Monthly Archives: May 2016

Hyderabad MMTS

An Ode to MMTS

It was around the mid 90s that Hyderabad began to experience its first big Boom. Chandrababu Naidu, a relative unknown in the league was at the helm, and was determined to make Hyderabad a glitzy, glammy Super-Cyber-Hyperabad.

Like pimples on a teenager’s fresh face, strange buildings and erections rose from the land. Flyovers shot up into the sky, a tower called Cyber Towers sprang up, soon to act as Mothership for other hitech, jazzmatazz offices who were helping American companies clean up their desks. Government services were digitised, and Bill Clinton was invited to inaugurate the transformation.

Among the many dreams within Chandrababu Naidu’s dream was a quick, economic rail network to connect the older city with the newer, shiny cousin. To connect Sudama to Krishna. And thus was born the MMTS. Multi-Modal Transport System. Intended to connect the two sides of the city, the engineers hadn’t expected the steroid-induced growth that Hyderabad would experience in the coming decade. Which has resulted in the MMTS being sidelined by the urban, yuppy, corporate crowd. The MMTS does not ply to Banjara Hills, Cyberabad or Jubilee Hills – these temples of the New Gods. It is for more commonplace places, like Malakpet, Huppuguda, and Sitafalmandi, where I currently reside.

While the MMTS was inaugurated with much fanfare in the presence of Chandrababu Naidu, it was the other Chief Guest of the event that should have instilled some doubts in the minds of Hyderabadis. The fact that LK Advani inaugurated the MMTS should have been a premonition for things to come. For if Naidu saw the MMTS today, he’d give up politics and retire to Manali.

In their own unique way, the MMTS has become representative of Hyderabad and its laid-back nature. As I live right next to the MMTS station, I have begun to feel a connection with the enterprise. From the first train that begins at 4.45, to the last one that chugs home tiredly at 2355, the MMTS has become the trains of my little Apur Sansaar. And as I interact with the enterprise on a daily basis, I have begun to appreciate just how Hyderabadi the MMTS really is.

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For one, timings are merely notional on the MMTS. If the timing mentioned is 10.20, it is just a ballpark figure so that you are dressed and ready on the platform. The train of course, will amble in about ten minutes later, just in time for the man with four gunny sacks to stuff them through the running doors.

Unlike in airports and Metro stations, where the entire world seems like a large, rushing crowd, the MMTS is barely ever in a hurry. The trains even have the feel of medieval caravans. There are hawkers, magicians, and little kids doing tricks with a tiny hoop for some change. For you see, unlike in Chandrababu Naidu’s dreams, the MMTS isn’t really used by the Movers and Shakers of the city. It is used instead by the hustlers and the jostlers. Those who have no where to rush to. The kind who can wait for the next train if they miss this one. Unlike the metro trains of Mumbai, there are no films shot in Hyderabad’s locals. There are no dark, intriguing, sinister stories; just a bunch of people going from one place to another.

The engine drivers are speaking on the phone and screaming at people as the train leaves the station. People are laughing and chatting and arguing in the trains as they hold the rod for support, the entire compartment a sea of Paragon chappals and sweaty armpits. People avoiding the gaze of the cops in First Class even though they have a ticket.

Om. Aham Single Fuck Not Givami Swaha.

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Back in childhood, I used to think of this as a dream job. Sell books, and sit and read all day.

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There is an overpowering sense of brotherhood and camaraderie. On a few occasions, I found a few men get into an argument with the guys who hang near the doors. But on most other days, I see the guys at the doors stretch their hands out to pull newcomers into the compartment. Because you see, these aren’t the hard-boiled urchins that you see in Mumbai. These are Hyderabadi urchins – kindhearted, sarcastic, and with a sweet tooth.

 

Ah, Technology! The things you make us do.

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The concept of privacy doesn’t exist here, those are for 1st AC trains and Business Class passengers. Here, people peep into each other’s phone. As I’m drafting out this text, the guy next to me is peeping in for a good view. I turn to him and he smiles back like a twin lost in the Mahakumbh.

 

When Hyderabad announced that it was going to add itself to the list of cities equipped with a glitzy inter-city Metro service, I was a little circumspect. I was scared that the shiny Metro would make the humble MMTS even more irrelevant than it is today. But my fears were allayed by the fact that it’s Hyderabad we are talking about here. The ministers didn’t sign on the required papers, their secretaries sat in their rooms sipping on scotch, the engineers were clueless, and the workers packed up and went home. Resulting in L&T pulling out of the project citing the state’s inefficiencies. Petitions were filed against the bulldozing of house and property, and manholes on the road grew up to become monsterholes.

