Urban Nomad

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I met this man some days ago while hunting a fresh story. At first glance itself, Manchala Singh won my heart. He hails from north India, and is on a journey in the city of dreams; since…no one knows—not even him!

He roams on his cycle and talks less. However, I was able to communicate a little with him. He’s one of those displaced and unfortunate farmers, who has lost everything but hope. He’s now dislocated form his family and has developed a physiological issue. Once a farmer, he now insane almost. He has a bag full of stories to tell. He talks of past days of glory when there was abundance.

सारी फसल नाचती थी मेरे खेतों में, अब कुछ भी नहीं
बोहोत थी ज़िन्दगी, अब कुछ भी नहीं है

One thing I am sure that this is not his real name. I kept his asking about his real name but he was indifferent. I didn’t get to know much of him but I know the pain of getting raped out of business; especially an age-old family business.

Only God knows how many such people are walking on this land of plenty—without a beginning, without an end. I can’t do much but can surely pray and listen to their story and maybe, offer support in whatever way possible.

Girl Power

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You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination.

This is what Khushboo Yadav and Gulafsha Shaikh believe. Here are two young ladies who are making a change. Both have studied in a community-learning center in Mumbai and now they teach in such community-learning center. Coming from a low-income family, they had been less fortunate till the time they decided to change their situation; all by themselves.

They are good in studies. Khushboo has decided to be a teacher while Gulafsha has decided to be doctor. However, both want to serve the community in whatever way possible and teaching less fortunate school children form their locality is their way of being the change. They teach in a community-learning center in nearby slums—every day after their college.

Such women bring pride and glory to our nation. They have proved that nothing is impossible—even at a young age.

When asked about their motivation, they said that If we want to see a better world tomorrow, we have to work today.

Salute to this spirit and note—they’re just in their teens.

The Red Band

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Finally, I spotted one near my home. They started their magic and I couldn’t resist capturing this nostalgic moment—almost like a rat who came running to Pied Piper of Hamelin.

The band was playing some really awesome music when I approached the. It was a perfect example of team work and harmony. Inherited from the old British Empire, the brass bands belong now to the tradition in India and appeal to their audience as everywhere else, whatever the circumstances are: national or religious celebrations, popular festivals workshops or life events such as weddings. In India, no marriage is without a brass band!

The Nashik Dhol is more popular. Proprietor, Sargam Brass Band.

I used to see so many of them before but they’re almost extinct now-a-days. Somebody had called them today to celebrate some Jain festival. They will cast their magic for an hour or so and leave the main person in their epic van. It was so good to see them today playing. The speed at which we’re killing our traditions and customs, I hope we don’t kill this part of the celebration.

…after all, India is all about loud noise!

In Conversation With—Coconut Amma

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Once upon a time, I was walking on the beautiful streets of Puducherry and I noticed the famous woman coconut vendor—Coconut Amma. I couldn’t stop and we had a striking conversation:

Mother, please give me coconut water.

Water or creamy? Take the creamy one, it’s sweeter.

Yummy, it’s so sweet and cold.

You’re the first woman coconut vendor I have seen in my life.

Women are now in outer space, why shouldn’t I be selling coconut water?

She really inspired me. I’ll never forgot this conversation and the lesson that women are everywhere.

Karate Kid

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There are lot of wonderful things happening around the world done by wonderful people. I also am honored to meet one such character. Gaurav Sharma is young man in his late teens. He stays in one of the slums of Mumbai but he’s quite wealthy by heart. He’s a young change-maker who is determined to change his present and future through hard work and passion.

He’s a trained karate kid and do you know where did he learn it? He learns it on a foot-over-bridge that is not used in is locality. All though, most of such bridges are unused in Mumbai, his mentor has chosen this place to mentor less fortunate and low-income children of the locality. He goes to college and after that he shared his time in a community-learning center built near his place. He was also form such a community-learning space and has pledged his time for the younger children so that they can get value education and skills.

He’s also learning photography and film-making through the internet and with support of few good friends. He’s always inquisitive and ready to be the change. He wishes to join Indian Army when he grows up. He’s also preparing for it and if he doesn’t he wants to be a genuine journalist.

Such young men bring pride and glory to our nation. They have proved that nothing is impossible—even at a young age.

Moments @ Hotel Taj Mahal Palace

I was born in a lower-middle class family who settled in Mumbai; after partition of united India. Belonging to this social class has always been a blend of boon and curse for me. There was always anxiety, excitement, awe, fear and so many emotions; especially in my early years. There were dreams, aspirations, etc. and one of them was visiting—if not staying or eating—in a 5-star hotel and that too Taj.

24th March 2017 was the day my dream, aspiration, etc. came true; at the age of 37. It took so long but the fruit of patience and perseverance was sweet, very sweet. I was invited—by Swachhalay—to an event of Tata Trusts in the esteemed Hotel Taj Mahal Palace. The event was scheduled to be in the evening but I arrived early—out of sheer excitement.

Since childhood, I had heard stories of the 5-star hotel staff restricting entry for the common man. I was quite anxious and had butterflies flying in my stomach; in fact, everywhere. But to my surprise, I received a warm welcome by the decorated sentinels. They let me in peacefully and with dignity.

No one stopped me—a big achievement of my life!

There was nothing to do as such but there were moments to be spent in this iconic space. So, I just strolled around in all the corners one was allowed to. I explored and captured some beautiful moments in my mobile camera. The staff and climate were super-friendly and broke all my false assumptions about such an elite place.

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The event was informative but all my focus was on the living legend Ratan N. Tata whose great grandfather built the hotel in 1903. One of my intention to go the event was to fulfill my childhood dream of getting his autograph.

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And, I did it. Not only that, I also spent some good moments talking to some of the staff in the hotel. It’s really interesting to know that they welcome all the guest—at the time of check in—with Indian tradition of aarti.

The experience of Hotel Taj Mahal Palace is out of the world. It’s the pride of Mumbai, a epitome of success, an endless love affair and reminiscence of nostalgic tradition. Nothing is similar to what already exists—so much that I almost forgot that I had been to many 5-star hotels in life. Been there done that, but this one made me forgot everything, feel nothing again, empty again, child again, excited again, a photographer again, a story-teller again.

 

Salman, Jeep, Driver and Gossip 

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चलो, चलो चलो, सवारी १० रुपैये…

He was shouting at the top of his voice. I also wanted to ride to my destination in north Gujarat. I fought like a child—although I am still one—and took the front seat in his Jeep. He put his favorite USB drive full of regional songs. I was enjoying the trip. It was long route and we’re almost 10, stuffed like the poultry chicken.

There are ample of time and I launched the “Talk-Bomb”. He got blasted. His name was Roopkumar Rathore. By profession he’s the local cab guy and a hardcore Salman Khan fan.

हम दिल दे चुके सनम में उनको राजस्थान ले गया था.

He takes people all around and was lucky to take his favorite actor for the shooting in Rajasthan in one of his famous films. He is a ardent follower and knows each and every detail about him.

I stopped him as soon as he started…भाई का और ऐश्वर्या का लफड़ा भी ऐसा था के…

I don’t like to listen to anybody’s personal matter so I stopped him about sharing some of the actor’s secret moments of love stories. He was enthusiast and asked about my work and all. After reaching the destination, we shared tea and chatted for quite a long time. You can meet him if you are visiting Balaram-Ambaji Wildlife Sanctuary in north Gujarat. He’s quite popular cab guy on that route.

The meeting was wonderful. I was happy to meet him and he liked—rather surprised—meeting me, especially the part where I stopped him. He explained that everyone wants to know more and I was the first person who didn’t. We both met someone new for the first time.