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"A gleeful dollop of Blytonian magic ... Reddy Madhavan is also able to tackle some fairly sensitive subjects such as identity, the love of and karmic ties with parents, adoption, the first sexual encounter, loneliness, and my favourite, feminist rage." - Scroll

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16 March 2007

So, where you are putting up?

In every city, the poshness of your address is determined by your location to the nearest water body. Like Paris, or Delhi, or Bombay. Sadly, it is my fate to never be on the right side of the water. From East Delhi to East Bombay, I am resigned to always give my address with the slight defensiveness that comes over all of us with not-so-hip addresses, but who rub shoulders regularly with super hip people.

I fled East Delhi as soon as I could, moving in to the South, to an address that was not only acceptable, but also on everyone's way, so no one could roll their eyes at me and say, "Duuude, man, not your house, you live too far away." Okay, so my houses in South Delhi were in the ghettos of posh colonies, with very low rents because of their addresses and yet close enough to everything. But by living in the ghettos, us young single women, we had a certain factor of cool, my last house was always abuzz with activity, people loved to come by and just sit around, despite the four floor Mt Everest style walk-up you had to do to get in. In Bombay, the ghettos of the nice addresses are here, in the East, and crippled by the awesome rents and so on, also faced with a choice of being either here, in a fairly central East suburb or staying in the West and moving way down the line, we opted for this. There is no escaping my non-posh address now, though I am rather fond of it, it's a lovely neighbourhood.

What's not so lovely are my neighbours.

Who lives in the East? Middle class families, that's who. Middle class families who regard me as I walk by at night trying to find an auto, drawing their daughters closer to them so I will not pollute their tender minds. Middle class panwaris who shake their head bordering on rudeness when I ask for my brand of cigarette. Middle class shopkeepers who aren't used to single people, and the ordering of just milk or just coffee, and so won't deliver unless you've placed a mammoth order and hang up right after saying so. I met one set of my neighbours once--we live in a building full of old people and what they must think of all the comings and goings is something I don't even want to imagine--and the wife was combing out her hair, and the husband was all jovial. I had gone to ask for the cable guy's phone number, but they sat me down, gave me tea and watched as I nervously shifted in my shorts, no doubt still wearing half the kajal I had on from the day before.

I don't know actually how to classify my family. My parents weren't exactly middle class, in fact, I used to think it was a term of insult, the way they said, "That's so middle class." But they weren't, aren't, moneyed either. We were comfortable, they had parties strangely similar to the ones I have now, and like me they had rich friends and poor friends and no one really talked about like Family Values and all that jazz. In fact, my mom even had two Naxal friends, who lived a life of poverty with pride, then they had a daughter and joined everyone else. Except for the fact that they didn't have a car--they bought an auto instead.

So my parents and their friends shrugged off definition about where exactly they belonged on the social scale. But I find increasingly, in my generation, more and more people who actually give a fuck about where you're from and where you live and how to classify you than I've ever noticed before. Is this some peculiar form of rebellion? Pick everything your parents didn't? Or do these young people really care about what side of the train tracks I live on?

Addresses are so important. Someone told me before I moved to Bombay, "Oh, you know, there no one cares where you live." And I thought oh fantastic, because that's one of the things I don't like about Delhi. (I had friends because even though I lived in the East, I fit a certain amount of guidelines making me a South Delhi type--the right education, the right accent, the right looks even.) But it's not true. Here, that's the second question you get asked as well, immediately after, "What do you do?" And you can see them making social maps, whether it's worth being friends with you at all, whether you'll fit in with their lives. Here too, I see them puzzling over whether or not to "add" me, because I have a non-posh address, sure, BUT I live alone, which gives me ten thousand coolness points in a city where most people, even at the age of thirty are still living with their parents.

Sigh. Does anything beat the angst of being cool in a non-cool neighbourhood? It's awesome angst though, even searching for the right ATM yesterday was like a little expedition.


  1. whoever told you that in Mumbai they don't care about where you live probably lived in South Mumbai anyway. this snobbery is something you can't ever escape darling whether you're in new delhi or new york. but you're right about one thing, the kind of judgments passed by our generation. especially by brats whose parents have bankrolled their entire existence and will continue to do so. we're all bigoted though, i look down upon people who aren't independent, who'd consider succumbing to an arranged marriage, who luuuurrrrrvvvveeee karan johar movies, who aren't ashamed of their khaki chaddis.....
    and come on we've all chuckled between at losers from the right address with the wrong accent. not as much now but it still amazes me at times to meet people from our school, from well monied family with the social graces of a retarded baboon despite the 14 years of posh education. and the intelligentsia judges by different standards. if you're not from a certain university or college or didn't do a certain degree you can be assured of being condemned to social ignominy for life. i'm not condoning any of this but it's impossible to not feel judged or to judge unless you can learn to simply accept yourself.

    anyway fuck all that. i'm gonna be home, in south delhi (hah!) very soon.

