Thursday, 29 March 2012

"Bus" Ek Pal

The BEST Transport Museum is one of the lesser known museums that are located within the immediate suburbs of Mumbai. The transport museum is situated in Anik Depot in Mumbai and is a treasure trove of information which documents the rich heritage and the strong cultural legacy of an organization that anchors the road transport scene in Mumbai.

The BEST Museum was founded by the late. P.D. Paranjape, a BEST officer and a collector of coins. The museum was initially set up in 1984 at Kurla Depot which was later shifted to Anik Depot. Unlike many other popular museums, the museum has suffered from lack of representation and been located between dusty wooden doors. The museum has a huge exhibit of the BEST mascot which represents the spirit of red buses which dot the streets of Mumbai. The museum also houses scaled representations of various bus depots situated across the city. 

The museum preserves rare memorabilia which document the growth of the Bombay Tramway Company in 1873 to the Bombay Electrical Supply and Transport Limited in 1947 to the Brihanmumbai Electrical Supply and Transport Undertaking post 1995. The museum has colourful tidbits about the growth of BEST as an organization. The museum has kept various photographs, replicas and engines from all designs that the undertaking has experimented with over the years. This includes open-air vacation buses, trailer buses with overhead wires, vestibule buses and of course, the beloved red double decker buses.

The BEST museum has a dedicated section entirely for tickets. This section holds tickets of the erstwhile trams operated by the BEST and some of them with their routes on the map of Mumbai. Some tickets also mention the destinations and the corresponding fares. The tickets section also houses a heavy ticket issuing machine imported from London which was used by the BEST conductors till 1947. The machine has a handle and two dials in which one dial is used to mark the destination and the other dial denoting whether the ticket was meant for a child, a luggage item or an adult. On rotating the handle, a ticket was issued. On the rear of the machine, a record of the number of tickets issued and the total money collected was maintained. However, the machines were discontinued as few conductors misused the dials. Prior to the arrival of electronic tickets, which resemble ATM slips, there is also an interesting mention of an incident of when the printing press of Times of India was roped in to print BEST bus tickets for the brief period between 1947 and 1957. In April 1957, the BEST had installed a new printer at Mumbai Central which printed tickets till the electronic tickets over.

In addition to replicas of buses and trams, many appliances which were in use at that time such as radiograms, kerosene lamps, wood-panelled fans and premier model telephones are preserved. There are also several displays depicting the artistic talents of the BEST employees over the years, one of them being a full-sized map of Mumbai, which has every route covered by the BEST marked on it. The latest additions to the museum are the blue-and-red bus poles which were the ubiquitous symbols of bus stops before being replaced with new swank bus stops. The old bus stops had just a pole with the number and stop. They originated from an era when trams plied through crowded areas where there was no need for a full-fledged bus stop. These poles are somewhat similar to the design of bus stop poles in London. The bus stop poles have been kept on display along with the antique Victorian-era furniture that were used in the BEST offices earlier. It has sign boards reading "Bombay Municipality". The antique pieces on display are an old chassis of buses, ticket vending machines and street light poles and signals. Also, on display are old tram seats and model replicas of a variety of fleet of buses that have been owned and operated by the company.

So, the next time you wonder how to spend an afternoon in Mumbai and cannot think of interesting ways, head straight to the BEST Transport Museum in Anik Depot and learn the glorious heritage of an organization which documents the growth of the city and that which withstands the changes that have taken place over the years as we evolved from Bombay to Mumbai.The museum remains open to public from Wednesday to Sunday from 09:00 am to 05:00 pm.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Maa Maati Mystery

Indian politics has always been viewed as a political theatre by observers and political scientists. Hence, the bizarre political circus surrounding the Railway Budget fiasco showed absolutely no sign of ending peacefully. Mamata Banerjee may have been rapped on her knuckles for failing to see reason in the rationalization of fares, but that does not deter her from flaunting her power as the largest party with 19 members in coalition with the UPA in Delhi. The changing relationship with the UPA government highlight the brazen attempts to destabilize the government at the central level.

