Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Beer Can at BKC

- By Deepa Krishnan

London may have the Gherkin, but Mumbai has the Beer Can :) Or maybe it's a Wine Barrel? Check out the photo below and decide:
In case you didn't already know, this is the ONGC Green Building being built in Bandra Kurla Complex. I have been watching this building come up, little by little, for the last 2 years (I can see it from my 14th floor balcony in Sion). I even talked about this building in my interview for Mint.

Finally last week I went to BKC and clicked a close-up photo; then I decided to read up about the building. Apparently, the Beer Can is designed to be "Green, Energy-efficient and Intelligent". This is a CDM Project - meaning that the energy conservation measures in this project will help ONGC generate Certified Emission Reduction units which may be traded in emissions trading schemes. This kind of project needs to be independently audited. A Japanese company called JACO CDM did the audit, and I managed to get the audit report copy. The original project plan filed with United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) is also online.

ONGC has several other similar projects in India. 
ONGC Green Building, Dehradun, Hafeez Contractor
There's another one coming up in Kolkata:
ONGC Green Building, Kolkata, Hafeez Contractor
The one in Dehradun was completed last year, although I have not seen any real-life photos except this one. Construction on Kolkata has begun.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A fun day in Bollywood

- By Deepa Krishnan

I had a Bollywood day today. Saw a movie-shoot with Nana Patekar who (gasp) took off his shirt. OK, OK, there was a vest underneath but still, it was very much a case of dhakdhakheart. I am *not* old enough to be impervious to such stuff! Mercifully, I decided not to make a fool of myself and ask for a photograph. 
Also, there were Anil Kapoor and Paresh Rawal. And a whole host of younger actors whose names I *am* too old to be familiar with.

It was fun seeing the sets and the wardrobe guys and all the hard work that goes into the shoot. The scene they were filming was a party, into which Anil Kapoor swaggers in. Then he has a face-off with Nana Patekar. I loved all the glam girls and guys and how they sweated under the sun, but all smartened up miraculously when the director yelled Aaaaaction!! I especially loved how they made fake alcohol and filled it into cocktail and wine glasses.

I also saw lots of sets. Like this one, of a courtroom, with a lawyer arguing a case. Excuse the blurry pic. But it was too melodramatic not to post. What do you do when cliches come alive? :) :)

A super day!! I'm going to be adding Bollywood Tour soon on Mumbai Magic.

Oh also, I photographed Ranjit Dahiya's Amitabh Bachchan in Bandra. Awesome, no?

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Ganesh Visarjan 2014 - a great experience at Girgaum Chowpatty

- By Deepa Krishnan

I had a fabulous time at the Girgaum Chowpatty Visarjan this year. Actually it took me completely by surprise, because they have enforced a STRICT ban on drums and noise.

I went there expecting to be deafened by the noise. In fact, I even bought ear-plugs! But in spite of the thousands and thousands of people, there was no crazy noise. There were no big drums and no clang-clang-clang to burst the eardrums. The processions were colourful and full of tamasha, there were people singing with small cymbals and chanting "Ganpati Bappa Morya! Pudhchya Varshi Laukar Ya!". But we did not go deaf with the noise!
At a couple of places there were horrible loudspeakers, where sponsors were distributing free drinks and food, and they thought that gave them the right to shout over the speakers. But overall, it was not an assault on the ears. The police have a very major presence and are very helpful to direct people and maintain crowd control. 

This is our group, at Chowpatty Beach. Here also, at the beach, there was good 'bandobast' by the police, with CCTV cameras and several policemen on the ground. There was a separate entry area, a separate exit, and separate lanes for big and small Ganesh idols. The police were directing the flow of people and trucks.
I also went to Lalbaug, where unfortunately the noise levels were incredible and it was impossible to stay for any amount of time. But I saw Lalbaug cha Raja and many others going in big processions here, lots of singing, dancing, gulal and band-baaja.
There are lots more photos here on my facebook page: Ganesh Visarjan 2014 Mumbai Magic

