Of Planet M, Boyzone and the days we used to pay to posess music

No matter what they tell you… A hot air balloon and god looking boys singing to me…

That’s what I remember of this song. I was a geek who couldn’t get words right in a song back then. Whenever the song played on the radio, I’d pay close attention to their voices which were as smooth as their clean shaven faces… How I longed to own the cassette and just as I finished saving up the paisa, BCCL launched their music store, Planet M. My dad decided that it would be a great Sunday activity to trudge all the way to VT and spend the afternoon surfing. The afternoon turned into late evening as we browsed through CDs, cassettes and what not. CDs used to cost about Rs.600/- back then and the good daughter that I was, I picked all the CDs of the albums I wanted and asked someone to help me locate the cassettes. They cost Rs.125/- which was also a huge amount for the teenager I was, but hey!

My dad saw what I was doing and put his hand on my shoulder. ‘CDs are far better and they are the future, forget the cassettes, get the CDs,’ he told me. He picked up rock and roll, R&B, Rock, Soul and I stuck to Hindi films, boy bands and a load of stuff that a teenager’s music dreams were made of. I glanced at his pile, and I wondered why I didn’t have my dad’s taste in music. I was afraid he’d be ashamed of my bubble-gum taste in music. Even if he was, he never let me feel that way.

At the cash counter, we realized that we had picked up CDs worth nearly 16 grand. No point in being greedy and with a heavy heart we downsized our shopping baskets. Eventually we coughed up nearly 9 grand on CDs and though it was a number that looked better than 16K, it was an exorbitant sum.
“Why can’t simple things like music be free Dad?” I asked, afraid that with my Rs.200/- allowance, I’d never be able to make such a big purchase again.
He shrugged. About six to seven months later, I discovered Napster…

‘Dad, come come let me show you this,’ I gushed about Napster and how music was now going to be free.
‘You’re lucky,’ is all he said. He continued to listen to his CDs and admire his LPs but on his 51st birthday, me and the sister gifted him an iPod. The fat, 40GB one, And all his CDs were sent into a cupboard…

I guess I’ll never be able to thank him enough for being so generous to me. I guess I will never know the kind of effort he’d gone through back in the day to lay his hands on an album he wanted to listen to. I guess I will never understand how he had to deal with parents who didn’t appreciate loud ‘Kiristav’ (Christians in Marathi) music blaring from their very ‘Marathi’ household. But I know this, I will always be grateful to him for making me and the sister who we are today. We will always be thankful to him for giving to us, his musical ear.

I don’t know what spurred this post on… I was looking for something and landed on a pile of Rolling Stone magazines from the 80s that Vivek Kaka gifted me, and then I found dad’s LPs and then I found the CDs we bought at Planet M. It’s always good to give your memories a chance to flow out on paper, isn’t it?

No matter what they tell you… A hot air balloon and god looking boys singing to me… That’s what I remember of this song. I was a geek who couldn’t get words right in a song back then. Whenever the song played on the radio, I’d pay close attention to their voices which were as smooth as their clean shaven faces… How I longed to own the cassette and just as I finished saving up the paisa, BCCL launched their music store, Planet M. My dad decided that it would be a great Sunday activity to trudge all the way to VT and spend the afternoon surfing. The afternoon turned into late evening as we browsed through CDs, cassettes and what not. CDs used to cost about Rs.600/- back then and the good daughter that I was, I picked all the CDs of the albums I wanted and asked someone to help me locate the cassettes. They cost Rs.125/- which was also a huge amount for the teenager I was, but hey!
My dad saw what I was doing and put his hand on my shoulder. ‘CDs are far better and they are the future, forget the cassettes, get the CDs,’ he told me. He picked up rock and roll, R&B, Rock, Soul and I stuck to Hindi films, boy bands and a load of stuff that a teenager’s music dreams were made of. I glanced at his pile, and I wondered why I didn’t have my dad’s taste in music. I was afraid he’d be ashamed of my bubble-gum taste in music. Even if he was, he never let me feel that way.
At the cash counter, we realized that we had picked up CDs worth nearly 16 grand. No point in being greedy and with a heavy heart we downsized our shopping baskets. Eventually we coughed up nearly 9 grand on CDs and though it was a number that looked better than 16K, it was an exorbitant sum.
“Why can’t simple things like music be free Dad?” I asked, afraid that with my Rs.200/- allowance, I’d never be able to make such a big purchase again.
He shrugged. About six to seven months later, I discovered Napster…
‘Dad, come come let me show you this,’ I gushed about Napster and how music was now going to be free.
‘You’re lucky,’ is all he said. He continued to listen to his CDs and admire his LPs but on his 51st birthday, me and the sister gifted him an iPod. The fat, 40GB one, And all his CDs were sent into a cupboard…
I guess I’ll never be able to thank him enough for being so generous to me. I guess I will never know the kind of effort he’d gone through back in the day to lay his hands on an album he wanted to listen to. I guess I will never understand how he had to deal with parents who didn’t appreciate loud ‘Kiristav’ (Christians in Marathi) music blaring from their very ‘Marathi’ household. But I know this, I will always be grateful to him for making me and the sister who we are today. We will always be thankful to him for giving to us, his musical ear.
I don’t know what spurred this post on… I was looking for something and landed on a pile of Rolling Stone magazines from the 80s that Vivek Kaka gifted me, and then I found dad’s LPs and then I found the CDs we bought at Planet M. It’s always good to give your memories a chance to flow out on paper, isn’t it?

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Childhood Dreams: Priceless!

Day 12, Wednesday 30th September, 2009

The beach can only entertain you so much. There has to be something more done. Now, Disneyland is something we’ve been wanting to do, bachpan se and the cheapest deal also was going to cost us a bundle. It’s at times like these that I wish I’d chosen a profession that was far more lucrative than writing. Don’t get me wrong. I love being a writer. I love it, but it isn’t the place to be if you want to shower expensive holidays and gifts on yourself or others. However, i have done some chindigiri in my last job and I do have a little bit saved up for a rainy day.

That rainy day, I decided, was here. If the money you save doesn’t come handy in giving you some joy, what’s the use? I thought about the joy it would be to see Disney World with Nani, I thought about that chance to be two little girls we used to be again and I thought about all those dream plans of visiting Disneyland that we’d made as 15 and 11 yr olds. Well, quite like a dudette in a Master Card ad, I realised that I would have many opportunities to make money and fatten my bank balance (yeah, I’m being ambitious) but this chance to bring alive a childhood dream, it wasn’t coming back. So, I made a call and booked my tickets. Two days to Orlando, one day in Disney’s Magic Kingdom and another in Universal Studios’ Island of Adventure.

Meanwhile, we discovered that all the inhabitants of the house had been bitten by something. Me and Nani’s roommate not so much, but Nani and the roommate’s friend were really bitten up. We figured the fat cat had got in some ticks and hence the house was fumigated with a flea spray.

We tucked ourselves in at midnight to the excitement of an early morning trip to Orlando. I don’t know about Nani, but I felt the same excitement I’d feel the night before a school picnic to Esselworld. H how I missed feeling this excited! I knew  that the next two days were going to be $ well spent…

Gender Bender

‘What did I ever do that you found such a weird name to give me?’ I remember asking my Mom every single day when I was a kid. Yes, I was the girl who was always asked ‘Why do you have a guy’s name?’

Then I became the girl who was called ‘shakti kapoor’ ‘shakti man’ and what not! The worst day of my school life was my 11th birthday. The school would put up your name on the notice board with flowers to wish you a happy birthday and I was pretty kicked about it. So imagine my horror when they wrote my name as Mast. Shakti Salgaokar on the blackboard! As I stood there in front of the highly decorated notice board, watching my dream wilt through the haze of my tears, every single person passing pointed to me and laughed, ‘They thought you were a guy!’

I went on to be a tomboy who took great pleasure in thrashing ‘stupid’ boys. Of course, terrorizing the ‘stupid’ boys helped. The jokes on my name obviously stopped, but somewhere, the guys all forgot I was a girl.

Of course, through college I continued to be a tomboy and only discovered the joy of being ‘girl’ like recently. That’s a different story (you can read it here). I love my name, it’s different and I have found peace with being myself!

So why am I writing this? Because something happened and I am revisiting my childhood traumas. You all know how super thrilled I am about twitter (In case, you don’t, here’s a post about it). My twitter updates have been regular and random. And I’ve even made a few friends on twitter! So anyway, I suddenly changed my twitter avatar to a nice picture of myself. And immediately, I was flooded with @ replies asking me if that was indeed me. And two tweeple actually were surprised I was a woman!

Of course, I don’t know if they were disappointed I was a woman, but I was in a bit of a shock. Did these tweeple not a get sense of my gender from my tweets? Or am I still that tomboy I used to be? I am a bit baffled. Anyway, is this a side effect of the cyberworld? You can’t see the person you’re interacting with, all you have is the assumption you’ve made about them!

PS: Check out twitter if you haven’t already done so!

Things I learned today

1. Joys of GPRS: I am now blogging from my mobile phone. I should have figured this out before. All it took me was 5 minutes…
2. The joy of just doing it: The fact that I figured this stuff in 5 minutes, made my belief in ‘now’ stronger.
3. Take out time to make a playlist of all your happy songs. They charge you with positive energy while you commute to work. And when you’re driving back, it helps you unwind.
4. Eat! Well the diet may not permit it but just a tiny bite of the cookie you’re craving for is worth the calories.
5. Driving by the sea in lashing rain makes you want to stop the car, get out and dance in the rain!
6. Sometimes its okay to stop the car once in a while.
7. Posting from the mobile is fun!

Right to life: Who decides?

Everyone seems to be talking about the Mehta case for the last couple of days. For those who don’t know, Niketa Mehta fought the law to fight for her right to abort her 25 week old foetus which has congenital heart problems.

The verdict is out and Niketa Mehta has been denied the permission to terminate the pregnancy. In a country where many abortions are done behind closed doors without the knowledge of the law, here is a couple who went and knocked on the courts for justice and for their unborn baby. The baby might have heart problems, shortness of breath and may even need a pace maker shortly after its birth.

There are strong chances that this child will not able to lead a normal life. Had Ms. Mehta found out about this a month earlier, she’d have had the right to terminate her pregnancy. Under the MTP Act, termination of pregnancy after the period of 20 weeks is prohibited by law.

Niketa does not want to bring this child into the world to suffer. She’d rather let her baby go. As I read the story done in different papers, I found myself confused. Is this right? Was the court wrong? I felt incapable of making a statement about this. I haven’t borne a child or raised one to empathise with Niketa. So, I asked Mom.

‘Do you know how much hurts to see your child suffer? That’s exactly why she doesn’t want the baby…’ she said as she tossed a hot paratha into my plate. I couldn’t help but wonder, if that child is destined to be born and to Niketa, who is the law or who is the mother to interfere with the forces of destiny.

I shuddered as I read that a 26 week old foetus can smile. Imagine, if the foetus can feel things, does it feel his/her mother’s requests to abandon it? Does it sense that the mother wants it terminated? I start wondering how it might feel if my mother didn’t want me… And my heart goes out to the unborn child.

I wonder what’d happen if this child was born, and Niketa brought it up with all the love she can (I believe she will because she’s a mother and they love their kids no matter what). And then suddenly a television report or a news story reminds him/her of the court room drama that determined their fate and of the fact that it was that judge who decided to bring them into the world and not their own mother. The way the media is going right now, I won’t be surprised if that happened.

Suddenly, my Mom puts her hand on my shoulder and says, ‘On second thoughts, however they are, your children are yours. You love them anyway,’ she sits down and continues, ‘so if a mother doesn’t want her child to come into the world, it is always for a strong reason. She makes that choice out of love. She’s aware that the life she might bring the child in to is much worse than death.’

That reminded me of my aunt, Neena maushi, who kept telling us how important it was that we understand our Mother through the rebellious teenage years. She’d always say, “When your mom tells you to jump from the 10th floor, don’t ask why, just jump without a second thought. Know that she’s telling you to do so, because grave danger is lurking behind you. A mother always knows the best and will protect you at all costs!”

Maybe that is what Niketa is doing. Maybe she doesn’t want her child to ask her why he/she can’t run around in parks, maybe she doesn’t want to see her baby cut open the day it is born, maybe she doesn’t want to see the baby depend on a pacemaker… But then maybe that child deserves a chance. Maybe that child is destined to struggle and sail through. Maybe Niketa is destined to stand by her child through its struggle.

After all who are we to fight destiny?

PS: Just after i wrote this post, I read that the Mehtas are not challenging the court’s order. Jaslok hospital in Mumbai has offered to perform the surgery for free for the Mehta baby. The Mehtas are yet to accept or decline the offer.

Homage

It was an impulsive decision to go out for some nice juicy non-vegetarian food on Monday. We put our thinking hats together and Mom exclaimed, ‘Amar’. Amar was a restaurant less than a five minute drive from my home and served awesome biryani, kebabs and Indianised Chinese. But just as we reached where Amar proudly once stood, we were shocked to see a bank! Thanks to my new found health freak avatar, we haven’t been there in the last year or so, but to see the place shut!

So we drove down to Churchgate to eat some Rogan Josh at Gaylords. Over dinner, we thought about all the places that used to dish out amazing food at amazingly low prices and I couldn’t help but write about them. This time its not about my memory eroding. These lovely places have been erased from the memory of Mumbaikars and I want to try and make a small effort to immortalize them by writing about them.

So here goes:

Amar Restaurant and bar, Wadala:

Amar was one of the few places in the Matunga east area to serve non vegetarian food. It did go veg for a bit of time but, it bounced right back with chicken tangdi kbabs, butter chicken and more! I remember going to this restaurant as a small kid. They always gave me a cushion, and a special plate full of candied cherries. I felt special. Mom was relieved, the cherries and butter rotis nourished me!

Crystal Punjab, Dadar (W):

I remember the brown and crème SunMica décor. I remember the fancy wall fans which left a blue or red blur as they turned side to side, sweeping with them the pungent aromas of biryani, rotis and rich Punjabi curries.

The owner was a lovely soul. He sat at the counter, talking to his customers and making sure that the food was great. My mouth waters as I think of the delectable bheja masala fry. The brain was cooked just right, soft enough to bite into and tender enough to melt in your mouth. The masala was a brown concoction of onions, garlic and some secret spices. Wow!

The modest restaurant was replaced by leather apparel store more than a decade ago. But the taste of their Bheja fry continues to live on.

PS: I haven’t tasted Bheja fry ever again. I don’t want my taste buds to ever forget the tastes of Crystal Punjab.

Gupta Dhaba, Dadar (E):

This place was just a large hall, with fans and radio on. The customers were mainly cab drivers, truck drivers or transit passengers from Dadar Station. The first time we went there, me and my sis screwed up our snobbish noses and said, ‘Yuck! We can’t eat here!’

Dad asked us to shut all these things out and just wait for the food. And he was damn right. The chicken tandoori, palak mutton and Chicken bharta arrived and that’s how our love affair with Gupta’s began. The food was so good, that we didn’t care about the mediocre surroundings or anything. We would eat there at least once a week as a family.

Of course, the rich bhartas and parathas made sure that I needed to go on a diet. But then one fine rainy day, my dad and I were craving for some chicken bharta and we drove to Gupta’s and our favourite eatery was now the office of Republican party of India.

Farmer Bros, Khodadad Circle, Dadar (E):

This one was a cool place. A fancy bike stood parked right at the entrance. The place did fabulous Chinese food. Roast Lamb chilly, egg fried rice and fish in hot garlic sauce was to die for. The owner was a cool dude, who was a foodie and a biker. He was a good friend of Dad’s. We’d ordered some kebabs once and he stopped by. “Without the coal grille, they just don’t taste right,” I told Mom, who was saygn that she could make tandoori chicken at home or something like that.

“You’re right, often the charcoal adds to the flavor of the meat. It’s not about the marinade so much,” Mr. Kersi said. And he ordered something for us. It was a big tuna fish in a honey mustard sauce, char grilled to perfection. If there was a heaven on Earth, I am sure I peeped into it at Farmer Bros. that night.

I also remember having a grand dinner out there once. My whole family, I mean WHOLE family, went to see the movie- Titanic. And after the movie, we enjoyed an elaborate Chinese meal at Farmer.It was me, my parents, my maternal grandparents, my maternal uncles, aunts, my cousins, my paternal grandparents and of course, Nani- my younger sis.

My maternal grandfather wasn’t much of a restaurant lover, but that night, he actually enjoyed a meal and it wasn’t cooked by his wife!

Mr. Kersi had a fatal bike accident that year and the restaurant shut shop. May Mr. Kersi’s soul rest in peace. He’s one of the coolest dudes I ever met and his restaurant was the coolest one ever.

I have loads more to write about… Maybe I will some other time, but for now these are the restaurants that are irreplaceable. No amount of new restaurants with snazzy interiors and fancy dishes on the menus that you can’t even pronounce will fill the void left behind by them!