Sunday, 27 January 2008

Khala Ghoda Festival in Mumbai 2nd February to 10th February 2008

I have lived most part of my life in Mumbai, but I have never ever attended ‘Kala Ghoda’ festival. Can you imagine that!

Psss! Pssss! I better talk softly or else I might get extradited from Mumbai community.

I have always wondered what this festival is all about, but everybody tells me it is lots of fun, and nobody has actually told me anything in details..

So here I am , going to experience this festival as much as my frail body will allow…..

This year I have decided to attend as many events as possible. This is the ‘Tenth Year’ of the ‘Kala Ghoda Festival’ and it will be held in Fort area from 2nd to 10th February 2008.

Anybody willingly to accompany me for this festival can search for me there. I will surely be HERE attendeing some of the events or workshops.

So see you there!

Whenever I am not too tired, I will blog about my experiencs on my other blog at Ranting and Raving. Visit me THERE if you wish to know what is happening in Mumbai and experience this festival from my angle.....

Sunday, 20 January 2008

The Mumbai roads were too busy today cheering the Mumbaikars

and I was watching all of it on TV, because I have no courage to go out there in the midst of the crowd and see just a segment of the race in this warm weather. TV gave me a great view and I watched it over a cup of coffee in the comfort of my home.

And I saw Mumbai Marathon today celebrating its fifth successful year. Mumbai spirit was dynamic and the streets were full of participant and the cheering spectators.

Over 33000 people participated in the marathon and the winners were Kelai of Kenya, who finished in 2 hours, 12 minutes and 22 seconds, followed by Tariku Jufar of Ethiopia in 2:12:28 and Philemon Boit of Kenya in 2:12:35.

Seboka set the record in the women's event in 2:30:03, ahead of Kenyans Irene Kemunto (2:32:51) and Margaret Karie Toroitich (2:33:56).

But the most interesting part of the marathon was the 'Dream Run', a six kilometer run, in which 21000 people participated, everybody for a particular cause. This included NGO’s, social workers, the physically and the mentally challenged. Common people were dressed in fancy clothes that included Gladiators, Sai Satya Baba, Ghandhiji, etc. There were scores of runners who had come ‘dressed’ as Symonds, with white paint liberally daubed on their lips, fake dreadlocks, and even a cricket bat.

Many of them carried banners with loud social message of public awareness toward global warming, care for the aged, care for the under privileged and many other organizations. There were band players, performers, dancers and cheer leaders.

“Who need to be normal as long as they all can contribute to the society” said one of the participants as she talked to the TV anchor

The crowd was dynamic and the spirit of participation was truly great…and the messages on TV during the break were clear and loud.

“It is not about stamina, it is not about speed, it is only about the spirit. Everybody is the winner and that is certainty"

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Faded Visa

“Don’t you ever invite any tourists in your country, you understand?” said my NRI cousin, Vinod, over the telephone conversation during his long distance call “I am never coming back to your country. You want our money, you want foreign company investments and you want to see your country flourish, but your country does not even have any proper system of working.”

Being a resident of India and my sincere love for my India was completely crushed under the weight of his wrath. It was very embarrassing for me. My NRI cousin was happy to break off his ties with his motherland. Bad experiences have bad results.

One month ago, I was in Poona, spending quality time with my family and friends. My cousin, Vinod, had come down with his family to spend some time with us in India. His tourist visa was valid for three months but he was able to make the trip to India only just few days before it expired and he didn’t realize that the validity of the visa of three month was from the date of its issue in his country and not from the day you enter India. Every country have their own rules.

He stayed for two months. He enjoyed watching the Bollywood films, the Indian food, the culture and traditions of India. He loved colorful festivals, the warmth of the family and friends, the joy and happiness that was in the air. But like all the good things must end, his day of departure from this magic land had finally arrived.

We had a farewell lunch party in the house. Vinod zipped the last bag as he heard the beep of the car.

“Lets hurry up, we must not be late.” He said as he helped his wife, Sunita, with some more last- minute packing.

He looked at his watch, it was 5pm. He must hurry if he could reach in time for his mid-night flight. He hated late nights and the long journey from Pune to Mumbai airport was always exhausting. Sometimes it took more than four hours to reach the International airport. Vinod believed in discipline. It is always better to be early than to be late.

* *

The speakers at the international airports announced (non-stop) the flight schedules as people dragged their trolley bags towards the check-in counters. Vinod looked up at the board that showed the flight schedule. Thank God, the flight is on time. He smiled as he arranged his tickets and passports for verification. He asked Sunita to sit and relax while he would finish all the formalities. He stood in a long queue and waited for nearly thirty minutes to reach the counter. He handed his tickets and passports to the ground hostess.

“Excuse me sir, I am afraid you have overstayed your visit” said the ground hostess as she dialed a number into her walkie-talkie, “Please step aside, you will have to talk to the officer.”

Sunita stared blankly and wondered what was wrong as she watched her husband following an officer and disappearing round the bend.

“Sir, I see you have no permit to stay in this country. Your visa had expired thirty days ago.” said the officer.

Vinod was confused. This trip to the airport from Poona had been very stressful. Too much traffic even on the Express Highway! He wished he could finish the formalities as soon as he could and board the plane and relax. He knew that he had three months visa on his Thai passport but he has stayed in India for only two months.

“Is not the visa valid from the time you enter the country?” he asked

“No sir, the visa is valid from the date it is issued in your country.” Said the officer

“I am sorry, there is some mistake. In that case, I am willing to pay the fine. In my country, people who overstay normally pay 1000 Baht per day, how much fine should I pay in Indian Rupees?” he said as he plunged his fingers into his breast pocket.