Dinesh Trivedi presented his maiden rail budget on the floor of the Lok Sabha on March 14 2012. In his immensely bold speech, Mr. Trivedi proposed an across-the-board fare hike in passenger fares to a raise a much-needed Rs. 4000/- crore this year. It is a known fact that a fare hike was inevitable considering the financial health of the Railways. For nearly a decade, a national asset like the Indian Railways was forced to break even with rising expenditures, dangerously high operating ratios and plummeting incomes. Rising above the myopic and populist views held by his predecessors, Dinesh Trivedi showed us that his responsibility as the Union Minister for Railways was to restore the financial health of the Railways and then to his party.

The bullying tactics employed by Mamata Banerjee highlight the absolute shamelessness of politicians and successive railway ministers who treat a national asset like the Indian Railways as a personal territory to ensure a specialized vote-buying machine to dispense favour to their respective home-states. Hence, it is not uncommon to note that most of the politicians who served as the Minister of Railways went on to become Chief Ministers and that the Railways has been treated as a stepping stone to becoming the Chief Minister.
Being an aam aadmi does not mean a free right to subsidies, unwarranted discounts and silly freebies and certainly not the expense of a national asset like the Indian Railways. With Mamata Banerjee opposing the fare hike, what we see is an opposition for the prioritization of the nation over party. The Rail Budget fiasco has proved that it is hard to push for reforms except if it is done through back door ploys. Though, it still remains a mystery as to how Mamata Banerjee would not be aware of the fare hike if Dinesh Trivedi has to mention her name nearly eight times in the one hour fifty minute speech? 

The Trinamool Congress has always been known for populism. The stand adopted by the TMC proves that party interest takes precedence over national interest. Trinamool leaders unfortunately take populism to such ridiculous levels that an anti-progress mentality does not even seem offensive. The Railway Minister's boss in Delhi is the Prime Minister and not the Chief Minister of West Bengal. To get her approval is as ridiculous as a West Bengal budget being approved by a Central minister. 

However important an ally the Trinamool Congress may be in terms of number for the UPA government in Delhi--one can only hope--that they realize the dangers of having self-serving allies who value parties above the nation. As for Mr. Trivedi, we must applaud not only his courage for presenting a bold budget which provides a roadmap ahead for India and not West Bengal. We certainly need to value his contribution for showing us that it is more important to do what is right than what is easy.  

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Upanishad Ganga

Indian spiritual wisdom has come down to us in its value and content. Just as the river Ganga flows down from the heights of the Himalayas, the knowledge or Jnana Ganga too flows from time immemorial to benefit all, irrespective of caste, creed, colour, race and nationality. A new television serial "Upanishad Ganga" directed by eminent filmmaker Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi (of Chanakya fame) launches on Doordarshan's satellite channel DD India on Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 13:30 p.m. and repeat telecast at 04:30 a.m. on Monday mornings. 

Upanishad Ganga consists of 52 episodes which depict the essence of Upanishadic teachings as well as the hoary cultural, intellectual and knowledge traditions of India. Upanishad Ganga is a mammoth effort covering the entire gamut on Indian culture, heritage, philosophy and wisdom which spans for more than 5000 years. In this serial, the knowledge of Upanishads is explained in a modern context through stories. The episodes and stories depict the essence of Upanishadic teaching as well as the hoary cultural, intellectual and knowledge traditions of India. The entire Vedic culture is also presented in addition to various stories from the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas and Indian cultural history which have been employed as vehicles for bringing home the concepts in an interesting and appealing manner. 

Upanishad Ganga brings out the practical applicability of the ageless knowledge in transforming the life of an individual and the society at large. Upanishad Ganga has been produced by Chinmaya Creations, the creative wing of the Chinmaya Mission and Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi is the serial's creative director. The art director is Nitin Chandrakant Desai, the man who designed the sets for Jodhaa Akbar and has also been a recipient of four National Awards.

In each one of us there is SOMEONE who is constantly struggling to express oneself fully, break all bondages, find the true purpose and meaning of life and search the truth behind this world. Humans are consciously or unconsciously in search of answers to fundamental questions such as: 

a) Who am I?
b) What is the goal of life?
c) What is this world?
d) How to go beyond sorrow?
e) How to lead a life of fulfillment?

Upanishad Ganga deals with these issues. It is NOT about any mythological or historical character. Upanishad Ganga is unique since it is a serial which depicts the story of YOU and ME. 

The text might be ancient but the wisdom is ageless!