‘To fall in love with
Mumbai, head out of it’
‘It is incredibly
hard to set up
life in Mumbai’
as translator and an assistant.
Mumbai tends to throw up a wider range of stories
than New Delhi, he says: “On the one hand you have
Bollywood, which has some light stories to offer. On the
other hand, there are serious stories like the 26/11 ter-
He counts his coverage of the siege of the Taj Mahal
hotel as one his most interesting and yet terrible expe-
“Writing about an event that was the focus of world
attention and had generated such panic and fear was
unique,” he says, “Its aftermath was very affecting as
well. At the Chabad House (the Jewish prayer house
that was targeted during the attacks), you could see the
story written in the walls of the building with bullet
marks even months after the attack. You feel the
responsibility as you report on it.”
Blakely lived in London at a time when the Irish
Republican Army was active.
“It wasn’t as if I hadn’t experienced terror before. Also
when you have to report on such incidents you have a
job to do. It insulates you from being shocked and awed.
Instead you try to understand what is happening. I have
to say I feel quite safe in Mumbai. It is also probably
because the more conspicuous you are, the lesser the
chances of you becoming a target for petty crime.”
But he hates the corruption at the lower levels of
administration. He says he doesn’t like the attitude of
the middle class towards petty corruption.
“They seem to accept it and live with it. I can see why
it is easier to pay a few bucks rather being held back by
the police and why corruption is baked into Indian soci-
ety but I somehow don’t like it.”
“We try and watch Hindi films with subtitles when
they come on TV or on DVD but I think I am somewhat
staid in my tastes. I recently tried to watch Kites but left
it half way. I guess here it is just a different way of making
films,” his voice trails off even as the poster of a little-known
Hindi movie hangs on the wall behind him. The film’s hero,
Vinod Mehra, looks out of the frame longingly, perhaps
being scorned by the woman of his dreams.
Blakely looks into the camera and poses for a photograph
under the poster. Later he will travel to Navi Mumbai on the
outskirts of the city where he will meet a ‘marriage detective’,
who spies on prospective brides and grooms. Blakely is
amused. He cannot believe these things happen in cosmo-
The city continues to surprise him.
— Abhishek Mande
‘If you are in Mumbai and can’t find a story,
then you are in the wrong job’
Anna believes that Mumbai — with its myriad people and
cultures and experiences — is where the real stories happen.
“If you are in Mumbai and can’t find a story, then you are
in the wrong job,” she says.
On being a foreigner in Mumbai , she says, “Well, people do
try to rip me off… all the time! From the taxi driver to the
shopkeeper to the policemen, everyone assumes that just
because I am a foreigner I must be a tourist with a fat wallet.”
A vegetarian, she finds the variety of cuisine available in
India incredible. Her favorite is the bland Khichdi. “I can
make a vegetable curry; but I can’t really claim to cook
Indian food, I manage variations of it. I have tried to make
rotis, but they come out in funny shapes,” she says.
The lack of privacy vexes her, and she rues the fact that
“there is someone always at the door”.
“And I will never understand why the traffic cops here don’t
know how to direct traffic. The traffic might be going
smoothly, but the moment a traffic policeman takes over,
things get chaotic,” she says.
When she moves on, Anna admits, “I fear that I will carry
a sense of frustration over the high level of bureaucracy and
corruption. I am in my second year here and I still have a
love-hate relationship with India, but I hope by the time I
leave, I would have found more love and faith in this fasci-
She loves the glorious Mumbai sunset.
“As the sun goes down on another day in this crazy city, you
never quite know what tomorrow will bring, who you will
meet or what incredible stories people will tell.”
cult, but they are Mumbai.”
She takes the trains mostly during the daytime,
and has her own method to ensure a smooth com-
mute. “I try to avoid the rush hour. And my trick is
to ride with the men in the general compartment.
They are often startled to see a woman. And even
more startled to see a foreign woman. They stare at
me, but they don’t push me or shove me. The
women on the other hand don’t care. I am just in
their way,” she said.
— Krishnakumar Padmanabhan
— Sanchari Bhattacharya