  2. Feel the same way being in Andheri (East to add to my woes!)and meet friends from town. And despite my meek protests they would always make it a point to arrange all rendezvouz that side of the city - "Life's here man!" which i think is quite true sometimes when I look at the shambles my side is in!

  3. The north south divide in bbay is something you'll encounter but as all things in bbay, never give too much thought to. As for the parochial neighbours, welcome to apla gujju societies in Andheri...

  4. people like you are the reason for a decent guy, who wants to do good for society without being selfish and looking out only for his own life, not being able to get an apartment by himself in the middle class apartments where they can think best... don't have time to write more, but that might be a good thing as i'll be wasting less of my time.

  5. Move to Calcutta, child.

    The 'Anonymous' person just before me - perhaps he needs a laxative. Seems to be full of something.


  6. Weird and unfair but thats how localities come up. When you have a bunch of rich people living in the same place, others tend to follow and they drive the prices up so much in the process that it then becomes available exclusively to the rich.

    In just ONE YEAR, proprety rates in Pune have DOUBLED (no exaggerations, its the truth) in our locality and similarly in many others. The devil of real estate is going to claim many lives, careers and most importantly a lot of happiness.


  7. now imagine living just outside bombay, not only the commute, even the conversations are fun!

  8. Yeah this isn’t limited to just Bombay or India. My friend is planning to move to Texas.

    Me: Where? Houston?
    Her: Eouu. No! Austin.
    Me: Um. Okay. Why not Houston?
    Her: Because Houston is filled with Mexicans and Desi people.
    Me: Um last time I checked we're both Desi.
    Her: Well no i mean Austin is just more upper class or something.

  9. The Bombay North-South divide is huuuge. Though if you went to a South Bombay college you kind of make friends on the other side of town and then hopefully realize cool people live there too.

    It's pretty inescapable because now I'm in Hong Kong and the divide is between those that live on the island and those that live in Kowloon. Even on the island it's those near central and those on the outskirts.

    But you're right about the middle-class thing that infects the outskirts. I don't particularly like living in the posh areas because of the inevitable ghetto-snobber but I can't bear the conservatism that comes with the totally 'down to earth' neighbourhoods. Probably why my two years in Hyderabad was miserable.

  10. i'm with neha...and try stalling the bai who rings the doorbell insistently asking if my 'dada' is home, and in the first conv tells me all abt auntyji in 7A. >:P

    Btw, 5 bucks says the anons here live wid their mommas still.

  11. eM: Stay in Bandra? Its still Queens but no auntijis. Only Elroys and Melroys men.


  12. looks like you a secret non-admirer here..

    but you also have the king of mumbai as your neighbour...can't be all that bad

  13. You know I'm a Colaba girl. And I never even heard teh term SOuth Bombay till I went to college and met people who lived 7 to a room and still had great jobs, great lives and great personalities. So I would just say that you're meeting the wrong kind of people. Because Bombay loves everyone.

  14. I recently found out that I'd be spending more time in Bombay. Every single person I know said to me "of course, you must find a place in South Bombay!" Then when I brought up other neighborhoods that may be more convenient, some were sniffed at and others "oh, that's okay - it is almost South Bombay". Hilarious stuff.

    The reality is that the city is heinously expensive (price per square foot is the same as mid-town Manhattan, rent or buy) and it takes forever to get anywhere.

    So, I'm going with picking somewhere convenient and somewhat affordable. I wonder if I shall be ostracized...

  15. I clearly and undoubtedly take the cake. teedaa.

    I techincally dont even live in bbay because while all my uncles and aunt migrated to the "cooler" and the "hipper" parts of mumbai my folks chose new fucking bbay.

    right from people asking me "do I need to book a trunkcall to call u" to how long does it take a acquire a visa .. been there, heard it all.

    and more sighs

    [and I dont even live alonneee]

  16. ''whoever told you that in Mumbai they don't care about where you live probably lived in South Mumbai anyway.''

    Whoever cribs about the north-south divide probably lives in the burbs anyway.

    While I havent seen many SoBo guys turning up their noses at ppl from burbs (ok so they'd not travel up north unless it was absolutely necessary but thats because its impossible to travel up north without getting overly frustrated), I sure see many ppl from the western burbs looking down at people from the easter side of the track and thats kind of hilarious.

    Heck, its mostly the people from the burbs who REALLY want to know where you live - to compare with their state and to put you into different buckets of relative well-being.