And just like that, the Metro project got postponed to 2019. Three years from now, which in Hyderabad terms means a decade. A few more years for MMTS to do what it can to remain irrelevant. To meander about aimlessly unbound by cut-throat timings and maddening frenzy. To amble from one place to another like a contended buffalo, grazing in fields that she particularly likes.

To flash a shiny electric rod at the world. To prove that it is possible to be a poet among robots.

Kim Fung Restaurant Hyderabad

Chicken Soup for the Asshole

Kim Fung is a tiny Chinese eatery off the Tarnaka Main Road in Hyderabad.

You wouldn’t be able to find it while walking along the road. The signboard has gotten dark with time, lost amidst the glaring neon reds and blues.

A mundane hoarding of Pepsi above the door might mislead you into mistaking it for a paan shop. Walk into Kim Fung, and you’ll find a small, dimly lit room, six tables of varying sizes stuffed in for maximum efficiency. You’ll also find hungry youngsters gorging down food on the appropriately fitted tables. A woman with Mongoloid features mans the cash desk, and three little children walk around taking orders, helping her out with work. They’re not child labour, just little schoolchildren helping out during summer vacations.

Outside the restaurant, you’ll find groups of youngsters waiting for their turn, hunger churning inside their stomach, frustration writ large on their faces. You won’t find Kim Fung topping the charts on Zomato or Food Panda. They do not proscribe to the modern craze of quick home-delivery, perhaps they’re stuck in the 90s, when all you needed for a successful restaurant was good food.

The food in Kim Fung is delicious. It has the volatile spice of authentic Chinese cuisine, combined with the calming tranquility of home-cooked food. The food is delicious, the prices fair. The journey from outside the restaurant to inside is that of a frustrated frown to a contented smile.

Or so I’ve heard.

For you see, I’ve never had the good fortune of eating at the restaurant. It’s been a month and my Bae speaks very highly about the place. And once a week, we ride down to the restaurant to chance our luck, only to be met with apologetic smiles from the little kids.

The first time we were there, we were asked to write down our names on a list. We were 18th on that Waiting List, a dark throwback to the days when you had to rush to the Railway Station a few hours before the journey to check your status.

The next hour was spent in walking aimlessly, smoking unnecessary cigarettes, and kicking pebbles off the road. At the end of an hour, we were served a few more apologetic smiles, until we left with grace.

The second time was worse, as the restaurant was being manned by the children – two girls and a frail bespectacled boy dressed in a soccer jersey. They must be about 12 years old, going about their work in clockwork precision. Taking down names, placing orders, serving the food. But it was after an hour that we were informed outside the door – ‘Mother just now called and told to inform that we have a power problem and so we have to shut down now’.

In my mind, I was running amok, stabbing a thousand rabbits to death, but on the exterior, I was calm as Buddha. ‘Oh no, that’s fine, that’s fine. We’ll come again some other time’.

The next some-other-time wasn’t very different. The dreaded notepad with names spilling out of the pages, the unnecessary cigarettes smoked to pass time. I wanted to make eye contact with the little girl, see if a sad expression could trigger sympathy in her little heart. But they must have taught her discipline during Shaolin training, for she was unmoved by it.

And just yesterday, we set off for Kim Fung yet again. Without hopes or aspirations – like an alcoholic waking up and going about his day, unsure of himself, sure of his failure. And when we reached the dark, dingy portico outside the restaurant, we were met with groups of youngsters laughing nervously in the way that youngsters do. Nudging and poking the silent one in the group because what else can one do when there’s nothing to be done?

‘I’ll go see if I can manage something,’ she says. I love her optimism – bright and shiny, streaming into a dark, dingy bat-cave. The woman at the counter smiled, and from a distance, I knew what the smile meant. We nodded and left the place.

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Four times in a month. Once every week, I have tried to have food at the restaurant. And have failed each and every time.

I wonder what sort of place Kim Fung really is. Are there elves inside the kitchen, stirring up wonderful dishes, albeit at a very slow rate? Is that why there are children running the place all the time? Do the children go to school? Or are they mystical, magical creatures who reward deserving people with food, and politely shut the door on the undeserving?

Has the restaurant heard of Zomato, FoodPanda, and Swiggy? Do they know that mobile technology has evolved since the days Shaolin Soccer was shot? And what about the Power Problem – is it a recurring feature? Is the restaurant on the verge of shutting down. My mind is brimming with questions.

