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My daily life in Mumbai

I have been asked what my routine looks like many times so here we go!

Every morning I wake up at the sounds of the bells of the Hanuman temple next door. Actually no, they don’t wake me up anymore even if the first time I heard them at 7:30 I kinda freaked out! The wedding season is ending, so I hope that there will be fewer weddings: I like the spirit but much less the damn noise just downstairs they make almost every night with the band and all!

I live 15 minutes away from work by car/rickshaw and I cross a slum each time, not easy to move through! But I also have the option of walking 30 minutes on the beach. The only downside is all the Indians (especially the kids actually) staring at me; it discourages me to take that way...

I work a lot, often ten hours a day. For lunch I eat fruit or else I order Indian food (butter chicken is my favorite).


In the evening I often go for a drink at the terrace of the Novotel, with a colleague or friends. I try to do some sport but at this time of the year it's a little too hot to even walk (so running forget it). I often get my groceries delivered (I go to the market on the weekend for fresh products) and I cook dinner – so finally I don’t eat a lot of Indian food.


My daily life is often punctuated by annoying little things like repairing a broken cupboard door, fixing the AC, fighting with the neighbour because of the water leakage, the car washer who disappears, my cat attacking the maid, Internet bugging, electrical wires burning because of overload, a dead car battery etc. But I have learned to take things easy: it will all work well in the end... And the good part is that in India people (electrician, plumber etc.) will come even at 10 PM (at least in my area which is a slum area)....


During the weekend I rest. Or I go to the pool. I fill up the fridge or go shopping. I go for massages. I party in one of the happening places of Mumbai (we have about 20 of them I’d say). There is nothing really exciting to do! Ah yes, I read, play Sudoku and I also spend a decent time writing my blog.


That being said I don’t have much of a routine because I travel a lot, for my job and personally, in India and abroad. I’d say that I am in average out 2 days a week minimum... And in India something “extraordinary” happens almost every day so there is no much space for a daily grind!


Stories about driving licenses, and cops

What a joke! 

I have been driving for a year now in India... 


I had tried to get a driving license in Delhi but since all my documents were registered in Mumbai (including my residence permit), I had to give up (but not without spending half-a-day in the Kafkaesque labyrinth of the Delhi RTO...). 


I tried again in Mumbai. I first found the driving school and I gave them my papers: passport and visa, French driving license, residence permit, renting agreement and invoice. Obviously there was a snag because since I had moved in for less than a month I did not have any invoice... But I kept my cool, Indian style, I left my papers and came back a month and a half later with an invoice! And 3,500 rupees (about 60 euros). 


Then all it took was to harass the driving school so that they would take me to the RTO. Which was kinda of a empty hangar, two desks, four chairs, two antique computers and two people who take your photo and your fingerprints. Surreal. But in 30 minutes it was done.  

I was not convinced when the driving school guy told that I would receive the license by mail – because I'm never home during the day – but it was useless to put up a fight, there was no other option. I told myself that I would go and sit and wait in the Post office after a month if I had not received anything and that would be about it! 


Three weeks later, by a beautiful Tuesday, my friends received the famous license at home! See, there was nothing to get excited about... 

The following Saturday we went out for a drive to try out the much awaited license. 


Since I have started driving I never had a problem: I adopted the local style of driving so I am difficult to spot ;)  

I got stopped only twice (and only in Delhi). The first time: the cop got excited because I was talking on the phone on bluetooth. I told him that no, I was singing, and when he wanted to take my cell I just left. I think he was just curious to see a foreigner driving and looked for an excuse to stop me and talk to me... 


The second time, I don’t really know how but I managed to get stuindia,mumbai,delhi,driving,driving license,rto,driving styleck in the middle of a huge crossroads going on the opposite way I should have. A little stuck by panic and by all the cars that were coming on me on I stayed still. And when I saw a policeman who was waiving at me from the other side, I took him as a target and drove slowly slowly towards him. When I reached him, I lowered my window, gave him a sweet look, said « sollllly » and continued driving. Here we go, you have not seen me! 