  17. these things are inevitable in societies.. but I dont see any reason why any south delhite (or bombayite) shd feel upper class.. i have seen some of the shittiest ppl with zero coolness from those parts of the city! :p

    I am staying alone in the crime capital of india.. tho my parents also live in the same city.. I wonder how much coolness that gets me :p :)

  18. to clarify: this post wasn't so much about south bombay and north bombay, it was about a) how your addresses define you and b) more, if we're talking real life examples here, the drift between the east and west neighbourhoods. :) which could hold true for any city, not just bombay. it does, for delhi, being on the "other" side of the yamuna classifies you totally. as does being on the other side of the sea here.

    that said, carry on, do.

    ps: i think that anon comment over there about people who are "not selfish" and so on is my favourite troll comment EVER. one for the books babies.

    ps2: its nice that i can write about bombay without anyone piling on to me telling me i know nothing. or should i not speak too soon?

  19. not true at all. You're just with the wrong group of friends, I imagine.

    Sure a location can be inconvenient: I barely end up going to my own cousin's place because he lives at Mira Road. But that doesn't mean I judge him for where he lives.

    If the people you hang out with look down upon where you live, then I'll have you know (and I've lived in bombay for all 24½ years of my life) that this isn't a "bombay thing" at all; you've unfortunately found the rare, bad apple; you're better off seeking a new bunch of peers.

    I must admit though that this is much easier acknowledged than undertaken.

    But I won't judge you for that either.

  20. oh and yes, raccoon speaks much sense as well.

  21. @raccoon and egghead:
    come on guys open your eyes. this isn't a south bombay (sobo! omagawd!!) or north bombay issue. their just the idiom through which such elitist snobbery can best be expressed. this elitism creeps up as questions about your address, your clothes, the places you hang out at, the places you vacation at, the books you read, the music you listen to, the car you drive or don't drive and how. it's foolish to take any of these judgments seriously but impossible to escape being judged. or judge yourself (SoBo, 'burbs!?!...dude you speak in the lingo of an elitist snob). also you quote my comment yet failed to read or comprehend or whatever deficiency prevented you from actually being relevant, that i am not one from the 'burbs'.

    egghead you're bang on in suggesting she ditch people who make that judgment. eM you used to crib and quibble over the same south delhi (SoDe) issue. thing is we never came to east delhi to partay coz there isn't any place to partay in east delhi. ppl go to gurgaon don't they? and it's not most the convenient suburb to get to either, it's just evolved in to an area with enough bars and pubs to keep us entertained and keep us coming back. the point is no one judged you or thought less of you because of your address and the ones who did, well we aren't even friends with those kinds of people. it takes all kinds to make this world and you should ditch the 'i-don't-have-a-posh-address' victim complex about now.

    and for surviging khaki chaddi'd middle class suburbia, i salute you!

    ps--the scheize's you describe aren't any different from GK1 or the likes. kapisch?

  22. This reminds me of a conversation I recently had with my Delhi friend. She was trying to explain to me what 'South Delhi' was all about. From what I understood, it basically just means 'land of pretentious fucks'.

    She's elitist, and the sort who won't read a book unless it's won a Booker or some such. And I have a low tolerance for that kind of stupidity.

    Anyway, I see all Delhiites as Delhiites and all Mumbaikars and Mumbaikars. It's only when you're sufficiently familiar with a city that your stereotypes get more refined.

  23. SoBo? Ha ha ha!!! Where did that come from - SoHo I presume? Bambai's NY pretensions are hilarious.

    Hah - I'll see your South Bombay and South Delhi and raise you a yacht sailing through the gorgeous Aegean sea, in the midst of the Cycladic islands.

    When you're on your sleeping bag on the deck, looking up at a zillion stars, you stop caring about "cool" addresses anywhere. No fixed address - I'll go where the boat takes me.

  24. "as does being on the other side of the sea here."

    well, em, that would mean living in the sandy expanse of Dubai! or Mogadishu, i guess!

    All that apart, i agree with egghead. i lived in thane and went to college in fort, all the way across the island and loved both of it! even the travel! it's just the people around you...

  25. Great blog...I totally relate to most of the studd you blog about...

    I will be back :)


  26. Address matters here but again Bombay is smart enough to consider convenience. I moved from the west to the east because traffic screwed up my life before. And yes, I also live in the suburbs now after 10 years in South Bombay. Well, today I have some friends who look forward to coming all the way to party at my place, whenever I call them. Nobody looks down on anybody for where they live.
    It's a general view, a common opinion that people used to have about the east and the west. But I dont think today anybody feels superior or inferior about location when they meet someone personally.
    Living in Bombay is kind of community or profession oriented too.

  27. I thought this obsession with who lives where has *always* been part of 'being cool' - across the world, across time. No different from dropping a thousand dollars on a tie just because it has a fancy italian name, and later bragging about it to friends.

