Following Your Gut

If you feel like every time you follow your gut you make a mistake, you may be confusing your gut with emotional reactions. Feelings and reactions are not intuition.

The intuitive state is a detached state.

It gives you information that you can then verify or disprove. The next time your gut tells you something ask your intuition focused and detailed questions about your gut reaction and then use your responses to tell you whether or not your gut was on target.

Never Scared to Be Petrified

One of the giddying changes in a new India is that we now live in an age where the newsworthiness of an event lasts hours or days at the most. By that yardstick writing about the Maharashtrian Navnirman Sena’s agitation in February is a definite no-no. This article has had to wait this long as distance is the only way to separate the hysterical media coverage of the actual disturbances with the larger, more disquieting aspect of those ten days. The aspect of what a difference there is from the perception of Bombay (yes, I choose to call the city, Bombay, and if it appears as Mumbai in this article it is purely the choice of the editors of this site) to the reality about it.

In all the juvenile, lopsided, sensation-mongering television media coverage (each and every news television channel disgraced itself) of the ‘event’, three facets went without almost any discussion. The first facet is to do with the mythicised, so-called ‘resilience of the proud Mumbaikar”. We heard so much about it during the train blasts of July, 2006. Yet, when I went onto the trains the next day and did a story what emerged were not heroic Bombayites putting on their Superhero cloaks and striding onto the local trains with a collective spirit of never-say-die, but wary mothers putting their children onto trains because there was no other way to send them to school, women jumping into the Ladies’ because missing work meant losing precious leave, men rushing to catch the 7.10 because they had salaries to earn, families to feed. All of them, without exception said – “What else can we do?”

More significantly, they also expressed the feeling that the city should not give in to terror tactics, with some going so far as to say such terrorism would never work in Bombay as Bombayites did not scare so easily. Impressive, but an absolute untruth. We Bombayites are amongst the most cowardly citizens of this country. Here’s why. Our courage was manifest during the bomb blasts because the enemy was nameless, faceless, some perpetrators of ‘international terrorism’. We leapt to speak with indignance, defiance, even patriotism, in the aftermath of 26/7. Where were we this time?

Which one of our citizens, our high-octane celebrities, our media-savvy politicians spoke out with indignance, defiance, patriotism? Not one, with the exception of Kumar Ketkar who tersely called the disturbances, and I paraphrase, a transparent stunt to get political mileage. (How he has been targeted months after over the Shivaji statue issue is a matter for another article.) Why didn’t we speak out? Welcome to the psychology of the coward who loudly abuses the bully only once he has disappeared around the corner of the street.

Never will a Bombayite stand up to an enemy who will remember your name and your face. We cowered in the confines of our houses when Muslims were being eliminated by a conspiracy between right-wing Hindu political forces and saffronised members of the Bombay police in 1993. We turned our backs and ran home when Dalits and right-wing Hindus clashed last year (another example of gleeful, misrepresentative television reporting), and have done so again. Because we are scared of any enemy that is known, that is local.

But why blame only us when our politicians have let us down time and time again, displaying such cowardice that night after night on television we winced to see the embarrassment and shame on the faces of senior police officials who were left with the blame of inaction last month?

The other equally, if not more, sad conclusion one can draw about this city and its citizens is that when it comes to controlling political battles on our streets we have no confidence in the police. Whenever a top-ranked police official in any major metropolis seeks to calm the fears of its citizenry with hard facts only to achieve next to nothing, it simply means people have no faith in his juniors on the ground. Joint Commissioner of the Mumbai Police, Prasad appeared on television assuring Bombayites that incidents of stone-throwing and taxi- breaking were isolated and ridiculously small in number. Yet all of us in Tardeo (where no violence was reported) shut shop and ran home. Not to mention, Andheri, Worli, even Altamount Road! Because we remember reports of police inaction we have read. Because we remember the findings made by Justice Srikrishna in his commission’s report on the communal role of some Hindu policemen during the 1992-3 riots. Because we remember constable Sunil More raping a teenage girl in broad daylight at the Marine Drive police chowky.

Yes it’s confirmed. Bombay has entered the vicious cycle of a citizenry at constant loggerheads with its protectors. Lastly there is the media-concocted myth of the famous ‘fabric of Bombay’. What fabric? The fabric that has been routinely torn to shreds by riots from, to cite only recent history, the post-partition carnage to the riots in the 1960s to the riots in the 80s to the riots in 1993 to now? What fabric? If there has been any fabric I have certainly not witnessed it in my 37 years here. Ours is a city that lives together out of one-half sheer convenience and one-half sheer selfishness.

What you will hear from most people in this city is – Jab mein kuch banoonga to mein thela bechke hotel banaoonga. Jab mein kuch banoonga to Bandra mein do BHK khareedoonga. Jab mein kuch banoonga to us director ki ma ch___ne wala hoon. Jab mein kuch banoonga. One day when I make it, I will. That’s what binds this city together. That’s all. Sure, within it you will find a million kindnesses, a million creative solutions, a million things that work miraculously better than any city on earth. But none of it from any encouragement from our politicians, our institutions or our collective spirit. There would be no point of this article if I felt there was no hope. There is. But for that first we will have to say – Yes, I am a coward. Yes, I am selfish. Yes, I have no hope from our politicians. But I have not broken any law. I have not harmed anyone. Then why am I scared? If everybody else is willing, I am prepared to take a stand against bullies. I am willing to stand up to that man with a rod in his hand. I will not back down. I will not feel fear.