Monday, September 01, 2014

The old BEST bus ticket

- by Deepa Krishnan

Did you know? These punched BEST tickets are now history. These days you get a modern version, like a credit card slip. I got this photo of the old-style tickets 5 years ago, when I went on a bus ride from Sion to VT. The conductor punched them for me. Against the green colour of the seat, the tickets made for a great photo.
I don't know if these old tickets are completely phased out, but it sure looks like they're on their way out :-( What a pity. They were so interesting! And they've been around for ages, with so many codes and markings on them! Here are all the things on the old ticket and what they meant:

1) On top in black, you can see the Serial number of the ticket

2) Below that, there is the BEST logo and it says: Parivahan Upakram - which means Transport Undertaking

3) In the centre is the fare plus 'adhibhar' (surcharge); in this ticket its Rs 9.85 + 15p surcharge. The surcharge has been around for 3 decades now and BEST donates this money to the state government. In response to a Public Interest Litigation, the state clarified in 2007 that the money is being spent on nutrition schemes for children, pregnant women, and new mothers. From April 1975 to July 2006, this has amounted to Rs 321.8 crores of donations.

4) In the centre there is a vertical line, and it is used to mark special or concessionary classes of ticket - Baalak (child), Khaas (special), Saamaan (luggage), Jod (valid with something else, additional ticket)

5) Punching system - On the left there is a series of numbers, from 1 to 26, this shows the stops on the route (onward). There is a similar set of numbers on the right, those are the stops on the return route. The conductor will punch the stop that you are going to get down at.

6) Right at the bottom we have 'Bruhmumbai Vidyut Purvatha Ani Parivahan Upakram' - Bombay Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking.

7) And below that it says something like "Niyamanusar something something ticket" I can't read that bit clearly.

Anyone who knows more, please correct me!

The new ticket is here, in case you want to have a look.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"Half the Sky" - University of Washington Foster School of Business

- By Deepa Krishnan

Yesterday I addressed a group of 25 girls from the University of Washington's Foster School of Business. They were here on a Women’s Lead­er­ship and Entre­pre­neur­ship program. It's called "Half the Sky", and it inspires students to make a dif­fer­ence through meet­ings with lead­ers and role mod­els all over India. Most of them are from the MBA program, but there are also a couple of students from other streams.
The students are going to be in India for a month, studying women’s leadership, and learning about "social enterprises" that create business solutions to poverty and environmental issues. Apart from meeting lots of women in India, the group is also spending time with non-profits, learning about specific issues first-hand, and working with the non-profits on problem-solving recommendations.
We spent an hour together, and I spoke about my life, my beliefs, decisions that I made along the way, and why I am happy with what I am doing. We discussed the Mumbai Local tour, and how it is designed to be socially relevant and at the same time, financially viable. I spoke also about creating a tour company that was inherently 'responsible', where social good is in the DNA of the company, and CSR is not just an afterthought or a cash handout at the end of the year. It was informal and fun, I enjoyed it enormously, mainly because I connected with the girls, and didn't have to watch my mouth :) 
The 'Half the Sky' program is the baby of Cate Goethals, consultant and professor, and wearer of many interesting hats. She has been coming to India since 2010 with this program, and it's always a pleasure meeting her. We posed for photos after the speech.
After this, I said goodbye, and the group went on a tour of the city, with the guides from the Mumbai Local program. I spoke to Cate today, and she said they all enjoyed the tour very much. Here are a couple of photos from the tour: one of the group at VT, and the other in the lobby of the hotel, with the Mumbai Local guides.
We've been doing this sort of thing for the last couple of years. Here's a collage of images from Cate's visit last year:
And here's one from their visit the year before that!
This is a great program, with bright and motivated groups of students visiting India each year. I wish them all the best and hope they go on to become inspiring leaders and role models for the women of the future. Some of the girls this year came up to me and asked if I could be their mentor. Mentorship is a big word - but I think working women everywhere need to share our lives and our stories. Especially, we need to share the difficulties. Speaking the truth, admitting the mistakes you've made, and being confident in stating what you've achieved - this is the most valuable form of mentorship. Too many women - especially in India - tend to be self-deprecating. We need to come out and celebrate our achievements too.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Finding Watson's Hotel in a sleepy Cumbrian village

- By Deepa Krishnan

Anyone who has been to Kala Ghoda knows the decrepit Esplanade Mansions, popularly called Watsons Hotel.

