Comment, Satire

Collaborative collapse

Every time I step out on to the street in Mumbai my inner sociologist marvels.

A city teeming with people in every nook and corner, Mumbai has much to offer to the observant eye. I am, however, going to focus once again on the traffic in the city. Only this time I want to share what it tells me about the prevalent individual and collective mindset.

The first thing one sees in the city is the lets-get-this-done attitude which many before me have witnessed. This is evident in the scores of people pouring onto the streets to get to work even when it is, literally, pouring outside.

As someone who has grown up in Mumbai I find the level of rage on every other face on the roads, however, alarming. This is because such a collective attitude can result in a total breakdown of law and order.

And it does. It is evident in the screeching cacophony of car horns on a road where traffic has not moved for hours. It is seen in the critical mass of people needed for an individual to safely cross the road. It is visible in the crass consumerism abundant in the city as the country rediscovers its wealth after the shattering  economic impact of colonization and decolonization.

But most frightening, and criminologically engaging, is the blatant disregard for any rules that inconveniences an individual, rich or poor. Almost everyone turns a blind eye to the traffic signals, crossing the road can occasionally turn into mudslinging matches between drivers and pedestrians and the mob appears to cherish a chance to display its might.

Its almost as if every individual has signed a social contract with the state to disregard the law in return for its protection.

Excuse the deliberate, alternate application of Thomas Hobbes’ ideas,will you?

Comment, Satire

(Road) Rash rickshaw

The streets of Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, teach you a lot of things. One of them is the importance of being humble.

Take my case for example.

I was returning from office on a wet, windy day. My supervisor told me I was doing well in my new role as a content writer and I, to paraphrase Shah Rukh Khan, felt like the queen of the world.

The feeling vanished after I sat in the rickshaw I had hailed, determined to save myself a walk and metro ride to the train station. I clung to my seat as we zoomed off, holding onto the one, tiny handle located on one side of this world-famous vehicle. The driver, however, behaved as though he was invincible. And there lies the problem.

Most people on the streets of Mumbai behave as though they are either zombies or raging bulls. When spotted alone the specimen known as the pedestrian behaves like the former, completely unaware of his (or her) surroundings. The pedestrian’s behaviour pattern changes when he or she meets his/her fellow travelers. Together these men and women swarm across the zebra crossing as though they were the swarm of Pigeotos that attacked Ash and Pikachu in the first two episodes of Pokemon: Indigo League.

The second category comprise of vehicle operators, the worst of which are those astride their motorcycles. Then come the rickshaw wallahs who swerve through traffic so fast that they are likely to cause nausea in an unsuspecting passenger’s stomach. When travelling by rickshaw a passenger is likely to experience a range of emotions; I felt frightened, amazed, amused and resigned all at once. The driver, however, remained as cool as a cucumber reminding me of my frailty.

A subcategory to watch out for is the fancy car driver. Now, the regular Honda City driver is a mere, frustrated mortal who channels his (or her) anger onto the roads. The fancy car driver, on the other hand, uses his vehicle to showcase his (or her) supremacy on the road. He will drive his swanky car in a foolishly rash manner and blame another driver or pedestrian for any damage he incurs. The widest range of abusive vocabulary can be heard when viewing, or engaging in, an interaction with  one of the Louis Vuitton and Lamborghini crowd.

Amidst all this chaos is the policeman, or hawaldar, who alternates between refreshingly helpful and obviously intimidating and judgmental. Nevertheless, my sympathies remain with him as he endures either the punishing humidity or the pouring rain that graces Mumbai through the year.

I’d like to spare a line or two for all the Mumbai Police advertisements that adorn the hoardings in the city. They are designed to discourage reckless drivers but may as well be beautifully laid out, ignored furniture in a very big, cluttered living room.

As a child I played a racing computer game called Road Rash which involved the player controlling a street biker who kicked and punched the other riders while making his way to the finish line. May be it is time we, in Mumbai, began playing Road Rash Rickshaw?

 

Comment, Satire

The return of the Pen

Forgive the subtle Lord of the Rings reference, but as an serious Tolkien fan I can’t help myself. I haven’t updated this blog in a long time and that is because the I have been on-board the speeding train that is called The College Express.

About to begin my final year of university I have decided to write a series detailing my experiences at university so far over the course of the coming academic year. I hope that any student, regardless of whether they attend the University of Toronto, can benefit from this series.

I will of course continue to write for The Varsity, which is the University of Toronto’s largest student newspaper, and try to contribute to other publications in Canada and other parts of the world. As always, I will share those articles on this platform and am eager to read helpful comments.

In the the Era of the Troll I sincerely request any reader of this blog from using abusive unproductive language in the comments section.

Watch this space for more!

Comment, Satire, Student Life

College Diaries #1: Essay writing

Mission: To write an essay on (insert elaborate topic of desperation/ choice here) by (deadline inflicted on innocent students by sadistic professor(s)).

What the ideal student does:

1)Spends some time analyzing the essay prompt after which (s)he creates a draft outlining the initial ideas buzzing around the organ where the little gray cells reside.

2) Makes a plan of action which illustrates how much work needs to be done each day, in order to finish the essay two days before the deadline. Proof reading is important after all.

3) Visits professors’ office hours and inundates the TA’s  inbox with inquisitive emails.

4)Does research- lots of it- and is friends with The Library and its formidable guardian, The Librarian.

5) Avoids using Google Scholar because (s)he knows how to utilize the help of The Library’s cousin, The Online Library.

6) Uses correct grammar and concise language.

7)Monopolizes office hours and TA mailboxes some more.

8) Temporarily feels guilty for this.

9)Delights the folks at the Writing Center with his/her company. Everyone deserves happiness and joy.

10) Proof reads. Multiple times. Three days before The Deadline.

What the rest of us do:

1)Glance at the essay prompt. Then spend twenty minutes of Facebook.

2)Check out the latest from the Trolls on Twitter and a (presumably sensible) few others.

3) Complain about how much university sucks and how the professor is out to “get us”.

4) Worry about what everyone else is doing. Panic calmly.

5) Scare ourselves silly based on what other people say they are doing on social media.

6) Try an ask a somewhat intelligent question in course groups on aforementioned social media.

7) Get coffee at (insert name of cheap caffeine supplier). When feeling Rich (or Foolish), visit Starbucks.

8)  Panic frantically (two days before the deadline) when we realize we have no content to write an little time to think.

9) Start writing. Share tips on Facebook for “struggling students” while having absolutely no idea about how to proceed ourselves. Who said groping in the dark was worthless?

10) Start considering the merits of the Late Penalty. Pull one (of many) All Night-er.