How much more will you take, Bombay? This is one of the last chances we have. It’s now or never.

That Man…

Last week I was shooting for a comic scene for one of my films and
the doctor, who was doing some tests on someone that I am very close
to, informed me that he has cancer of the urinary bladder. The scene
was to become funnier as it progressed.

I was sad that even after the news I was still doing those scenes
funnily. To some extent I was also feeling guilty. I am sure and hope
he’ll be fine with all the medication and an early operation but
strangely I remembered a story, again from my childhood.

The story

World Good News Day

In the last few years, everytime I go through news… either in the
newspapers or on television, I discover that news all over the world
means bad news. What used to be on the 9th or the 11th page of a
newspaper, one finds on the front pages these days.

Satellite channel is relatively new in India, and so are the
numerous news channels. Every ten minutes you have a “breaking news”
sign flashing on almost all the channels. Breaking news is always about
some disaster / catastrophe / murder / rape / deceit / bribery /
political upheaval. Newspapers are mostly carrying the similar kind of
news in bold letters.

To me such news items add to an unknown fear. Fear of living in a
world where nothing is right. I want to believe that goodness also
exists. I want to have faith in kindness, in honesty, and I do see all
this around me.

Today everything has zeroed down to how you market things:

Fathers day / Mothers Day / Independence Day / Friendship Day / Valentines Day / Teachers Day.

Is it possible to expect a WORLD GOOD NEWS DAY?

On that day, whether on television or in the newspapers, we only
read good news? We only read about love, passion, goodness. We only
read stories of courage, of honesty, of joy, of trust?

Can that day be 31st of December

Playing the Field

While I have great regard for commitment and monogamy, I must admit that I, myself, have been rather promiscuous.

New York’s dating scene is notoriously cut-throat but it pales in comparison to the city’s housing market. A few lucky people find their perfect match right off the bat but the majority of us go through several real estate partners before finally settling down.

I have gone from rookie renter to serial subletter and someday I hope to settle down into a long-term lease but for now I continue my wanton wanderings. Below is a lease-and-tell chronicle of some of my more memorable affairs of the real estate variety…


The first apartment I ever had of my own was listed as a “cozy” studio in Manhattan’s pierced and mohawked East Village neighbourhood. In New York realty-speak, “cozy” means the size of a small walk-in wardrobe. But, for a wide-eyed, twenty year-old film student, it was a palace. There’s no feeling that comes close to the sense of accomplishment and pure exhilaration of moving into your first apartment.

With this rite of passage one also ends up learning important life lessons. One of the more amusing ones (in retrospect only) was a wild evening with two Norwegian girls whose Basic Instinct style flashes from the futon were, I later discovered upon getting my phone bill, just to distract me and my friends from the fact that they were using my phone to call every relative they had in Norway.

When I moved back to NYC after a 3-year stint in Singapore, the first apartment my realtor happened to show me was this very same one. It was like reconnecting with an old friend but it looked so tiny I couldn’t believe I actually lived there. I ended up going with…


This brief dalliance with a ground floor studio in a townhouse on the Upper West Side was doomed from the start. The very evening I got the keys, I discovered the apartment came with room-mates. Furry, four-legged ones. The relationship was over less than 24 hours after it had begun. This led to my first (and hopefully last) legal battle (which I subsequently lost thanks to the fine print on the paperwork I’d signed) and, although I didn’t get the opportunity to shout, “I’m out of order? You’re out of order! This whole trial is out of order!”, the up side is I now have some experience to draw on if I ever do a courtroom drama.

Although the whole affair was less than pleasant, I was in for a soft landing because I ended up in the vermin-free arms of…


This slick little apartment in a modern high-rise with the most unbelievable views of Manhattan and the river was the real-estate equivalent of being in a relationship with a sophisticated, sexy and successful young woman… who, I discovered, had a sordid background.

A few years earlier, the building was the site of one of Manhattan’s most sensational and grisly murders. Often, as I strapped on my rollerblades in the lobby, one of the doormen, shaking his head, would recount how he’d helped two residents load a trunk into a cab, later finding out it contained the dismembered remains of a local bookie.

Apart from that, the building was rumoured to be home to some of the city’s most high priced and exclusive escorts. Although I never was able to confirm this information (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), I got to know some of my other neighbours and we are still close friends. My apartment was sandwiched between one of New York’s premier concert pianists and an auctioneer couple with a talent for mixing exquisitely lethal margaritas, which they’d pass me over our balconies every evening. Between the Gershwin from one side and the tequila from the other, it’s no wonder I look back on those years with such great fondness but not too much lucidity.