If anything, my resolve has been strengthened. I will go to the place again this week. Land up before the rest, before the sun has even set. And I will sit down on a table and stretch my legs out.

Because I can.

And then I shall order food and devour it like Tadakasura. And then order more food, watch the children bring me my orders, only to have it finished off in a few minutes. Only to go back and get more food.

And when that happens, dear Kim Fung, and dear kind, soft woman at the counter, and the three little kids who are probably elves – the food better be good.

It better.

Of Soppy Facebook posts and Uni-dimensional Mothers

May be it’s because I hail from a dysfunctional family, that I find the entire online charade of Mothers’ Day a little too soppy for my liking.

All the YouTube ads that I skip savagely, the marketing campaigns that sell uni-dimensional women who love and give and forgive and sacrifice for their children. Those status updates and sloppy Facebook pictures where the mothers are clearly uncomfortable, but are holding up a smile so their moronic kid could tag them on social media.

Quotes that have clearly been lifted from the Internet, followed by a one-line cursory tribute that often reads – ‘You stayed up for me when I had to study, you gave me all that I need, including a kidney for my dialysis. I love you, mom!

Not only do I fail to understand the need for such hoopla, I also find it terribly demeaning to women in general, and mothers in particular.

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Since childhood, I have had a problem with the Indian custom of worshiping parents. Matru Devo Bhava, Pitru Devo Bhava – these lines never made sense to me.

How can a natural act of producing a progeny elevate one to the status of a god? If producing the next generation of the species is all it takes, then every creature on earth does it. What makes us so unique? Dogs do it, as do cats and monkeys and donkeys and camels – why do we humans enjoy the exclusive privilege of godliness? Surely monkeys should be gods too? And cows as …oh well!

My disillusionment also probably stemmed from seeing my own parents. They were both products of the 70s – born with generations of tradition, but blessed with an education that allowed them to break free and make their own choices. They both met and fell in love and got married and started living together, two minor blips in a nation that was trudging along the chosen lines of tradition. But somewhere along the lines of fighting customs and tradition, they began fighting among themselves.

All this before they even reached the age of 25. It was an age where you couldn’t make mistakes. An age that expected you to act on your impulses, and live with them hanging across your shoulders for one and all to see. It was an age that expected you to wear your scars, that did not allow you options, or dates, or make-up or break-up. And they were humans after all. While other parents continued being devas for their children, I saw my parents for what they were – confused 30 year olds who had no idea what to do with their marriage, or the kids that had resulted thereof.

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But my parents belonged to an earlier generation. What about our generation?

Nearly every girl I know has a career of her own. One that is not a detour till marriage happens, something to pass time off with till the inevitable ‘M’ word. What happens to our generation when we grow up to become fathers and mothers?

Is there a guarantee they will all be wonderful women – giving and forgiving and caring and sharing?

Why does a woman have to be all of the above, anyway? Do we know what sort of a mother Marie Curie was? Or Florence Nightingale? Rosa Parks?? Does it even matter? They were all women who changed the world just by who they were. Brilliant, caring individuals whose genius benefited millions around the world.

By celebrating the ‘giving, forgiving, sacrificing’ aspects of your mother, you are only reducing her to a cardboard cutout. You are pandering to the image of mothers that advertisements and marketing campaigns create for you.

If you truly love your mother, you should be celebrating her flaws as well, her weaknesses. You should be celebrating her for who she is, warts and all. As it is, the world is hell bent on straight-jacketing women into pre-decided roles – Daughter, Wife, Mother, Mother-in-law, Grandmother. Your posts only add to the existing tropes.

If she’s amazing, she’s amazing just as she is. Whether she stayed up all night for your Board Exams or not. She’s amazing if she gave up her career for you, but more so if she didn’t. There’s more to your mother than her equation with you. She was someone before you came into her life and it’s utterly disdainful to assume you are her entire life. May be you’re not. May be if you stopped being such a narcissistic piece of shit, you’d think twice before assuming the sun shines out of your ass.

By celebrating the one facet of her that advertisers want you to, you are reducing your mother to a caricature. Every time you post a picture of her with a hashtag, some intern in a marketing office is jacking off to a new advertising campaign.

Your mother doesn’t need your hashtag and your Facebook update. She doesn’t need to be giving and forgiving and sacrificing or kidney-donating. And if you truly loved her, you wouldn’t reduce her to a cardboard caricature.

Happy Mother’s Day!