Here we are, back in Mumbai. I was driving, happy to have escaped the cops who stopped the vehicles for speed excess on the Sea Link. When I reached the end of the bridge I saw a red light. Which seems to be of no use. So here I was, wondering whether it was really worth it to stop when my right neighbour just went through! Obviously I followed him... And obviously I got arrested. 


I was almost happy to hand my brand new license! Except that the cop told me the procedure was to keep my license at the Worli police station and that I should go there and get it later. 

So I lost it: no freakin way! C'mon give me back my license right away. We can’t even see your signal. And why didn’t you stop the other car? I want my license immediatelyyyyyy! 


100 rupees (€1.5) later (quite cheap considering all the signals I have missed...), a receipt in hand (yes I did not bribe the police officer) and my license in the pocket we left for other adventures... 


The news in India - As understood by me...

A famous French radio asked me, as a French speaking expat, to prepare for an interview about my daily life and the news in India. Well... how to put it? I abhor newspapers and I don’t have TV... I thought I would manage with my daily life you see. But when my turn cames the anchor woman said "And to comment the world-wise news..." I started panicking!!

Thankfully I had spent a few hours to complete (or even create) my knowledge of cricket, Bollywood and politics. This was no small task believe me and I hope I won’t write/say too much nonsense! 


The press already talks about next year elections, with the candidates of the two largest parties fighting each other (Modi for the BJP and Rahul Gandhi, and his mother Sonia Gandhi, for the Congress, which is currently leading). OK it is not much but I write more about this in a next post! 

india,politics,gandhi,rahul gandhi,sonia gandhi,modi,news,chine,cricket,ipl,scandal,corruption,drought,famine,maharashtra,bollywood,cinema,festival de cannes,vidya balan,bombay talkies,independent movies,tollywood,kollywood,mollywood,enthiran


India and China 

Very recently the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang visited India. This happened after Chinese troops walked 20 km in the Indian territory a month ago. Indo-Chinese relations are not cordial – to be politically correct. The two nations have to solve the conflict of the Northern border, the question of Tibet with India welcoming refugees, the antidumping laws to impede imports from China etc. I remember also the time India sent thousands of Chinese workers back home (because they are still a cheaper labour than Indians). And Indians find Chinese dirty… And Chinese think likewise! 


But I dug a little more to understand the geopolitical (oh how I dislike this word!) relations in the area and here is what I understood... The India-China relations date back thousands of years, with silk trade, Buddhism and all that. Except that one side we have a very militarized people with an authoritarian tendency and on the other side a rather non-violent people with a tendency to anarchy (I schematize you will forgive me...).


After the Second World War, the United States got closer to Pakistan, their anti-Communist pawn in the area, even though they never really take a stand against India in all the conflicts, despite the pro-Russian tropism of the latter.


In 1962, the Chinese annexed, just like that, a part of the Kashmir territory, a tight slap for India that called the US to the rescue but by the time they arrived China had announced the end of the war... China then got closer to Pakistan, its pawn against India, helping it to armaments and nuclearization (which did not really please the Americans...).


In 1965, the Indians and the Pakistanis fought for Kashmir. While the United States warned China that they were prepared to support India, a ceasefire was signed through the Soviet mediation. 


In 1971, Bangladesh wanted its independence from Pakistan. India favoured the idea and signed an agreement with the Soviet Union for military back-up in case things would go wrong. The United States supported Pakistan but still stopped providing weapons to Islamabad during the conflict. And India waited for the winter to avoid China, always ready to nibble a piece of Kashmir (even if it is not involved in this conflict), coming to help Pakistan.


Since 2011 Pakistan seems to have lost its poise, and all of his "allies" come to hit on India (Hillary Clinton in 2012, Li Keqiang this year)...


And so far as Kashmir is concerned, it's still a powder keg ready to catch fire. Its strategic side lies in the fact that it is a region of glaciers, with water. And that it is on the road to Xianjing with its mineral and agricultural resources essential for China.