When I began taking on more work in India, it made sense to sub-let rather than maintain an apartment of my own, so my promiscuity escalated. Next up was an involvement with…


I’d always been a fan of New York’s indigenous pre-war architecture but had only lived in modern structures until I ended up in this charming one bedroom on the Upper West Side. Full of antiques (and dust!) the apartment was owned by a flamboyant and uproariously witty 90 year-old. She lived across the hall and would often trick me into taking her out for drinks. Always catching me off guard, her modus operandi was brilliant and would involve lines like “I’m 90, would you just walk me to the corner so I can pick up some dinner?” When we got there, she’d follow it with “Let’s just have a quick drink while they pack my food.” An hour later, through a 3 martini haze, I would realise I’d been had – again. In spite of this regular trickery and the delight she took in scandalising me with play-by-play details about her sex-life, requests to please “knock-up” her daughter and answering the door in nothing but her underwear, we got along famously and I ended up being a frequent guest at parties with her friends that included New York’s most celebrated tycoons, politicians, writers and artists.

When she found out I was an actor, she started showing a picture of me to every Indian taxi driver she came in contact with. She would then excitedly call me wherever I happened to be in the world to inform me that they knew who I was. When I expressed my mortification and asked her to stop, she was clearly offended. The next voicemail from her was a curt, “I showed your picture to a cab driver today and he had no idea who the hell you were.”

I sublet the apartment for a few years before she eventually sold it but she remains one of my favourite people in New York and I still get invited to the parties.


In between apartments, a friend offered me his roommate’s section in their large Chelsea 2-bedroom. She was away on a long assignment in South America and I fell madly in love with the unbelievable water pressure. Every time I turned on the shower, I had to hold onto the hand rail for fear of being knocked to the ground or pinned to the wall with its force. Every shower was an adventure – like whitewater rafting in the comfort of one’s own bathroom. But this was not my space and I was always aware that it belonged to someone else. And, like when you mess with a committed woman, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually get caught. That happened late one October morning when I emerged from the shower and found a middle-aged Argentinean woman sitting on the bed. Her assignment had ended ahead of schedule and she was home early. That was the end of that tryst. The room went back to its true owner and I went back to standard water-pressure.


I recently found myself in the top floor apartment of a brownstone off Central Park West. It belonged to a feminist writer who was spending time in Europe and the apartment, newly renovated, with great light and views, seemed perfect. There was one catch, though… the owner clearly thought very highly of her boyfriend’s charms and had a framed photograph of him above the bed. Nothing wrong with that – except that it was a nude. It took some adjusting to (and an amendment to my “One Penis Limit in the Bedroom” rule) but, after a while, I hardly noticed the pale, hairy man hanging (literally) on the wall. It was, after all, a very small price to pay for a great New York sublet.


I’m currently in a quirky and Spartan walk-up in the West Village that belongs to an Italian photographer. Thankfully, there are no naked men on the wall but it’s possible I’m living above a serial killer. He has a pallid, gothic look to him and, as I passed him coming into the building, he fixed me with a steely, disdainful gaze and hissed in an eerily Hannibal Lechter-esque tone, “Ah, new meat.” (The friend I was with claims he said, new “face” but I know what I heard.) I’m going to try my best not to make eye-contact or do anything that might even vaguely annoy him but, if I go missing, check the freezer of apartment #2R

The Spice Story of India

Here is the recipe for Punjabi Kadhi (Vegetable dumplings in a
savory yogurt curry). I have also seen some chefs spell it “Punjabi
Kudhi”, meaning the girl from Punjab. I like it that when we are
writing Hindi in English, we are creating a whole new language of

Here is the recipe for Punjabi Kadhi (Vegetable dumplings in a
savory yogurt curry). I have also seen some chefs spell it “Punjabi
Kudhi”, meaning the girl from Punjab. I like it that when we are
writing Hindi in English, we are creating a whole new language of

Punjabi Kadhi
Vegetable dumplings in a savory yogurt curry.
Serves 4

Vegetable dumplings

1 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped potato
2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
A 1-inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
salt to taste
Vegetable oil for frying


1 cup plain yogurt (soft tofu whipped with lemon juice and salt will do in a pinch)
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
salt to taste
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon dried coriander seeds
10 curry leaves
2 whole dried red chili peppers
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

Mix all vegetable dumplings ingredients in a large mixing bowl with
about 1/2 cup water. Make sure that the mixture does not have too much
liquid. Adjust the consistency by adding more water or chickpea flour.

Heat the oil in a deep skillet, pot or wok to 375

Poverty and Ownership

"In the days of the white settlement, the natives of North Americafound ownership of land an incomprehensible concept. And so they lostit when the Europeans made them sign pieces of paper that were equallyincomprehensible to them. They felt they belonged to the land, but theland did not belong to them." – Eckhart Tolle

Is there a relationship between people suffering from chronicpoverty on the one hand and ownership of natural resources by the fewon the other? The answer is: Yes, there is. The majority of urban slumdwellers and the rural poor have no direct access to land, forests, orfishing. These natural resources are vested in a few private hands. Theownership of the means of livelihood has become more and moreconcentrated.

How can we own the land, forests, rivers and oceans? Like air andsunshine, food and water are the gifts of nature

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