But not many know what the architects originally envisaged, or how the hotel looked in its heyday. Fewer still know the story of how the hotel was built - a story that begins in a small village in the north-west of England.

Here's the building today: you can easily spot the famous cast iron frame structure, still standing strong. But the building itself is in ruins. This is the side-view of the building:
Here is what this building was originally meant to be. See how gorgeous it looks in this painting! (If you click on the picture, you'll get a bigger view). 
Photo credit: Castle Carrock
If you want to see this painting for real, you have to travel to Cumbria, to a little green village called Castle Carrock. The painting of Esplanade Mansions is hanging in their town hall. Here's what the village of Castle Carrock looks like; it has less than 500 people living in it.
Photo credit: Castle Carrock
The story of Esplanade Mansions actually begins in this little village. Like many good stories, this one also begins with a farmer :) His name was Watson.

The farmer had three sons, but two of them, John and William Watson, left Castle Carrock in the 1840's to start a drapery business in London, dealing in silks and other textiles.

From London, the two brothers migrated to Bombay in 1853. Bombay had developed into a major trading centre by that time; shipping was thriving, land had been reclaimed to expand the city, and links to the Deccan hinterland had been opened to facilitate trade. Perhaps the Watsons thought it made excellent business sense to relocate. I also have another pet theory about this migration to Bombay. Perhaps the Watson brothers attended the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, at the Crystal Palace? Perhaps they were enchanted with the Indian textiles they saw? Surely the Indian Pavillion was a vision to delight any silk mercer and draper!
Whatever the reason for migration - the two brothers arrived in Bombay in 1853, and set up shop here. They must have struck gold in Bombay - because they soon had three shops here, at Churchgate Street, Hamam Street and Meadow Street. Apparently it still wasn't enough. Within just ten years of arriving in Bombay, the Watson brothers made a grand bid for yet another building site. The original plans submitted for the building included a shop front on the ground floor, offices on the first and second floors, and residences (for themselves, I presume) on the third floor. 

The plans the Watsons submitted conceived of a bold new design - a cast iron frame that was modelled on the Crystal Palace, where the London exhibion was held. Nothing like it had been seen in India before. By 1865, the initial plans for a shop changed; and the Watsons decided to build a grand new hotel instead. But the cast iron girders remained in the plan. Although there were problems with having the designs approved, the Watsons persevered, and pushed through with their plan.

The design involved the import of hundreds of cast iron girders. Arranged from top to bottom, these girders formed a sort of grand metal bird-cage. This sort of design actually exposed bare metal. It was in fact, the first multi-storey habitable building in the world in which all loads, including those of the brick walls, were carried on an iron frame. In that sense, it is the earliest pre-cursor to the modern-day skyscraper.
The crowning glory of the building design was a mansard - a type of roof that actually doubles up as a floor. The architects apparently wanted to cover the top with glass. It would have made a fantastic salon, eh? Or a really fancy penthouse suite for the who's who of Bombay's visitors.
The Watson brothers began to ship materials for the new building into Mumbai. By 1867, many of the materials had arrived; and assembly of the iron framework began on site. By 1869, the hotel was complete - BUT - that beautiful (and impractical) mansard was abandoned along the way. Maybe they ran out of money - or time.

Still, just look at this hotel below! What views of Bombay harbour! This photo is from the 1880s; the only other building at that time in the area was the Sailors' Home in the distance. The wide road you see is the Esplanade; and hence the name of the hotel.
The patch of land on the right of the photo, by the sea, is where the Taj Mahal Palace and Towers eventually came up - but that was not until 1903. Before that, for more than 30 years, Watsons Hotel was the numero uno establishment in the city. Mark Twain stayed here; Kipling wrote about it, and the earliest screening of the Cinematographe in India by the Lumiere Brothers was in this hotel (just one week after it was first screened in Paris).
Of the two brothers, John and William Watson, we know this: William quit the drapery business to become a shipping agent. John Watson remained in the drapery and hotel business; but he returned to the village of Castle Carrock in 1869, just after Watsons Hotel was built. His sons, James Proctor and John Jr, inherited and ran the hotel successfully, until they too returned to Cumbria in 1896 (at the time of Bombay's bubonic plague).