    I live in Brooklyn (I am a 'bridge and tunnel guy' in Manhattan-speak), so I hardly have any right to talk about what's cool. But everytime Manhattanites snivel about my uncool address, I show them my roof and my backyard, and my neighborhood bottle-shop where the bartender *actually* knows me.

    As for bombay, you're better off living comfortably east of the tracks than living in a hole westside/townside. And if people judge you on that, you can ask them to shove it.. you probably don't want their company in any case.

  28. "SoBo, 'burbs!?!...dude you speak in the lingo of an elitist snob"

    lol, you look like you've been truly flamed by people from SoBo - yeah its convenient to call South Bombay as SoBo and suburbs as whats so elitist about it? Or errmm...snobbish? you need to get out of the ghetto mentality and look at the world without those slummy blinkers.

    "the kind of judgments passed by our generation"

    haha, didnt you just pass a judgement up there - 'elitist', 'snobbish'!

    'Bambai's NY pretensions'

    Thalassa here seems to have an NY hangover. pretensions?? eh. Bombay is anytime much cooler than NY. AND Soho in NY takes its name after the London shopping district, Soho...just fyi. So much for pretensions, lol.

  29. hey confessor...have been reading ur blogs for some time now...
    some of ur posts are real ...guuud....
    like the recent address one..den that second date one...
    like dem...very much..

  30. hey can u tell me, takin out some of ur to put that picture along with the blog u have done so..
    i wud be real glad..if u can reply to this...

  31. Raccoon, no NY hangovers for me, I've never visited NY. LA all the way baby!

    As for coolness, what I love about LA is that I can get the best Korean food outside Korea, the best Chinese food outside China, and the best Iranian food outside Iran within a 5 mile radius.

    And hear 5 different languages from 5 corners of the world in a 5 minute walk down the street. Diversity is coolness as far as I'm concerned.

  32. Good one ...Talkin abt Mumbai whr ive been for 5 yrs , i heard that nowadays the newer suburbs like malad have acquired some sort of cool factor tho nowhere in the league of South Mumbai. Then was in B'lore where Koramangala / Indiranagar were considered the only happening areas. Then in London I heard that East London was downmarket being a black/brown area and the whites have moved out to the suburbs. And there s notting hill whch wasnt too attractive a place to stay- and then aftr the eponymous movie acquired a new cool status. Currently in tokyo- dont know how it works here :-)

  33. Reminds me of this one friend of mine who stayed in east delhi and people would keep telling her "so you stay trans yamuna...hahahahaha" so she'd turn around and say "ya but from where i stay, YOU stay trans yamuna!"

    Give it right back to them em! :)

  34. You anyway have much more that ten thousand coolness points...irrespective of where you live... :)

  35. TM, I so agree, LA is super cool...and not just because of the weather. But you get that diversity everywhere now - what with the world becoming smaller, heck I hear dutch and german on a daily basis in my office in Bombay apart from a smattering of Bengali and Telugu.

    CC: I agree with the 10,000 extra coolness points for living alone...all my Mumbaikar friends live with their parents...even the married ones, even the ones in the burbs...sigh.

  36. Congratulations! you have just taken bigotry and hypocrisy to a new high.
    when people "regard" your comings and goings late at night, you habits and you being you in general, its "oh-so-middle-class" (read not liberated, orthodox,regressive, etc) and it curbs ur freedom to be you, your individual choices are forwned upon.
    Are you not doing the same by frowning upon what they choose to believe is right and how they choose to bring up their daughters? Did anyone ever gently point out to you , that while it is your prerogative to drink, smoke, wear clothes according to your choice and be "cool", being "uncool" to you isnt really being uncool, its just other people being themselves?And if thats a problem, you need to cultivate more "cultural tolerance", the same thing you seem to expect from your middle class neighbours.Clearly liberalism as a thought-movement passed you by although you certainly "feel" touched by it.make sure some ur loyal bigot followers think of some choicy invective to write about this anonymous should be fun. :D

  37. Oho...let me say one word to you. Dwarka. I just moved from Bangalore to Delhi and I live in Dwarka. As is is the coolness metre is running overtime because I am not wearing this season's hideous flat ballet shoes. But it's a good excuse when you want to run away. "I have to catch the last train." In Bangalore I lived in a place that was a shade away from being a slum and had a super good time. You could buy things in the most piddly quantities, everyone was up till 11 pm so the streets were full of people and everyone had some festivities going so my parties were the least noisy. My landlady even sent me kheer in the middle of a party. It was easy to be brave then so I used to wear what I wanted while trekking to the nearest auto. In Dwarka I would like a sex change operation to feel truly comfortable.


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