Tag Archives: Bollywood

Tuk-Tuk to Lavasa

dscf98683We must get beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths… and tell the world the glories of our journey. -John Hope Franklindscf00062dscf00652

An auto rickshaw or tuk tuk (auto, rick, autorick or rickshaw in popular parlance) is a motor vehicle that is one of the chief modes of transport across many parts of South and East Asia, especially as a vehicle for hire. It is a motorized version of the traditional rickshaw ordscf99672 velotaxi, a small three-wheeled cart driven by a person, and is related to the cabin cycle. Auto rickshaws are particularly popular where traffic congestion is a problem and is most preferred by the cost-conscious developing economies. They are common in many Asian cities like Bangkok, Pune, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad , and Bangalore, and some can be seen on the streets of China Town in London. Auto rickshaws are often portrayed in Indian films (Auto Shankar, Basha, Aye Auto, Oram Po) dscf00742dscf00992as well as some Hollywood and foreign productions such as the James Bond film Octopussy and the Canada-India film Amal. Auto rickshaws are also prominent in the fuel-poor London of 2027 A.D. depicted in Children of Men. A memorable tuk-tuk chase features in the Thai film Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior, climaxing with many of them driving off the edge of an unfinished elevated expressway. James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) rides in a tuk-tuk in a Visa Card commercial seen here! And why am I talking about autorickshaws today? Because I just discovered a new land-route to Lavasa via our humble autorickshaw(see photos).I chased the autorickshaw for almost a Km and realized that it was ascending the ghats with a 8-pax load effortlessly. Eureka – another way to reach the Land of Zeus! If you reach Pirangut at the foothills of the Sahyadridscf01002dscf01052(which is amply connected to Pune), you could take an autorickshaw to Lavasa:)))

A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made. The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air. -Eric Sloane

The colors of Lavasa change every month. The township is growing day &; night. There are over 12,000 workers giving it all they have 7 x 24! The predominant color now is rust, which goes very well with the red earth color of the terrain. The Warasgaon lake is shrinking at a rapid pace throwing up swathes of red earth giving dramatic pictures.The shrubbery is dry &; literally crackles under your feet. The very much remembered Eric Sloanes lines as above withdscf98202 every step I took. The lake is like a picture post-card now, with migratory birds in droves sitting on the branches of an inaccessible part of the outer boundaries of the Dasave lake. The multicolored flowers complement dscf98292the rusty dried bush all around. It is as if a life cycle of Nature is in active motion all around… new life blooming and old life getting recycled into the red earth.”Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” — A phrase from the English burial service, used sometimes to denote total finality. It is based on scriptural texts such as ‘Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return’ (Genesis 3:19), and ‘I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee’ (Ezekiel 27:18). Physically, we are made of chemicals – a carbon based life-form, so we come from the earth and when we die, we re-enter the carbon cycle. For our lifetimes we have a consciousness and many would say a spirit/soul as well as the use of atoms from planet earth – on death, our mortal remains naturally return our chemicals to the earth/system. The Bible and the burial service both reflect the transient state of human life in those words….I think the same goes for the Nature around us.. ditto for the flowers & the shrubs &; the trees of Lavasa…. Let me now tell you about the first love of my life – the seas…..dscf98322dscf98642dscf98682

“Many’s the night I spent with Minnie the Mermaid, Down at the bottom of the sea. There among the corals, That’s where I lost my morals, Gee but she was good to me, oh, oh, oh, Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, Two twin beds and only one of them mussed … It goes on from there for a bit. -Anonymous

At Lavasa, it is the huge expanses of sweet-water that are the love-of-my-life. And then I glided on the waters of both the lakes – The Dasave Lake on a Pontoon Boat &; the Warasgaon Lake on an Inflatable search-and-rescue dingy with a fast Mercury outboard motor! We darted over the waves at around 60 kms/hour, skimmed the water in chilling curves and zoomed into the rising sun at 6:30am! They have the water “scooters”, the sea “Vespas”. No licence is required and it is so easy to ride them that not even a course is necessary. In case of fall, nothing to fear: a device turns off the engine and the vehicle remains standing in order to enable its passenger to climb up and start again.Cedwyn &; his team have started the marina activities only on December 01, 2008 &; have already kicked up the expectations sky-high! For the more athletic ones you can try water skiing; those who do not have a weak heart can experience the thrill of paraflying, that is flying with a paraglider following a motorboat; those who only want to have fun in groups can try the pontoon boats or the crazy-squirty-bumper-boats. A pontoon is a flat-bottomed boat simply constructed from closed cylinders such as pipes or barrels creating a raft (See video). Pontoon boats generally are low cost and less expensive to insure than a normal boat, even when equipped with engines of over 200hp. They are also almost foolproof to operate and cannot be sunk. Their shallow draft also reduces damage from submerge collisions and being run aground. Pontoon boats are also used asdscf98713dscf98832 small vehicle ferries to cross rivers and lakes in many parts of the world, especially in Africa. Pontoon ferries may be motorised, such as the Kazungula Ferry across the Zambezi River, or powered by another boat, or pulled by cables. A type of ferry known as the cable ferry (called ‘punts’ in Australia and New Zealand) pull themselves across a river using a motor or human power applied to the cable, which also guides the pontoon. In the rural town of Richmond, MN, a farmer called Ambrose Weeres had an idea that if you put a wooden deck on top of two columns of steel barrels welded together end to end, you would have a sturdy deck that would be more stable on a lake than a conventional boat. This proved to be right. dscf99342dscf99622Being in the land of 10,000 lakes, Ambrose thought this idea might have some potential to be marketed. He started out building a few boats and sold them with the help of select dealers. He needed a name for his first pontoon and he couldn’t think of a better name than “The Empress”, because of what it started. He never knew how popular these boats would be. Some time later, Ambrose was labeled “Mr. Pontoon” for his invention of the pontoon boat and was elected to the Minnesota Marina Hall of Fame for his accomplishments.India has imported its first Pontoon Boat for the Dasave Lake Family Cruises. You can hardly hear the silent petrol engine that takes the Pontoons effortlessly across the lake. You could have cocktail dinners on the Pontoons & would not spill a drop from a full glass of your favorite cocktail. Cheers!!!!