With the owners gone, and with competition from new hotels such as Green's, Majestic, and the Taj, the birdcage hotel went into decline. In 2006, the World Monument Fund placed the hotel under the list of World Endangered Monuments.

Here's a recent photo I clicked; can you see the beautiful Minton floor tiling? The iron girders are still standing strong. The inside of the hotel has been divided up and sub-let to lots of small businesses. Next time you're in the area, pop into the building and take a quick look. And if you want a little challenge, then try to spot the Watsons logo on the outside of the building!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Fishing ban in the monsoons

- by Deepa Krishnan

A few years ago, I clicked this picture of Koli fisherwomen at the Null Bazaar fish market. It was still the monsoon season, but the ban on fishing was over and fresh local catch was coming to the market.
Koli women at their stalls in Null Bazaar
Traditionally the Kolis have a self-imposed ban on fishing in the monsoons; they stop when the rains make the waters too dangerous and rough, and they commence fishing again on Narli Purnima after offering prayers and a coconut (this year Narli Purnima falls on Aug 10). 

But there is also an official government ban in place, primarily for fish stocks to recover. June to September is the spawning season for many species. Also the ban helps fish to grow bigger, thus realising higher value when the fish eventually come to market. 
Larger catch sizes after the monsoons
Now for the complications: In India, marine resources are a State subject, so each state on the West Coast has a different policy in place. There are different periods of the ban, and also differences in the way the ban is implemented. 

Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat, have a complete ban; i.e. all types of boats are banned from going into the water. But Karnataka, Kerala and Daman allow traditional non-motorised boats to fish during the ban, as well as boats with small motors below a certain engine size. 
Non-motorised and motorised boats, Worli Fishing Village, Mahim Bay. They must all be moored during the 2 month ban period in Maharashtra.
Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka this year have fishing bans between June 10 and August 10 (2 months). However, Kerala and Goa have different dates. In Kerala, the ban is from June 1 to July 15, that is roughly 45 days. Fishing this year is banned in Goa between June 1 to July 31 (2 months). As a result of differences in the ban, there are routine complaints from fishermen that boats from neighbouring states are venturing into their waters. There is now a strong demand for a common fishing ban period.

Apart from the seasonal fishing ban, the fisheries departments also have rules restricting the total number of fishing boats, fishing methods and types of gear that can be used in backwaters and shallow inshore waters (some types of gear are particularly damaging to juveniles). Mesh sizes are regulated, and there are also species-wise minimum legal lengths for capture. In some areas, fishing is restricted; and in some other areas, fishing is completely banned as they are declared a Marine Protected Area. 
Fisherman showing me catch using large mesh size, Worli
But many of these other restrictions / rules are not implemented in practice; and it is only the seasonal fishing ban which has been consistently implemented in India since the late 1980's. When the ban was initially implemented, studies of catch size and weight in the post-monsoon season showed the benefit of the bans; catch improved significantly. The introduction of seine fishing in the 80's, and its increasing popularity in the subsequent decade (when the fishing bans also came into effect), also helped increase fishing catch enormously.
Seine fishing, or purse-ring fishing. In this method, the boat quickly circles around a school of fish, drops the net, and then the noose is tightened like a purse-string. I clicked this photo in Bekal, Kerala, it is just near the Karnataka border.
In recent years, the catch has tapered off. The reason is not hard to guess: mechanised 'improved' trawling and seine fishing methods are destroying stocks; and even small motorboats have improved their techniques enough to bring in significant fish catches in the monsoons. I read an article recently in the Times, where someone in Goa complained that small boats were bringing in roe-laden mackerel, in the process of spawning.

