Watching TV Is a Joke….

… a joke indeed, and it makes me laugh. And I make this statement with the highest degree of sarcasm. I am not a big fan of watching TV, in general. Do I like an occasional program or a comedy/ sitcom or the news once in a while? Yes! But am I one of those who can be glued to the TV for hours and be entertained by it? No! And that is certainly not the case in Mumbai.

As a psychologist, I am amazed by what appears to be a clear paradox and hypocrisy in the content that is aired and censored on TV. What do I mean? Let us consider the simple fact that there is a mindless discrepancy in the censorship department of Indian TV. I generally tend to watch the English programs on the Western channels as they are far more appealing to me than the Indian ones. Programs such as Dharma and Greg, Ugly Betty, Rules of Engagement, Melissa and Joey and other such sitcoms, have some words and language which apparently, by Indian standards, are considered adult rated. To elaborate, words such a “hooker”, “sex”, “sperm”, “ass”, and “sexy”, amongst others, are carefully censored, making viewing TV a very disjointed experience sometimes.

On the other hand, and this is the most frustrating part, the Indian channels will not have words that are considered derogatory, but, will do a great job in show casing some really explicit and questionable images on TV. These images are generally portrayed in TV commercials and in Hindi movies and music programs that, I think are, short of being considered pornography. So while there are no direct words that allude to sex-related content, there are heaving bosoms, gyrating pelvises, scantily clad bodies, and subtle yet offensive sexual language and scenes, that are openly portrayed on television.

I just don’t get it! How is it OK to have such explicit material aired on TV, but not OK to have everyday words like “sex” or “hooker” allowed on the English channels? How is it OK to air such Hindi programs during “family time” hours, but try and censor every word that may be sexually oriented on the English channels? Any ideas?

That’s why watching TV is a joke….it just makes me wonder what the motives of the Indian censorship board are. Do they really know what they are doing and how some of the Hindi programs perpetrate more disarray than a few everyday words in the English sitcoms? Is the Indian censorship board bribed by the Indian film industry? On what basis do they justify the airing of some material and the censorship of more benign ones?

This is all a mystery to me. I am not aware of what the motives and ideologies of the Indian censorship board maybe; but I am aware of how inconsistent and hypocritical it is, and how the airing of explicit sexual material can have a major impact on the young and impressionable minds of today’s youth. Go figure!



Irritated Rochelle!

I was going to title the post as “Irritating Mumbai”, but decided against it. I realize that Mumbai is what it is, and it is I who is getting so irritated and frustrated with this city. I need to take responsibility for my feelings and responses to this city; it cannot be the other way around.

A year and half into living in this city and I have yet to make my peace with the move. Most days are good and I feel comfortable living here. Of course, as of now, this is not home for me. And home is where the heart is. However, the last few days I have been feeling extremely irritated and disturbed by the burdening demands of life in Mumbai. I have been on short fuse and everything about life in Mumbai is getting to me: the noises seem louder, the people on the streets seem to have increased, the winter lasted all of 1 week and the days are still warm, the dust continues to filter in through every crevice of the house, the maid has not been showing up on time, men are still disrespectful of women in this city, there are trashy programs and repeat shows on TV, and I am feeling drained. One of my psychotherapy clients rightly put it: ‘Mumbai is not a concrete jungle. It is junk!” I was shocked that there was someone who felt worse about this city than me, but I could also empathize with his sentiment.

I know that my irritation is heightened, more than usual, and it’s part of the growing pains of adjusting to a new city and culture….yes, I am still adjusting and navigating my way through the chaotic life in Mumbai. It still upsets me no end that no cab is willing to take you where you want to go, if it is a short distance. And the incessant honking??? It’s so hard to get a nap in the afternoon because of all the noise and honking. My god, people in Mumbai have no patience and such little tolerance, where time is concerned. I have now gotten into the habit of telling off the cab driver if he is honking more than required and asking him to knock it off. So far, no driver has protested.

I know that only I can address my irritation and frustration and soothe these extreme feelings that seem to haunt me in every waking and sleeping moment. It is the internal fire that needs to be squelched, although I will let it burn for a little while longer. It is important, I find, to give space to those feelings that rise and fall within you, and to not stuff them away at the first sign of discomfort. I am hoping that, in a few more days, the angst will subside and I will return to a more tranquil state of mind.


Ask and You shall Receive

Having lived in Mumbai now, for a year and a half, I have grown to appreciate and become accustomed to the “delivery service”, that I realize, is a part and parcel of Mumbai life. In the US, you had to do everything on your own and did not really get any significant help, unless you paid for it. Mumbai tells a different tale.

You see, this is a city where people come to make money! Call it the Big Apple of Mumbai or whatever you may, Mumbai is a city where people migrate from all over the country with the hope that they will transform stone to gold. And in that pursuit of (so called) happiness, they will leave no stone unturned.

Yes, I am referring to a much needed service that makes every Mumbaiker’s life more livable in this insane city: free delivery! Mind you, I am not talking about just the delivery of food, although, it is pretty incredible that most restaurants are willing to deliver just a single dish to your residence. I am talking about various other types of deliveries as well. For instance, the vegetable vendor whom I purchase from on a weekly basis, will deliver the veggies to my doorstep for free. All I have to do is, either call him up and order my veggies or go and choose my veggies myself, and he will happily deliver it to my door step.