We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment. ~Hilaire Belloc

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What They Hate About Mumbai

MY bleeding city. My poor great bleeding heart of a city. Why do they go after Mumbai? There’s something about this island-state that appalls religious extremists, Hindus and Muslims alike. Perhaps because Mumbai stands for lucre, profane dreams and an indiscriminate openness.

Mumbai is all about dhandha, or transaction. From the street food vendor squatting on a sidewalk, fiercely guarding his little business, to the tycoons and their dreams of acquiring Hollywood, this city understands money and has no guilt about the getting and spending of it. I once asked a Muslim man living in a shack without indoor plumbing what kept him in the city. “Mumbai is a golden songbird,” he said. It flies quick and sly, and you’ll have to work hard to catch it, but if you do, a fabulous fortune will open up for you. The executives who congregated in the Taj Mahal hotel were chasing this golden songbird. The terrorists want to kill the songbird.

Just as cinema is a mass dream of the audience, Mumbai is a mass dream of the peoples of South Asia. Bollywood movies are the most popular form of entertainment across the subcontinent. Through them, every Pakistani and Bangladeshi is familiar with the wedding-cake architecture of the Taj and the arc of the Gateway of India, symbols of the city that gives the industry its name. It is no wonder that one of the first things the Taliban did upon entering Kabul was to shut down the Bollywood video rental stores. The Taliban also banned, wouldn’t you know it, the keeping of songbirds.

Bollywood dream-makers are shaken. “I am ashamed to say this,” Amitabh Bachchan, superstar of a hundred action movies, wrote on his blog. “As the events of the terror attack unfolded in front of me, I did something for the first time and one that I had hoped never ever to be in a situation to do. Before retiring for the night, I pulled out my licensed .32 revolver, loaded it and put it under my pillow.”

Mumbai is a “soft target,” the terrorism analysts say. Anybody can walk into the hotels, the hospitals, the train stations, and start spraying with a machine gun. Where are the metal detectors, the random bag checks? In Mumbai, it’s impossible to control the crowd. In other cities, if there’s an explosion, people run away from it. In Mumbai, people run toward it — to help. Greater Mumbai takes in a million new residents a year. This is the problem, say the nativists. The city is just too hospitable. You let them in, and they break your heart.

In the Bombay I grew up in, your religion was a personal eccentricity, like a hairstyle. In my school, you were denominated by which cricketer or Bollywood star you worshiped, not which prophet. In today’s Mumbai, things have changed. Hindu and Muslim demagogues want the mobs to come out again in the streets, and slaughter one another in the name of God. They want India and Pakistan to go to war. They want Indian Muslims to be expelled. They want India to get out of Kashmir. They want mosques torn down. They want temples bombed.

And now it looks as if the latest terrorists were our neighbors, young men dressed not in Afghan tunics but in blue jeans and designer T-shirts. Being South Asian, they would have grown up watching the painted lady that is Mumbai in the movies: a city of flashy cars and flashier women. A pleasure-loving city, a sensual city. Everything that preachers of every religion thunder against. It is, as a monk of the pacifist Jain religion explained to me, “paap-ni-bhoomi”: the sinful land.

In 1993, Hindu mobs burned people alive in the streets — for the crime of being Muslim in Mumbai. Now these young Muslim men murdered people in front of their families — for the crime of visiting Mumbai. They attacked the luxury businessmen’s hotels. They attacked the open-air Cafe Leopold, where backpackers of the world refresh themselves with cheap beer out of three-foot-high towers before heading out into India. Their drunken revelry, their shameless flirting, must have offended the righteous believers in the jihad. They attacked the train station everyone calls V.T., the terminus for runaways and dreamers from all across India. And in the attack on the Chabad house, for the first time ever, it became dangerous to be Jewish in India.

The terrorists’ message was clear: Stay away from Mumbai or you will get killed. Cricket matches with visiting English and Australian teams have been shelved. Japanese and Western companies have closed their Mumbai offices and prohibited their employees from visiting the city. Tour groups are canceling long-planned trips.

But the best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more money, and visit Mumbai more than ever. Dream of making a good home for all Mumbaikars, not just the denizens of $500-a-night hotel rooms. Dream not just of Bollywood stars like Aishwarya Rai or Shah Rukh Khan, but of clean running water, humane mass transit, better toilets, a responsive government. Make a killing not in God’s name but in the stock market, and then turn up the forbidden music and dance; work hard and party harder.

If the rest of the world wants to help, it should run toward the explosion. It should fly to Mumbai, and spend money. Where else are you going to be safe? New York? London? Madrid?

So I’m booking flights to Mumbai. I’m going to go get a beer at the Leopold, stroll over to the Taj for samosas at the Sea Lounge, and watch a Bollywood movie at the Metro. Stimulus doesn’t have to be just economic.

by Suketu Mehta

Suketu Mehta, a professor of journalism at New York University, is the author of “Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found.”

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