The solutions are not very clear - it might help to have a longer ban period; consistently implemented across the West Coast, combined with a common set of rules for what types of vessels, gears, fish size etc are permitted. We need, especially, better rules for managing seine fishing and trawling, and we need better policing of the rules (difficult to implement). Alternative livelihood options for fisherfolk during the ban season is another area that needs attention.

I found a fantastic video made by the South Indian Federation of Fisheries, which shows fishing operations on the west coast (Kerala); I have never seen such a fantastic account of seine fishing. It shows how the catch is done, to the fisherman's cries and songs. But it also shows what is happening due to overfishing, and it suggests sustainable ways to manage ring seining.  Do watch it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Metro ya Local?

-by Aishwarya Pramod

The Mumbai Metro began operations on June 8. Since it was a Sunday, lots of families came to check it out. There was a 500-metre long queue at Versova, with crowds waiting patiently for tickets.
This is just 1/8th of the queue!
Chaos reigned in many stations, but in certain places guards from Reliance assisted and directed people in getting off and on. 
Train arrives at Andheri Station
The Mumbai Metro is nothing like Delhi... Check out the mad rush! People were pushing their way into the train even before those inside could come out. Perhaps in Mumbai, people are used to the crowds and rush of locals, and treat the metro in the same way. 
When the ticket counters ran out of coupons, they started giving people chits of paper instead. Some people took their coupons home instead of returning them :)  
But hopefully in the next few days the hoopla will settle down and people will learn how to board the Metro sensibly.

Photo credits: Trisha Roslin George, on her valiant camera phone.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

In which I learn about popular culture

- By Deepa Krishnan

I took this picture of our neighbourhood poster guy, as he set up his pavement stall in the morning:
In one quick glimpse, I could figure out what people want to put up on their walls:
- Sai Baba of Shirdi
- Hindu gods and goddesses
- Bonny babies (including one baby + cell phone combo)
- Chhatrapati Shivaji
- Body builders
- Unrealistic Landscapes
- Bollywood movie stars

My favourite was this poster of Devi, showing the entire universe contained in her. It has such fantastic iconography, I stood there for a couple of minutes just trying to figure out everything that was going on. I wish I could meet the unknown artist, who put together this dazzling imagery of earth and its creatures, all the gods and indeed, the entire universe, contained in one form.
Here's a closer look at the lower half of the picture: what do you see? I see the natural world; elephants, fish, snakes, cows, swans; I see a thousand references to mythology, each one a complete legend in itself. I can't even begin to describe all of them. Amazing, to just find this on the street. This is what popular culture is about - there are no art curators, there is no knowledgeable prattle, and there are no fancy galleries with their rarified atmosphere. The market rewards the artist who best expresses what people want.
Here is a closer look at the upper half: the style tells me this was produced in the south of India, but I don't know where. If you click on it, you can see a larger version. The navagraha (nine planets) are represented in her eight arms and in her crown (the Sun God is in her crown). The entire universe is contained in her.
I looked more closely, and found that there were two names signed at the bottom: Siva and Jothi. I think Siva is the artist, and perhaps Jothi is the company that produced the poster? That spelling of Siva tells me this is likely from Tamil Nadu, where I see this spelling usually. Whoever it is, I hope they know they are appreciated!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Teaching and Learning

- by Deepa Krishnan

These days we're doing a training / sensitization series at my office. It is a summer program for young people who work in the tourism industry in Mumbai.
We're discussing a wide range of topics - caste, gender, education, legal system, history, architecture, and so on. The idea is to help these students speak with some level of depth about these issues. They meet and interact with many tourists each month - so it is very useful for them.

I have myself also been enjoying these discussions on social, economic and political issues. And I'm looking forward to more of them. We have three interns this year, students from St Xavier's College (including my daughter Aishwarya!). They're helping to research topics and they're conducting the sessions. I'm the moderator, sort of.

There is lots of participation. I love the dynamics, and especially I love way learning works when there's discussion and fun, and most importantly, when everyone is sharing their own life experiences. I was glad to see the sort of questions that came up in the discussions on caste and gender. I'm learning lots of new stuff myself.

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