Similarly, the man who does the ironing and dry cleaning, will come to my house once a week, and pick up my clothes and will deliver them in a few days. Or, if I need a little something from the grocer’s, just give him a little tinkle and he has your goods delivered. Of course, all of these deliveries do add to my frustration with the door bell ringing constantly (I was complaining of that in my last post), but it’s so worth it!

The list is endless: chai walas (tea vendors) will deliver little cups of chai to shops; the man who sells fresh coconut water will deliver to your place if you set up an arrangement with him in advance, little bakeries will deliver a single piece of pastry to your door step (even at 10 pm), and so on.

This delivery service, or what I like to call “value added service” is a marvelous phenomena. People do it because they want your loyalty. In a sea of 20 million people, Mumbai is a city that holds within it umpteen opportunities for merchants and vendors to turn their rocks into gold. So why not give the peoples a value added service so that they are hooked onto, even for life? It is the simple convenience of “free delivery” which is a win-win situation for the buyer and the supplier, making the thought of living in Mumbai somewhat easier than it is for me.

For Whom the Bell Tolls!

Living in Mumbai has its fair share of irritations, one being that there is always someone or the other who rings the door bell.  It has been a year and a half, and I have yet to get used to people ringing the bell for some reason or the other. This phenomena, I have never faced in San Francisco; I always felt that I would have peace of mind whenever I came home, not being bothered or disturbed by anyone once I shut my front door and shut out the world behind me, except for the occasional mail person who would deliver heavier mail items.

Here is a list of all the kinds of people I have encountered at my front door, on more than one occasion: the mail man (who sometimes rings the bell, even though he puts the mail in the mail box right in front of the flat), the rep from the gas company (who comes to read the gas meter in the flat every few months), the cable guy, random sales people (selling things right from Gillette blades to brooms to religious items), the watchman, the lady who collects the garbage, the neighbor (who wants to get some curry leaves from the tree that is only accessible from my balcony), and more! Recently, I had someone from the Mumbai Municipality ring my door bell and ask me if anyone in my house was pregnant!! And this morning, I had the bank representative (of the bank my husband applied his credit card from) just show up at my front door to “verify” information from me about my husband, in order to process his cc application.

And the bell rings in the most inopportune time: either I will be cooking, or taking a nap, or in the loo or chatting on the phone; the bell rings and I have to drop everything and attend to the door. For the love of God, does this madness ever end?

The funny thing is, even when I turn my door bell off (and thank god I have that option), they will be banging on the front door, which makes me feel, there’s always some form of noise pollution in Mumbai.

I think one of the main differences between operational styles in communicating and receiving information between San Francisco and Mumbai is that, while in San Francisco everything is automated and most things are done online, Mumbai still relies on a rather archaic system of achieving the same goal. I suppose, with a good chunk of the population not having access to the internet, not knowing how to even use it, or not being fluent or even conversant in English, it does make it very challenging for most things to be systematized and steam-lined. I suppose then, it only makes sense to continue with the current systems that are put in place, no matter how frustrating they are.

Thus, I have arrived at the sad, but true conclusion that, if I plan on living here for a long period, I have to turn my attitude around and become more accepting of this bell-ringing phenomena, for the bells will always toll and that’s just how it is!






The North Winds Bloweth In….

The New Year has started with cold waves hitting the shores of Mumbai. December was pretty warm and it felt as if winter was evading the Mumbaikers, leaving them high and dry. I recall, December 31st (2012) was extremely humid and warm. It was New Year’s Eve and, we brought in the new year with some of the neighbors of our building, but it felt like I was in the sauna, beads of sweat trickling down my forehead. And then, the clock struck 12, and all of Mumbai was on fire, with firecrackers galore and people burning the “old man”! Mumbai was a 100 degrees warmer for the next few hours.

Thinking or believing we were in the “winter” season felt outrageous, and January 1st felt miserable too. However, the days following January 1st have been pretty cool, although it’s no winter, by any stretch of the imagination.

Now I know it should not bother me that I am unable to experience a real winter in Mumbai, when there are other things that I should really concern myself with. But it does bother me and it irritates me that I can’t count on any respite from the heat and humidity, something I have to endure from March through November. Having lived in San Francisco for a decade, where one could really experience a “winter” and I could feel and appreciate the change in seasons, winters in Mumbai are only in name. In reality, I personally don’t believe that I will ever get to experience a winter in Mumbai again (although for the life of me, I can’t understand how and why people are wearing sweaters and shawls in this weather. I think it’s more psychological than anything else).

It is about 10:30 pm on a Wednesday night, and the weather channel has reported that the current temperature in Mumbai is 26 degrees Celsius (78 degrees Fahrenheit). Tomorrow’s high will be 31 degrees Celsius (69 degrees Fahrenheit). The low will be 21 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit). So there you have it – Mumbai’s version of winter for you!

Moving up towards the North of India, winter has a whole new meaning. Winter is actually true to its word, bringing with it chill factors, foggy nights, and cups and cups of hot, hot, chai. Tomorrow’s forecast for Delhi indicates that the high is 18 degrees Celsius ( 64 degrees Fahrenheit) and the low is 6 degrees Celsius (43 degrees Fahrenheit). A few days ago, it was 2 degrees Celsius during the day! I have never really liked Delhi, but certainly envy their winters, no matter how extreme it may be.

Rumor has it that the North Winds are only passing through Mumbai…..soon, it will be warm and humid again and the days are going to get muggy. We shall see. Until then, I’ll take what I can get (there’s my “attitude of gratitude” kicking in again) and keep my fingers crossed that Mumbai continues to see some cool weather for the next few months!