Thursday, March 31, 2011


By Aswathy Kumar
Tired of the mad rat race? Take a break and head out to the streets of Nairobi where people seem to have all the time they want
Each one of us is living in a mad mad world. We have no time to think, breathe…leave alone take a few minutes off our hectic schedules to just plain relax…Life for most of us have become nothing but a mere rat race with each one of us trying our best to handle our 24x7 careers, meet deadlines, please our bosses, be the perfect parent and the ideal spouse…all at the same time. We have no time to sit back and chill especially not in the mornings, the craziest of all hours, when we have to make sure we look our best, make sure our kids reach school and be on time for the morning meeting. Mornings have become so maddening that many of us don’t even have time to sit down and finish a bowl of cereal in peace.
Now that’s what you thought life was in general in most parts of the world. You must have been almost hundred percent sure that at least in most of the metropolitan cities, people like you and me were living the insane rollercoaster life. But come to Nairobi and Voila! Your perception on life is sure to change in a snap.
Believe it or not…but here people actually seem to be in no hurry…be it morning, day or night!  Now is this not a metro city like any other? Of course it is! It has the best of glittery malls, state of the art multiplexes, hi-rise buildings and what not? Then don’t they have nagging bosses, children they need to drop to school and deadlines to meet? I bet they do. But surprisingly here people seem to have all the time in the world.
Don’t believe me? Head out to any of the so-called busy roads say for example Ngong Road, Karen Road or Langata Road during the peak hours. And you are sure to come across a straight line of cars waiting patiently for their turn before they can zoom ahead to reach their respective destinations. Now I can understand that it is peak hours and traffic jams are a common feature in any part of the world. But in Nairobi, jams are not usually caused by the sheer volume of cars on the road. For all you know the kilometer long jam must have been the work of a driver who chose to drive at 20kmh on an empty road.
What amazes me is how these guys can stand at the same spot for hours and hours without honking even once or raising a fist at the guy who was driving so slow that even a cyclist could have overtaken him in no time.  
Peek inside any of these cars and you are sure to see the driver, probably some big shot at a multinational or an investment banker, scanning the morning paper or relishing a tuna sub. Now he could have read the whole morning paper back to back and finished the monstrous sub and find that his car has not even budged a little. Now if this was any other part of the world, not only would he have hooted like a maniac but would have stepped out of his car went all the way up to the chap causing the jam and reminded him of who he is and thrown some daunting threats at him making sure he never went below 100 in his entire life. 
But here in Nairobi it’s a whole different story. Here Mr. Driver is in no hurry. Here he will patiently wait till the chap in front has finished blowing a thousand kisses to his wife on the other end of the phone and spoken to each of his five kids. Forget hooting or cursing, he will not even frown to show his frustration. He will simply put down his paper, finish his sandwich and go onto the next task to keep him occupied.  Forget peak hours…even if it’s on a Sunday afternoon where the entire main road is practically empty you are sure to get stuck behind a Prado or a Pajero driving slower than an Asian tuk tuk. 


By Aswathy Kumar

From the muddy roads of Munirka to the posh colonies of GK. From Sarojini Nagar on one side to the glittery markets of South Extn. People traveling in Mercs and BMW’s to those waiting for hours to catch a 511 or a 750 that will take them back home. People getting ready for their yoga and meditation classes to those getting set to rock the night at their favourite discotheques. That’s South Delhi for you, diverse in all sense of the word. From the way they dress, the way they talk, the kind of places they hang out to even the kind of music they listen to. Let’s find out what sets each South Delhiite apart for the other.

The kitty-party aunty:
Often while strolling down the streets of South Extn or the Gk-1 market you come across women clad in the pink chiffon sari with their face and lips painted pink carrying the trendiest of pink clutch-bag and togged up in pink flip-flops. Forget shopping, she may be just paying a visit to her next-door neighbor, yet she never forgets her pink goggles and the pink blush-on. She has to look her best. “Arey bhai after all izzat ka sawal hain… The Kashmir problem pales in comparison with the kitty party aunty’s grievances. Ranging from getting jewelry set far more expensive than the neighbors’ and ensuring that all the latest gossips of the next-door’s bahu returning home late everyday, aunty’s problems and responsibilities are pretty much endless.
Another feature that shouldn’t be missed about these aunty’s is their much-talked about weekly get-togethers, which is nothing but just an excuse to share all the juicy gossips and play a game of tambola and Flash. But for the aunty its not just a social gathering and the preparations that go into it are much more scrupulous than the party itself. Hours at the salon and stopping at every shop in the market to find the right sari to wear can quite be a tedious task and is definitely no Childs-play.
The intellectuals:
This is the jooti, kurta and jhola group of South Delhiites, the intellectual lot. For them shopping, partying or even visiting a restaurant is nothing but a complete waste of time. Their life revolves around their one adda, often a library and sometimes under a tree where they can be in close proximity with nature. They are seen in groups of three-four and are also seen all by themselves with just a book or the morning’s paper as their sole-companion. The state of our Indian politics and the unhealthy conditions in the slums near by are their favourite topics of discussion. Ask them to come for a party and they would never forget their jola, their note-pad and their kurta… and when offered a drink they would never think beyond ‘chai’, that’s their style. Its not that they don’t do anything different, they do make frequent trips to the museum, plays or art exhibitions!!
The night crawlers:

