Joy Maharashtra

Imagine had it not been for today 51 years ago, Maharashtra would have been playing footsie with Modi's Gujarat. On May 1, the separation of the two states took place bifurcating the old Bombay state.

The success of Maharashtra is that the Gujaratis have been such an intrinsic part of it and not just financially, although that is a factor. Mumbai is undoubtedly the fulcrum. It isn't the heart of the state; it is the pair of legs - toned, sleek, long but with calves that curve with mischievous intent, and as the legs cross you get a peek into what it has always wallowed in. Basic instinct.

Of course, Maharashtra is more, and I can think of so many memories.

My Puneri sarees bought from a small shop in Lakshmi Road, often the local nine-yard one that I'd use to get extra pleats as well as add to the choli blouse, buying bhakarvadi, riding the Deccan Queen, eating at Dorabjee's, picking up Shrewsburry and ginger biscuits from Kayani's Bakery and watching 'Ghashiram Kotwal' on its last legs with the original cast as a guest of Dr. Mohan Agashe, who just minutes before he was to perform the lead role of Nana Phadnavis was sitting at the ticket counter.

There was the Osho Ashram and long before I went in, I had watched a man in saffron robes meditating with open eyes at the park- limpid eyes that could be meditated upon. I was called back and returned to the real world of Maganlal chikki saved from Lonavla.

There was the village in Mahad where I had gone with some NGO, and we sat in this huge room on a frayed chatai with men in white topis discussing important matters. We spent the night at a nearby guest house and heard dogs barking. In the village there was a beauty parlour and many young women wore sunglasses; their hair was braided and tied with colourful ribbons. I saw the puppet makers, the dancers, the women who cooked in the light from gas lamps.

There was me hitching a ride on a truck because there was no public transport beyond Uran to get to the rehab place in the interiors where I wanted to pay a surprise visit.

There was the meal of thick chapattis with dry dal and garlic chutney, sitting on the floor with women who were once sex workers.

There was the government circuit house that smelled of old jasmine strings worn by the women who had danced for our fat cats the night before. And then there was fried eggs with soggy toast at 6 PM overlooking the lush greenery that only the privileged can afford.

There was a cinema hall in a small town where we could sit anywhere. No popcorn here but hot batata vadas and chaha (tea).

Tea. Cutting chai that is cooked till it looks mean and dark and is then offered in a saucer, the better if it is chipped.

There was Satish at Ganeshpuri who trapped aliens from Mumbai at the bus stand but introduced me to the cheapest and most delicious thali. There was me ordering poha, palak, roti and puranpoli and shrikhand along with 'rice plate' only to realise that rice plate had almost everything. At night he lustily danced to religious music. His plea was to get him a chance in Bollywood because he could shake his pelvis like Mithun Chakraborthy. He was stuck on Disco Dancer.

There is Bollywood. Nothing comes close and nothing can be further from it. Like Dharavi, it has a little of everything and everyone. It lives on other people's dreams. It lives for the day but will outlast the years without growing old.

I open the cupboard and spot the green and maroon saree and can feel the jostling of people in Dadar where I bought it from and the taste of dahi misal I had eaten later at TT Circle still lingering in my mouth . I touch the soft cotton fabric and it has my history woven in it. The history of a day that doesn't fade.


  1. Nana Patekar was once asked in an interview as to waht he would like to take from his native state of Maharashtra if he were asked to leave it permanently. He said, "The people."

    I agree.

  2. and Gujarat would be crawling with Shiv Sainiks....

    Happy Maharashtra day :)

  3. WoW, content inclusive , an overall delicacy in words.
    I have often Similar feelings about undivided Punjab , driving down NH1 , when signboards change from Hindi to Punjabi, when Liquor prices are flashed in your face , you know the "new" punjab is here.

    To an outsider like me , it has often come across to me as a Bhel Puri of cultures and religions, served on teh street, with strong "haasil e Mehfil" flavours.

    just like Johnie Walker's ad says ....Keep walking....I would say ....Keeep writing ...

  4. On this occasion of Happy Birthday for Gujarat/Maharashtra, I am going to write
    this long essay describing my overall understanding and inclination (as it
    pertains to the questions raised by some of your recent posts), so please excuse
    my rant.

    (1) Why are social/political/religious philosophies and accompanying legal
    structures so important to Asia (and India in particular).
    They may not be. In fact, it may be as ad-hoc (make-up-as-you-go) as all Western
    societies (including some monolithic eastern ones like Japan).
    My impression is that India is unparalleled in its plurality. Although, most of
    the religious plurality can be described as off-shoot of mother-ship "Hinduism",
    there is an acceptance of monotheistic middle eastern religion; Islam by sizable
    But, there is inherent conflict (paradox); which I will describe below.

    (2) I view Hinduism as a free market of ideas/philosophy (sort of like free
    market capitalism). Of course, this is definitely a stylized view of Hinduism
    and Capitalism too (ground realities differ substantially).
    The middle eastern monotheism does pose a fundamental challenge to this.
    The primary belief in that system is in one abstract God (ergo restriction on
    physical concrete depiction thereof).
    Once again, this is also stylized description.
    There is no need to debate the objective correctness of either belief, because I
    suspect there can be none
    (just the same applies to plurality of Hinduism).

    (3) If Islam is "absolute surrender to will of Allah" and Hinduism is "absolute
    freedom to explore one's individual belief", there is certainly conflict.
    To an outsider, Islam gives the impression of Fascism, though I think it is more
    akin to Communism (with social justice being its over-riding emphasis) and
    particular injunction against personality worship (idolatry).
    Similarly, Hinduism gives the impression of "anything-goes" but it is more akin
    to survival of the fittest ideas (all the way from Bahucharaji Mata to Samkhya
    Upanishads and everything in-between).