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Cricket and scandal 

A lot has been written about the IPL (Indian Premier League) scandal. Three cricket players from the of the Rajasthan Royals team acknowledged they had been paid to cheat. I am not telling you the turmoil – Indians are pretty much used to corruption (to say the least) but cricket is sacred!  


When cricket meets Bollywood… The press gave a lot of importance to the fact that Shah Rukh Khan (a Bollywood megastar who co-owns the Kolkata team, Kolkata Knight Riders) is still not allowed to attend matches in Mumbai – he was banned from the stadium for five years for an altercation with the security forces, who would have pushed his son. His buddies of Bollywood are demonstrating but the authorities are holding on tight... 

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Drought india,politics,gandhi,rahul gandhi,sonia gandhi,modi,news,chine,cricket,ipl,scandal,corruption,drought,famine,maharashtra,bollywood,cinema,festival de cannes,vidya balan,bombay talkies,independent movies,tollywood,kollywood,mollywood,ethiran

There is a huge drought in Maharahstra (and other states) but the press doesn’t talk much about it. Except when some movie starts take interest in the catastrophe (like Salman Khan who is said to have given 2,000 tanks whereas he was not even promoting a new movie). To the point that I have friends in Mumbai (in Maharashtra state) who do not know that there is a drought... 


It is in fact the biggest drought since 1972 – some may recall that at the time Indira Gandhi had asked Nixon for humanitarian assistance; he had first agreed to send food and then stopped because he could not stand her. 

In 1972 there was no ‘famine’ recorded, and neither this year. 12,000 villages have no more water and must be supplied by tankers. The situation is catastrophic (with risks of epidemic emigration to the cities, inflation of basic ingredients etc.).  

And the worst is that in 40 years, Maharashtra has become number one in number of dams, apparently suffering some management issues...

 Indian cinema 

india,politics,gandhi,rahul gandhi,sonia gandhi,modi,news,chine,cricket,ipl,scandal,corruption,drought,famine,maharashtra,bollywood,cinema,festival de cannes,vidya balan,bombay talkies,independent movies,tollywood,kollywood,mollywood,ethiranThis year we celebrate the 100 years of the Indian cinema: the first Indian film, Raja Harishchandra by DG Phalke, was indeed released in cinemas on May 3rd, 1913 (just 8 years after the cinematographe had been patented by the Lumière brothers in France). It was a silent movie featuring an episode of the Mahabharata, an epic of the Hindu Mythology. 


In France we almost only know about Bollywood (the film industry of Bombay, with its megastars and movies shot in Hindi with their dances, bad guys beating up good guys, family and love dramas and a maximum of kitsch). And it seems that it is not only in French that Bollywood means Indian cinema… Which is funny because in fact the film industries of Kollywood (of Chennai) and Tollywood (of Hyderabad (even if Tollywood also refers to the industry of Kolkata) produce each almost as many movies every year (approx.. 200).  

Each industry has its specialities – for example, Mollywood (of Kerala) movies are often comic and based on family and political disputes (many dialogues, situational comedy and no songs). 


And there are also “normal” movies that have started to make some noise (apparently they are called independent film) even if the audience is very limited for now. Which is not really surprising when you know that it is a (Tamil and not a Hindi one) movie called Enthiran - The Robot (see the pic)india,politics,gandhi,rahul gandhi,sonia gandhi,modi,news,chine,cricket,ipl,scandal,corruption,drought,famine,maharashtra,bollywood,cinema,festival de cannes,vidya balan,bombay talkies,independent movies,tollywood,kollywood,mollywood,enthiran that was the biggest grosser ever. 


This year, India is the guest of honour at the 66th festival de Cannes, where only one Indian movie (Neecha Nagar by Chetan Anand) has ever won the biggest prize (and that too it had to share it 9 other movies) in 1946, the first year of the festival. No Indian film in the official selection this year but some selected in other categories and the projection of Bombay Talkies (four short films commissioned to celebrate the 100 years of the Indian cinema) at the gala, and an Indian actress (Vidya Balan) in the jury. 



Sources (Indian cinema, Bollywood) :