South Delhi is the perfect den for the night crawlers, the party freaks. As the sunsets and as the whole world goes to sleep, there is a group of people who get set to groove all night to live life; the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll style. Girls in their black halters and shimmery skirt, wearing stilettos that block the daylights out of them and men in the latest Gio Vani collection, get ready to hit their favourite haunts. Partying till 5 in the morning, lost in the rhythm of the full-blast music playing in the background is their ultimate idea of fun. Nightclubs and discotheques have often been associated with drinks and dancing. But for the regulars it’s much beyond that. What may appear to some as noisy and claustrophobic, are for these party animals the perfect way to rejuvenate themselves and get some peace of mind. For many it’s the only time they can be themselves. You may just have gotten fired or your girl may have just ditched you for your best friend. But the crowd, the music and the ambience makes them forget it all and makes it the perfect way to chill-out. Though there night just doesn’t end with hitting a night club. These night crawlers either stay till the last person has left the place or do a little bit of disc-hopping to find the right place that suits them and their mood. When the sunrises and the world wakes up from their sleep, its time for bed for these nocturnal animals.
Happy in the cocoon:
They are the group of South Delhiites who are a little too happy with the way they are. They are too happy in their own cocoons and just don’t believe in trying something new. Ask them what their hobby is and all you get would be a frown or a raised eyebrow. Getting dressed and going out is too much of a drag for these South Delhiites. They have a routine which they don’t believe in changing. They are the kinds who would have one restaurant they frequent every Sunday and one cinema hall they would go to once a month and would have one specific day to pay visits or entertain guests. Going against this fixed time table is a big No! No! (According to them the regular traffic snarls, fast life and high pollution levels are reason enough to convince them to stay home).
The Velas:
Not to be mistaken with the outgoing kinds or the extroverts, the Velas are an entirely different lot. What the world looks like in the morning, they wouldn’t know and Kamanna?... Uske liye papa hain na! Waking up at 12 in the noon, getting dressed in the trendiest of shirts, wearing the most expensive perfume with gelled hair to complete the look, they get into the latest models of car to go where? They themselves wouldn’t know. Probably to a friends place for brunch or to drive around while talking to a buddy on the cell-phone. After almost two hours of aimlessly roaming around, its time for a short nap that often lasts till 6 in the evening. Then its time to meet the gang at the regular coffee shop, from where they seldom order coffee. Their day concludes with dinner, drinks and a movie at another friends place.
The Shopaholics: 
One of the most common group of South Delhiites are the Shopaholics. Shopaholics are those who follow the shop till you drop mantra. Shopping for this category of South Delhiites doesn’t necessarily mean buying what is required. For them it’s more of a passion and an addiction. You may have nothing to buy and would have just spend a fortune shopping a week before but still visiting your favorite market becomes a necessity, be it even loafing around just to window shop, it has become something these South Delhiites just cant do without. These compulsive buyers don’t believe in buying one at a time. If they have an intention to buy one pair of sandals they end up buying four. Although they may come back home and forget all about the new pair of sandals and it may lie abandoned in the cupboards for ages, these Shopaholics if they see something they have to have it.
Thought shopping was synonymous with women. Not any more! Men too are following the same trend. On one hand when women hoard the markets to buy jewelry and cosmetics, men are busy buying the latest of Gadgets and accessories.
There is a group of South Delhiites love to flaunting and when it comes to spending a fortune for frequent visits to the parlor to get a new look, updating their wardrobe with the latest designs or buying tickets for holidaying abroad, there is absolutely no stopping. This category believes in living life to the fullest. They would sign up for all kinds of classes, like yoga, salsa, aerobics, maybe not coz that’s what they need but that’s the in-thing these days. They would sign up with leading dietician of the country would hire a gym instructor to help them with their daily work-outs and would have a leading interior decorator do their homes every season. These are the lot of South Delhiites who never hesitate to flaunt or show-off. After-all money comes and goes but if it can make a few heads turn then what’s the harm.
-          Published in South Delhi Plus, The Times of India on December 11, 2004