    (4) From a practical point of view, in any political/social/economic/religious
    system of human organization, if you don't have power to say NO, you don't have
    power to say YES.
    That is why democracies need Armies. Fascists can not be allowed to get elected
    (like it happened in Germany) and so on.
    Although, I frame this as practical scenario, western democracies have long
    history of murder, pillage and exploitation of those who don't agree with them.
    So does Hinduism (especially the Brahminical Orthodoxy). But, still let's carry

  5. (5) So, in Indian (or idealized Secular Democratic) context what it means is

    All religions are welcome and should have full protection and privileges of
    (including ability to practice their faith PRIVATELY and same should be the case
    with all offsprings of Hinduism) aka Separation of State (Public Policy) and

    They do have to make compromises regarding "absolute surrender to the will of
    one God" if and when it comes in conflict with Indian
    (or any host country's for that matter) political and social norms; otherwise
    there are plenty of choices.

    Sharia Law vs Individual (esp. Women's) Rights being one example. I am fully
    aware of the hypocrisy of the secular governments (including Indian) in this

    Nonetheless, that is the law they have chosen (even if they subsequently choose
    to ignore that law like so many other laws).

    Once again, I am not making any judgement as to correctness or desirability of
    one system over another (they are all subjective).

    Just pointing out inherent conflict.

    Curiously enough, Judaism (progenitor of monotheism) does not seem to conflict
    with Secular Democracies that much (although there are orthodox among them

    (6) Finally, given the murderous assault on East Pakistan by the Punjabi
    Military of West Pakistan (opportunity deftly exploited by Indira Gandhi)
    and also emergence of linguistic states in India to the chagrin of Nehru
    (started by Andhra but enthusiastically embraced by all including Gujarat and
    clearly demonstrates that in South Asia linguistic identities trump all others.
    Once that is secure, Indians habitually engage in silly identity wars;
    all the way from Krishna/Buddha/Mahavira/Allah/Brahmin/Rajput to 9-village
    Patels vs 12-village Patels).

    So, it seems there is hierarchy of identities that are important to Indians.
    pan-Indian identity is not at the top of the list nor is the religious
    That is just a union of convenience (like European Union, common currency,
    foreign policy, defense etc.)

    Given the diversity of Indian society, I don't see any better substitute. Do


  6. Was just watching the documentary on Van Gogh after writing this long essay and felt that it is indeed very fortunate for one to know how one wants to live. Rest are just words....

  7. Manish:

    The Johnie Walker reference reminded me of how well Guru Dutt/Rafi.JW captured the city with "Sar jo tera chakraye". In fact, some old films have beautifully done so.

    Thanks for your kind comments, but I wish I had added more. Wrote this on the phone tau phisal gayee :)


    and Gujarat would be crawling with Shiv Sainiks...

    Now, what would I not give to see such a sight. Ekdum dal dhokli.


    Re. Patekar...

    So when are you leaving? And you know many of us are not people, according to the tunnel :)

  8. Hitesh:

    This is a wonderful look at so many aspects of our socio-political existence. Since I have talked at length on most of these, let me point out in brief a few things:

    # 2 and 3 encapsulate the ideas of the two faiths as well as the dichotomy rather well. Capitalism=free will+karma! Communism=fascism+surrender!

    Oh, I totally believe that all religions need to be practised privately. And all politicians should not pander to the faith of any or they lose their deposit.

    #4…if you say NO, then you are tacitly implying YES. A lot of politics and social mores are based on assumptions.

    #5…Judaism is bifurcated with Zionism as the other arm, so one can be comfy with secular democracies.

    #6…language has been a cause of several separations, but it has also tried to unify. Punjabi, Sindhi, Bangla across our borders feel a strong sense of kinship.

    Linguistic identities are important, but a Goan Christian and Hindu speaking Konkani will not forget their faiths, nor will a Telugu/or any language speaking Muslim/Hindu. There never was any pan-Indian identity, but even the pluralism is split wide open.

    Any substitute will be like sugar substitutes – we want the taste without the weight.

    PS: After all the words, you watch Van Gogh and say it is all words. Well, we LIVE by words and that is honourable!

  9. One More Tag Line I so love is "Jack Lives Here". Infact I went to different stores in 30 mile distance to buy the poster ...I love it for it makes the majestic statement. Your Blog should be "FV Says Here " you like it you read it ...else google up :)

  10. FV,
    I do not live in Maharashtra! Gotcha there!

  11. Politicians will always pander; that is their business and reason for existence. I am OK with it as long as judiciary upholds the constitution and executive branch enforces the law.

    You are correct, by saying NO, I am implying YES. As Buddha would say: "All that we are is the result of what we have thought". Regardless, I am comfortable in what I am saying NO to.

    Zionism is a reaction and that too not a monolithic one. Noam Chomsky's Zionism is very different from Netanyahu's.

    Across the border, there is a strong sense of kinship as long as Mohajirs know their place.

    I say it is all words because both in the East and in the West we have been searching for that Utopia (that sinless entity, that truly free existence, that perfect being who would come to liberate us all) but most of the time what we want to do is to make laws for others to follow.

    People like Van Gogh just want to honor their obligations to society (social or economic) and get on with living. Being a left-brain dominant personality myself, I don't have any particular insight into it but I do admire it from far away and occasionally feel jealous.

  12. Hitesh:

    The left brain usually has to do a bit of the right thing. Utopia is not without sin; it does not see anything as sin.

    The judiciary and executive in our part of the world pander to politicians.

    Zionism is a thriving political entity and like most such there will be several ways of looking at it.

    There is a choice not to follow social laws, but for that you have to say YES instead of being comfy with NO!


    There is a Maharashtra waiting to come outside of you...


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