I'm writing this from Naldehra. Naldehra is not the name of a film, even though it definitely should be. It is a beautiful town little ahead of Shimla. From Mumbai, you basically walk towards Neral, then hang left and ask someone for directions. People are generally nice, but nowhere as nice as the people in Naal Dehra. And the place? You can see the snow-capped Shivalik ranges below an absolutely royal blue sky.
Then more mountains and acres of green. Again a lot different from my view in Mumbai, which is the Khannas, the Parekhs, the Shahs, and the Patodias. No mountain ranges here, though Mr. Patodia senior, is now clearly a separate land mass. It is here in Naal Dehra that I received an email from the UMS. The UMS is an uncredited shadow body that basically stands for Urban Mishap Survey.
Although further research revealed that they were registered as Uma and Milind Shaadi planners. Whatever the truth is, the UMS addressed me as a concerned cynic, who is always pointing out flaws in society. A charge which was well made, as that is exactly what I had put on my visiting cards.
They then requested me to point out flaws and mistakes observed at Mumbai’s Marine Drive which they would then redress, through paintings, organised strikes or TV reality shows.
Trust me the irony did not escape me as I sat in Pristine Peaks, Club Mahindra in gorgeous Naldehra jotting down all the eyesores of my mother city. But as the great Kalidas wrote in his iconic verse ‘Shakuntala’, “Someone’s got to do it”.
1.Marine Drive: Don’t start filing petitions. Marine Drive is no eyesore. Okay, make that Marine Drive minus the people is no eyesore. It’s the people who let Marine Drive down. More specifically, those guys and these guys. Those guys are the ones on the ledge overlooking the rocks and the sea. They stand precariously at the edge and click selfies.
Occasionally, they land up with more rock than selfies if you get my morbid innuendo.Who’d want their last words on earth to be cheese? The loutish selfie behaviour is an incredible eye sore! The garrulous display of unsustainable poses and horrific gestures has to be eradicated.
We simply can’t wait for the rocks to do all the work. The only solution would be to follow another of Kalidas’s famous quotes, this from his lost play ‘Suhasini’, “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em”. May be it would not be the worst idea to have a designated selfie point for the feeble-minded and the socially challenged! All the pre-historic gestures curtailed and contained to one small section. Enough about those guys. Let’s now look at these guys.
This evil lies on the middle of the road, perched on the divider that splits Marine Drive into two. Or ‘another serial offender lurks’, from Kalidas’ never ever read novel, ‘Kalpana’.
These guys wait like predators for the traffic to give way, then shoot across the road teasing all the cars. That’s not even the worst of it. Occasionally, due to congestion of pedestrians accumulating on the divider meant for plants only, or aided and abetted by poor dietary habits, one of the predators overbalances. Bear in mind this is something a plant would never do. Something all historians should note while studying the evolution of man. You can imagine how this ends.
And of course the blight that the divider becomes as plants are replaced by overzealous, self-centred and desperate humans. Maybe the time has come to build dividers which are hundreds of feet high which neither plants nor humans can climb. As Kalidas pointed out in his misplaced masterpiece ‘Nirmala’, “India can be divided by caste, class and language, but never by roads”.
2.Then there is the skywalk above Marine Drive. It was probably built before Marine Drive itself, and that’s why no one has noticed it. It is a fact of life that nobody notices things that are already there, such as grandparents.
Yet, look at the attention new born babies get! So unnecessary. Unused, unseen, unnoticed, this skywalk needs a public relations company, mass media advertising, and perhaps a national day in its honour.
Otherwise, all it does is block a little more of what’s left of the Marine Drive sky from our eyes. Yes it gives shelter to homeless at night, but then so does the whole of terrestrial Marine Drive. If somehow the selfie fanatics and the divider predators could be moved to the skywalk, then all would be resolved in one swift leap for Marine Drive kind.
3.Taraporewala Aquarium: It's not the aquarium per se. The aquarium is fine. The fish are fine. Okay, they are not totally fine. They could use larger water bodies like the sea opposite and from time to time they wouldn’t mind a change in menu. Also, nobody likes to be stared at for hours and they’ve only heard of the strawberries and cream from Bachelor’s juice centre, never really had a taste. So, it's not the aquarium, it's the road just outside. This has been marked as one of the most accident-prone spots in Asia.
Not India, mind you, but Asia. That’s worse than the city of Wuhan which launched the coronavirus in the first place, in a manner of speaking. It also becomes an ugly sight during the wedding season, as parking for the Gymkhanas begins from this point.
In the weekends, crowds heading for the aquarium cause traffic jams to go with the accidents. The right thing to do is return the fish to the sea opposite. Then turn the Taraporewala Aquarium into Taraporewala Parking Lot.
At this point I would like to invite the readers to play a game. Er….don’t worry, it's a game for adults. Okay that sounds so wrong. Let’s call it a mature game. A game for conscientious, thoughtful, caring citizens. I, along with Maharashtra Tourism, the Free Press Management, and my plumber Shakilbhai, invite the readers to send in their worst urban monstrosities.
Our panel of randomly selected judges, which may or may not include Rohit Sharma, Shahrukh Khan and Ratan Tata will then decide on which monstrosity is the absolute worst. A petition will be signed and sent to Maharashtra Government asking them to deal with it. Though absolutely nothing will come of the matter, our point will be made. So, write on!
The writer is a comedian, TV anchor, theatre personality, satirist, podcaster and an author.