red Alfa Romeo Spider protects its delicate fender with a taped-up traffic cone.

Bright lights emanate from the basement apartments: The nursery filled with stuffed animals, a pink carpet on the polished wooden floorboards. The adolescent’s room, Audioslave poster on the back wall, a drum set by the window, weight bench taking up the center. The small Indian family’s empty living, working father, working mother, two children, every Sunday packed into an aging Renault Espace, off to visit relatives.

My downstairs neighbour Jack walks past outside. Jacket buttoned up, square glasses with tufts of white eyebrows rising above the thick frame, returning slightly befuddled from his evening constitutional. Almost time for bed now.

%d bloggers like this: