Saturday, November 29, 2008

When a building gave Mumbai residents virtual war experience

This is my first hand account at Nariman house during terrorists attack

Nariman House, the nondescriptwhite colour five-storeyed building was never in news before, but after it was hit by terrorists on Wednesday, it hoggedglobal limelight.

Late afternoon yesterday, heavy gunfire started fromall sides, targeting the Nariman House. With the help oflocal residents, I with a journalist friend managed to climban under-construction building in Koliwada which gave a fullview of Nariman House, except the ground floor. This buildingwas barely 100 metres away from Nariman House.

There was some movement observed as commandos weremoving up and down from staircase and several gunshots were heard. Commandos were even firing from opposite buildingstowards southern end of the Nariman House.

"Nariman House was a residence and prayer place forJews. In its place, earlier there used to be a Parsi bungalowin the crowded locality of Colaba market. After demolishingthe bungalow, the building was constructed," Murlidhar Rajake,a local said. But the rates of the flats were too high thatordinary people couldn't purchase it, he added.

A Jew trust then bought the entire building surroundedby small two-three floor houses and chawls of fishermen. "One family was staying there but we didn't know muchabout them," Rajake said. But on the day of the attack, 100 kgmeat was ordered from the market shop, he added.

One interesting bit which some locals shared was thatthese terrorists had stayed in the building with the Jewishfamily as guests and that's why they knew the entire buildingvery well and managed to ward off security forces for so long.

When terrorists entered the building on Wednesdaynight, local people heard some sound of blasts and firing.They had no idea of any terrorist attack, as the area isalways a peaceful. Some youths rushed to the building to check if therewas some accident. One boy even managed to reach the firstfloor of Nariman House but a grenade was thrown in hisdirection. He escaped with leg injuries.

"Stones were sprinkled due to the blast that injuredtwo-three others who had rushed to the building," he said.

However, even by then, no one realised that it was aterror attack and they threw stones towards the building fromoutside. Again the firing was heard from inside and then theyunderstood this is not normal.

Harish Gohil who was staying in the nearby apartmentwas killed in the firing as he peeped out of the window afterhearing explosions and a bullet hit him. "He died on thespot," Mahesh Jadhav, another resident said.

Then the news started spreading that terrorists havecaptured the building and a family was trapped there.

At around five pm, a rocket launcher was fired towardsNariman House. It hit the western side of the building wallwith a deafening sound. We were all shaken with the sound andthe blast. The third floor was damaged and some part of thewall collapsed creating a huge crater. That later proved to bethe final hit to the terrorists.

People in the area were scared with the huge explosionand said this is the first time in past two days they haveheard this. There was a fear on everyone's face and also aneerie silence.

We were continuously looking at the building withoutblinking eyes so that we could capture all the happenings. Itwas assumed to be the final stage of the operation going bythe sudden spurt in `action'.

The collapsed part of the building was near thestaircase and we could see inside movement of commandos onthe third floor very clearly. They were running towards lowerfloors holding guns. Other commandos standing on the terraceand in opposite buildings providing cover fire to insiders.

Heavy indiscriminate fire and explosions took place as the Sun started setting down. Commandos didn't want theterrorists to take advantage of the night, so the movement wasspeeded up.

The electricity supply was already discontinued so thepart of the building was focused by lights from outside.

By this time, several TV news channels startedflashing 'breaking news' that the operation at Nariman Housewas over and two terrorists were killed. There was a suddencheer in the atmosphere as the news spread in the area.

People clapped and shouted slogans 'Bharat Mata kiJay', 'Vande Mataram'. But a short while later, firing wasagain heard. There was confusion if the operation was reallyover.

Then I got down from the building and moved to themain road. While passing through narrow lanes I could reachjust 50 feets away to the Nariman House. The south part of thebuilding was mainly damaged. Windows were broken and grills were smashed in the firing.
But RAF personnel shooed us away from the buildingsaying we were in the line of fire.

When we came to the main road, a huge crowd of peopleand media had gathered to cheer commandos. They were waitingfor official confirmation of the success of the operation. Wewere pushed and pulled in the crowd and it was getting out of control.

To avoid the crowd again we started passing throughnarrow dark lanes and reached to the building where 15-20commondos in the uniforms were resting after the operation.Their caps were removed and guns were on ground. They were surrounded by police and police vans. Someof them were sitting on the road and drinking water withrelaxed faces. Locals were helping them to serve water and whatever they needed.

Some Israeli officials were also standing there. Butbefore we could communicate with them we were againforced out of the area by police.

Senior BJP leader Gopinath Mude came and appealedpeople to maintain calm. He said police didn't confirm thatthe operation is over. But the crowd was unmanageable andpolice used cane charge to disperse it.

Around nine pm, it was declared that the operation wasover and two terrorists and five hostages were killed. After the news, Army and NSG commandos started leavingthe place in trucks and buses. People were so excited andgrateful to them that they were welcomed with loud clappingand patriotic slogans. They even congratulated commandos by shaking handswith them. The crowd was standing everywhere in the building,balconies and atop adjoining shops, saluting the commandos.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

म्हणे भैय्या हटाओ...

गेले काही दिवस खूपच गडबडीत गेले. त्यामुळे मनात असूनही अनेक गोष्टी लिहिताच आल्या नाही. आज जरा वेळ मिळालाय. त्यावेळी सगळ्यात पहिल्यांदा विचार आला तो महाराष्ट्र गेले काही दिवस ज्या उत्तर भारतीय द्वेषाने पेटून उठला आहे त्याचा.

शुल्लकशा वाटणाऱ्या एका आंदोलनाचे आज महाराष्ट्रच नव्हे तर सबंध देशभरात पडसाद उमटना दिसत आहेत. भैय्यांविरोधात सुरू झालेलं हे आंदोलन आता पूर्णपणे राजकीय वळण घेताना दिसतं.

पण वैयक्तिक पातळीवर विचार केला तर खरोखरच या उत्तर भारतीयांपासून आपल्याला धोका आहे का, हा मोठा प्रश्नच मला पडतो.

या संपूर्ण आंदोलनाचा मी कदाचित संकुचित वाटेल अशा पद्धतीने विचार केला आणि काही गोष्टी प्रकर्षाने जाणवल्या. म्हणजे बघा की माझ्या आयुष्यात मला कुठे कुठे उत्तर भारतीय किंवा बिहारींशी व्यवहार करावा लागतो किंवा लागला आहे. ते करताना मला कधी असं वाटलं का की यापेक्षा एखादा मराठी माणूस असता तर जास्त बरं झालं असतं.

अगदी कालेजच्या दिवसांपासून सुरूवात करूया. मला कोमल नावाची एक उत्तर भारतीय मैत्रीण आहे. जयहिंदमध्ये एफवाय बीएस्सीला असताना तिच्याशी ओळख झाली. अभ्यासात ती खूपच हुशार कायम पहिली आणि मी कधीच अभ्यास गांर्भीयाने न घेणारी. तरीही आमचं ट्युनिंग उत्तम जुळलं. तिच्यामुळे खरंतर मला थोडाफार अभ्यास करावासा वाटू लागला.

कोमलचा आणखी एक स्वभाव म्हणजे एखादी गोष्टी शेअर करणं. मग अभ्यास असो किंवा जेवणाचा डबा. एखादी वस्तू दुसऱ्याला देताना तिला कधीच इनसेक्युअर वाटलं नाही किंवा आपल्याकडे काही कमी झाल्याची भावनाही आली नाही. तिचा स्वभावही खूप मृदू आणि कोणालाही आपलंसं करेल असा.

सगळ्यात महत्त्वाचं तिला उत्तम मराठी, हिंदी, गुजराती आणि अर्थात इंग्रजी बोलता येतं. तिचं कुटुंबही साधं लोप्रोफाईल म्हणता यंईल असं. तिच्यापेक्षा एखादी मराठी मैत्रिण असती तर मला काही आणखी चांगला अनुभव आला असता असं मुळीच वाटत नाही.

मग काँलेजमधलाच माझा एक मित्र राम. हाही उत्तर भारतीय. खूपच गरीब कुटुंबातून आलेला. दिवसभर लायब्ररीत बसणारा आणि जाड जाड पुस्तकांचं वाचन करणारा. अभ्यमात्र हुशार. काँलेज नसताना भावाबरोबर तो वांद्र्याच्या एका थिएटरमध्ये तिकीट चेकरचं काम करायचं कारण तेवढेच पैसे सुटायचे. आता त्याने आयआयटी खड्कपूरमधून एमटेक केलंय.

त्याचा सगळ्यात मोठा गुण म्हणजे जिद्द. स्वतःच्या जीवावर त्याने त्याचे शिक्षण केलं आणि आज तो आयुष्यात सेटल होत आहे. शेवटच्या वर्षी तो फिजिक्सचा टाँपर होता काँलेजमधून. मला त्याने केलेली सगळ्यात मोठी मदत म्हणजे फिजिक्स प्रॅक्टीकलसाठी. फायनल परीक्षेला प्रॅक्टिकल आणि व्हायवा होते. त्यामध्ये काहीही प्रश्न विचारतात. अनेकांना या तोंडी परीक्षेचीच जास्त भीती वाटायचीय, मलाही. पण रामने माझ्याकडून इतका सराव करून घेतला की परीक्षक माझ्यावर खूष झाले आणि रामनंतर मला प्रॅक्टिकलमध्ये सर्वात जास्त गुण होते.

रामशी खूप संपर्क नाही पण आता मात्र त्याला फोन करावासा वाटतो आहे.

मग दैनंदिन कामाचं म्हणाल तर दुध-दहीवाला भैय्या आहे. इस्त्रीवाला, रद्दीवाला, किराणावाला, टॅक्सीवाला अगदी रोज ज्याच्याकडे मी ज्यूस पिते तोही भैय्याच आहे. यांच्या जागी मी मराठी दुकानदारांकडे जाऊ शकते. पण आधी ते शोधावे लागतील. बरं तसे मराठी शोधल्यावर काय होणार, महाराष्ट्राचा विकास की भैय्यांना अद्दल घडणार. जर स्पर्धा करायचीच असेल तर ते देत असलेली सेवा आपण देऊ शकतो का याचा आधी विचार व्हायला हवा. विशिष्ट लोकांना हाकलवून मराठी माणसाचा किंवा महाराष्ट्राचा विकास झाला तर त्या यादीत भैय्या नसतील काही वेगळ्याच लोकांची नावं टाकावी लागतील.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Catcher of Innocence

Recently I finished reading The Catcher in The Rye by J D Salinger. It was my birthday gift from two dear friends. The book was awesome and took me to my school days but I was not as bold as Holden Caulfield, the protagonist in the story.

Holden, 16 years old boy who learns that he is going to be kicked out of the school again. Then suddenly in the middle of the night he packs the bags and leaves the school without informing anyone. He heads to New York City to roam around before he goes to home.

He knows that he would not be welcomed at home so decides to enjoy few days flirting with girls, secretly meeting his sister, enjoying the night life of New York and even flirting with his friend's mother.

The book takes us to the adolescent world, whose hero Holden is in many ways a typical teenager, skeptical of all authority and with a hostile attitude. Holden has disliking towards phonies and has a great aversion for many things related to adulthood. But he is not good with his friends also.

Finally Holden leaves school and enters into the world of adults. He survives well their with his confidence, sometimes smartness and of course with few bucks in hand.

Holden very openly talks about sexuality his attraction towards girls, jealousy when his ex girlfriend goes for a date with his roommate. He does not even mind inviting a callgirl in the hotel room. But at the same time he admits that he is virgin. Holden also continues his preoccupation with sex when he meets the nuns at the station.

Holden recommends only one thing authenticity and innocence. So he likes his sister Phobe and dead brother Allie because they are innocent. When Phobe asks him what does he want become in his life, he says the 'Catcher in the Rye'. He wants to preserve the thousands of children playing in a Rye farm and protect their innocence from falling of the 'cliff' of the world of adults. So he will be the 'Catcher' on the cliff.

The book talks all about the story of a rebellion adolescent who is against the double standard of this world and that is why he is being alienated. There is always a pressure from society, home, school to follow certain rules if you want to be called as 'good'. Holden refutes these rules and enjoy life as he wants it. He also pays 'price' for that , sometimes by getting beaten up by friend or sometimes even by a callgirl agent.

One more appealing part of the book is the language used though some find it slang. Holden keeps calling everyone 'Old' including a kid. Whenever he gets emotional he says 'That kills me'. Then 'Boy' his favourite adjective.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mama Africa is no more

The death of a South African singer Miriam Makeba, came to me as a real shock. Just a year back my friend had given me her autobiography to read… ‘Kale Gane’ in Marathi. That was the first time I heard her name.

The book was really great. But while reading the book I really didn’t know that her thoughts would leave any impact on me.

Miriam was the South African folk singer and anti-apartheid activist famously known as "Mama Africa." She worked with many international singers and artists but unfortunately she was banned from her own country under apartheid.

Zensi Miriam Makeba was born on March 4, 1932 in Prospect township on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Her father was a teacher and her mother, a domestic servant, belonged to the Xhosa tribe. Miriam was educated at a Methodist school in Pretoria, and gave her first performance for King George VI when he visited South Africa. She also sang at weddings and funerals before joining the Black Manhattan Brothers.

She cemented her popularity when she toured in the role of a shebeen owner in the jazz opera King Kong in 1959. Four years later, Miriam Makeba appeared before the United Nations special committee on apartheid to call for an international boycott of South Africa. The South African government responded by banning her records, including hits like Pata Pata, The Click Song (Qongqothwane in Xhosa), and Malaika.

After three decades abroad, Makeba was invited back to South Africa by Nelson Mandela shortly after his release from prison in 1990 as white rule crumbled. "It was like a revival," she said about going home. "My music having been banned for so long, that people still felt the same way about me was too much for me. I just went home and I cried."

At the age of 76, she suffered a heart attack and died at Rome on November 9.
This whole story just went through my mind as I read the news that Miriam is no more. In her book she has mentioned that first time when she went to perform at USA she was very unprofessional. She didn’t even know how to represent herself before the audience.

One of her experienced was so genuine that touched my heart forever. She, being a South African, gifted with a dark skin though it doesn’t fit into the definition of beauty of ‘white’ world. As a part of make up she used to apply lots of lipstick, foundation but in vein. Because that really never showed any difference on her black skin.

Miriam used to put layers of makeup to look like American singer of that time. Finally she realized that its of no use. 'The cosmetics were made for the white skin not for the black. It can only suit to the white so what is the use of putting layers on the face…..,' she said.

Her realization is still true. The concept of make up which include red lips, pink cheeks, pinkish eye shadows etc is not for the black skin. But still we black girls keep running behind this ‘artificial beauty’ and hide our natural colour.
I learnt a big lesson from this and never felt like wearing lipstick of any other make up after that.
( Inputs from The Telegraph Nov 12, 2008 and