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Where else in the whole world can you do things you are not supposed to do and still get away with it

By Aswathy Kumar
There is a strange pleasure we derive when we do things we are not supposed to do. A feeling of joy, achievement, a feeling we wouldn’t have had a chance to experience, hadn’t we broken some rules and regulations. A strange happiness you experience because you know it is something you are just not allowed to do.
One of the best places to see classic examples of ‘doing things you are not supposed to do’ is our Delhi roads. Take for example ‘littering.’ Each one of us knows that littering is a dirty habit, something we shouldn’t do. And how many of us do it anyway? Almost all of us. We will have the clean and green Delhi boards staring right in our face while driving through the snazzy roads of Delhi, yet we wouldn’t think twice before dumping a wrapper or our parking ticket out of our car window. We wouldn’t think once about the unlucky scooter-wala right behind us and what if the wrapper we threw out stuck to his face.
And what about talking on our mobile phones while driving! Each one of us would have at least yelled at the car that almost bumped into us because the driver was too busy yapping away on his phone. And most of us would have instantly without a thought called up a friend to crib about the person who almost scratched our car.     
“My husband once yelled at a woman for scratching his car. She hadn’t seen us because she was too busy on her phone. ‘This is why women should not drive as they don’t even know the basics that you should not talk on the phone while driving,” he had remarked. But the very next minute he got a call from work and was on the phone for almost half an hour,” says Ruchi.
“I was on my way to work and as usual stuck in a huge traffic jam. Though this was more like a routine it was slightly different because even after an hour the jam was not clearing up,” says Rohit. Irritated and angry on having missed his morning meeting, Rohit got out to see what was holding up the ars. “I saw that two cars had bumped against each other and both the drivers were busy reasoning out and trying to find out whose fault it was. Not once did they realize that they were holding up over hundreds of cars behind them and did they care? I don’t think so.” Another classic example.
Maybe that is the best part about living in Delhi, a city where you not only get to break some rules but get away without a scratch. Salaam Delhi!
-          Published in North Delhi Plus, The Times of India, October 28, 2006 


No water, no power, no space for parking and a whopping rent for Rs 30,000…but who cares…It’s after all South Delhi yaar…

By Aswathy Kumar

I have always wanted to live in South Delhi. Often during social get-togethers I had heard an ear-full about how great South Delhi is and how posh it is and how it has the best crowd, the best of cinema halls, the best of glitzy markets and the best of hangouts.
This is one of the reasons why my husband and I finally decided to move out of our present home abd move into the posh South Delhi. Safdarjung, Greater Kailash, Green Park, Hauz Khas were a few of our obvious choices. Our first stop was at a two bedroom apartment in Hauz Khas Enclave. The colony was situated adjacent to the congested main road opposite AIIMS which meant every morning we will be woken up by the sound of honking cars, traffic snarls and speeding DTC buses…a small price to pay for a prime location like this one.
The house was small (almost half the size of the one where we are staying now) with the master bedroom in one corner, the bathroom in the other corner and the kitchen right in the middle. The so called palatial house (as it was mentioned in the ad) had just one wash room. It is important to mention here that we have a large family with my folks settled in kerala, my husband’s in Hyderabad, my brother working in Chennai and his sister settled in Mumbai who visit us during the holiday season. Just think of how our mornings would be…waking upto a large queue of family members outside the loo waiting for their turn to come. Adding to the charm of the house in the posh colony was the fact that it received water just for two hours, had frequent power cuts and the rent was a whopping Rs 30,000.
When I raised my doubts about the acute water shortage, the broker sneered at me saying, “Arrey prime location hain na aap ko aur kya chahiye?” (The house is in a prime location what more do you want?”) We wanted more…of problems I mean, Because the next house we  saw was the one in Green Park., situated right in the middle of the Green Park market. This house had no regular water supply, no electricity, entrance was through a filthy street behind the market, had no parking space and the rent worth Rs 20,000 per mo nth. To the parking problem, our broker had the perfect solution. “Park wherever you want.” And even if it means parking your car a kilometer away from your house and having stolen by some thugs…how does it matter…after all you are in South Delhi. Right?
-          Published in The South Central Plus, The Times of India, December 16, 2006