“No sir, you cannot pay the fine for over-staying here, at the airport. You have to apply for the extended tourist visa from the Office of External Affairs, in Mumbai and then you can leave the country. I am afraid there is no other solution.” said the officer as he shrugged off his shoulders.

• * *

It was 5am when he returned back home in Pune. His back hurt as he dragged the bags back into the house, He needed to stretch on the bed. He would have to go back to Mumbai, the next day to get his visa extended.

• * *

Vinod waited for more than two hours before he could meet the officer. During the span of twenty-five days, there were six trips to Mumbai. There was no proper coordination between Mumbai and Pune offices of External affairs. He preferred to make the trip personally to save the time. He realized that the documents take time to change desks. Every person had his own job to do and only one person is responsible for doing one particular type of job and if that person is not at his desk, you have to wait. They told him that it was a serious crime to over-stay in India without a valid visa and he had to pay a price, a price of harassment by law makers who knew their job well, who didn’t value people’s time, who, themselves, never reported to work on time.

How he wished he knew immigration laws of different countries. He was not aware that in India, if the visa has expired, it is important to renew it within fifteen days.

A new Visa application form had to be filled again, in Mumbai, explaining the reasons for over-staying, a police inquiry to be done to verify his presence in the city of Pune and then the registration and the verifications of documents in Mumbai and in Pune. The trips and the meetings with different persons for different documents were very time consuming. It seemed like nobody ever came to their desk on time. Everyday, he waited for several hours before he could meet the right person, and then there were always invitations to come back the next day. If he had good reading habits, he could have easily finished reading several book sellers in the corridors, or in the waiting rooms. Even plugging his ears with FM radio could have helped. But sitting there, in anticipation, facing the dirty walls and waiting for an officer to report to his desk was very frustrating.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), he finally learnt that there were agents who were ready to help you to speed the process and they knew the secret routes to reach the desk of the officers. After coordinating with this agent, the work put on the boots. With a settlement of fine of thirty dollars and Rupees ten thousand (service charges, extra for speeding the process), he finally got the visa extended, and he was asked to leave the country within two days.

• * *

Will my NRI cousin ever visit me in future? I am not sure. He is very happy in his adopted land and boasts about the warmth of his corporate world. Why is everything so difficult here? Why do we need to grease the palms of important pillars for stretching our needs in their cushioned world?

I wish to be proud of my country too. I really wish I could!

Friday, 4 January 2008

"The Mumbai Festival"....... 17th Jan-3rd Feb 2008

January is the month of ‘The Mumbai festival’ which will be celebrated all over Mumbai. Launched in 2005, it was the first attempt to develop a community based festival for Mumbai. It is a unique model of public and private partnership under which NGO’s and government related authorities work cohesively.

Through its program, the festival is aware of its capacity to bring Mumbai communities together and enhance their sense of belonging and responsibility.

There will be Pre-Festival Events that will take place on 4th, 5th, 6th, 11th, 12th 13th Jan from 5pm to 10pm and will include different events such as musical parades, inter collegiate competitions, Gourmet Safari, Kite Festivals, etc. all across Mumbai.

On 17th January 2008, an Inauguration Ceremony will be held at Gateway to India to flag off the Gateway Festival with Ganesha Vandana by Hema Malini. Gateway Festival will include other events such as International Music fair, Music and Dance programs, and Classical Musical Programs.

Sport Festival will be held at different locations with events like Pickle Ball Competition at MET, Bandra, Gully Cricket across 32 cricket grounds in Mumbai, Fishing Vessels Race at Versova, Mumbai International Marathon at Azad Maidan, Mumbai Formula Race at Powai, Karate Do at Andheri Sports Complex, Indo Japanese Golf Championship at Bombay presidency Golf Course.

Music festival will start on 19th January with Downsyde at Hirananadani Complex, International Music and Dance at Tata Theatre, Western music-Live bands at J J School of Arts, and Music Caravan at 12 locations across Mumbai City connected by Bus.

Children’s Festival will be held at Bandra Reclamation ground on 18th and 19th January 2008, there will also be other events such as Roller-skating Road Race at Carter Road, Bandra, Clean-up Mumbai Campaign and children’s workshops.

Film Festival will include Japanese Film festival at different multiplexes across the city.

Theatre Festival will include winning and critically acclaimed plays in Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati, English and other languages.

Food Festival will have Culinary Classes by renowned master Chefs of participating restaurants at participating venues across the city. Heart Warming Food Festival will take place at Kala Ghoda which will be served by 80 stalls set up by homemakers and caterers. South Indian Food Festival will be held at participating hotels of Matunga, Koli Sea Food Festival will be held at Versova, Ramadan Food Festival will be held at Mohammed Ali Road,

Craft and Folk Festival will be held at Nardulla Tank Ground, behind Siddhivinayak Temple showcasing Maharastra Mazha,

Dance Festival will be held at Amphitheatre at Bandra Fort, and will include different folk and Classical Indian dances.

There will be exhibition of Indian Contemporary Arts at the Art Festival. There will be Indian art, painting competitions, art workshops and camps.

There will also be some other Special Events like screening of NHK TV programs, Bollywood Nite, Mumbai Festival Cruise, Spiritual Festival, Army-Military tattoo, Hop-In-Hop-Off Bus services, Photo Panel exhibitions, Disaster Management, Ikebana, Bonsai, Origami,

Closing Ceremony will take place on 26th January 2008, at Bandra with fusion music of flute, tabla and kuchipudi. There will be Felicitation and Prize distribution Cermony during the Closing Cermony.

For detail listing of the programs please visit

The name "Bombay" was derived from 'Bom Bahia' (The Good Bay),

.... a name given by Portuguese sailor Francis Almeida, in 1508 ....“Bounce back Mumbai” it is called by the locals, it is a city that has been through a lot in the recent past – floods, bomb blasts, riots – and come out stronger each time.

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