World War Z released recently, to rather positive reviews. I could not watch it. Not like it was too intense or something, but like I could not go to the theatre to see it. World War Z is based on a novel by Max Brooks, who also wrote ‘The Zombie Survival Guide’, the name of which should incline at least some of you to conclude, inspired the movie ‘Zombieland’. It did not. But Zombieland I did watch, and liked. While at it, I would also like to mention ‘Shaun of the Dead’, which is a great zombie movie, the enjoyment of which, for me, was slightly hampered by, something I think should have a separate term for, but till I am aware of it, I like to call, retrodam. I had seen ‘Hot Fuzz’ first, and then Shaun of the Dead felt, still quite enjoyable though, not that epic. But it was totally due to the cinematic pattern, not the Zombie theme. I also saw, our Indian attempt, ‘Go Goa Gone’ which promised so much but turned out to be, as a friend said, a movie whose all the good parts were already covered in its trailer. Anyway, so World War Z released recently, and I was reading its reviews and stumbled on a news item about some real Zombies which roam the animal kingdom. And one of them blew my mind.
So there is a something called ‘Cymothoa exigua’, which is a parasite and a type of arthropod. Arthropods are basically invertebrates with an external skeleton. Crabs, lobsters, shrimps etcetera are some of the arthropods. It looks not very different from the regular insects really. I don’t know how many of you drew a leech in your biology class, but it looks similar to what we (I) managed to draw, just a little more animated and not that long. Just Google it. Female Cymothoa exigua are the longer ones and reach a size of around an inch and a width of half an inch. These guys prey on poor little fish. These little buggers enter fish through its gills, attach themselves to the base of fish’s tongue and help themselves with some fish tongue blood till the tongue is dead due to lack of blood. The dead tongue then falls off. This parasite, then attaches itself to the muscles of the remains of the tongue and start acting like a tongue itself!!! The most wonderful part about this whole project is that the fish actually starts using the parasite as its regular tongue; the poor thing doesn’t even know the difference. God damn. The parasite then shifts its diet from blood to some yummy fish mucus. Easy. Both the host fish and the parasite go on to lead their normal lives, together.
Some guys who bought such a host fish from a supermarket with the bug inside, sued the supermarket for having gotten more than they paid for, but the court said ‘Overruled’ because, it seems, they pose no danger to humans and are actually eaten by some.
And now if all you got from this story, is the question that how this Crustacean Fish thing is similar to the types of Zombies you see in movies, and not really appreciate the awesomeness of this whole phenomenon…..You got some real life juice deficiency my friend.
Let me set the tone for this one: I hate Rains in Mumbai. I have been thinking of writing this ‘How I f’king hate the rains in Mumbai’, for three years of the six I have lived here. So why am I actually writing it this time? I think it’s because rain did not soft land this year, which, if the term can be applied to it, which I think it could be in a relative way, is the way with most villainous seasons of any place: they start mildly, gradually increasing in intensity and then unleashing their full fury. Rains this year, sucker punched me. I was doing the usual, planning to buy my rain-special lace-less shoes, trying to locate my umbrella, chalking out my strategy as to how and what will I carry with me to office, so that the collateral damage can be minimized, you know, rain spray dirtied bags and stuff. The rains were supposedly still a week away. There were clouds in the sky, but they didn’t look like coming down. And then suddenly, one day, without warning, it started. And did not stop. That day, I was in not at my usual office but at a place from where transport is not easy to find, even on a regular day. It was nearing my would-leave-for-the-day time and I could see the skies getting dark. It was the kind of dark which you don’t like ever, I can’t think of a time I like that kind of dark skies, invariably gloomy. And soon enough, the heavens broke loose. It was not the kind of downpour which shoots and scoots. Mumbai rains have this amazing quality of maintaining insanely protracted quantity. These are not the cute Katni style rains which pour down with lot of sound and then after 7 minutes, are gone. Mumbai rains hit first, hit hard and keep on hitting. But on the very first day of the monsoon??? God damn it. The lady who I was sharing the auto with, while my time at this non regular office, had a baby waiting for her at home, and generally people don’t give a shit, so she was ready to go, like nothing was out of the ordinary outside. But I could see the long wait for the auto in rain, shoes and the trousers getting wet and dirty with mud. My Shoes. F’k. I had my dear canvas, suede, leather having adidas shoes on; it was Friday for god’s sake. The first monsoon f’k on the very first day of the monsoon and that too on a Friday? What were the odds? How the fuschia was I supposed to clean my precious shoes? But I couldn’t be a pussy and wait it out, it wasn’t going to wane anyway, it was my moment of screw. We got an auto but it insisted we take the long route, what magnificent bitches these cunt autos become in rain warrants another separate rant-athon, so I would not elaborate on that here, and we obliged. 1 hour and 30 minutes later, I reached home. Sprayed on the face, trousers dripping and a long bath session lurking ahead. I had to write this article. But. But I did not write it that night. It was too late till I washed off my battle scars. I wrote it 2 days later, when another rain-r@pe descended on me and this time I was just coming to office, my day was just about to start. Some office work was about to be manhandled because I had to write this article.
But why exactly I hate the rain here in Mumbai? Doesn’t everybody love it? Not just rain in general, but Mumbai rain? You ask people what they love about Mumbai and they would say “Rain”, and vada pav, which is another overrated item of food but that’s ok. Girls seem to get wet being in rain and I am not just talking about being drenched. But I don’t think I am overreacting here. I, and I think everybody should, have good reasons to hate it.
What are those?
Vehicle showers: I didn’t know they even existed before coming here. They happen when the tyres of fast-moving vehicles, throw tangential streams of water owing to their threads and grooves. These little streams of water hit the mud-flap or any adjoining hard surface and break down in this fine barber’s water spray like spray which clouds the tyres and trails as the vehicle surges ahead.
It travels far and wide and gets sucked in the auto you are travelling in, because autos are what you can afford daily. That is the water from a bloody tyre!! And I didn’t even use Bloody as an expletive here; it really could be bloody. Run over snake, mouse, cat, dog…Human. Shit, diapers, that tea brown mud you saw back there. Damn. And it sprayed the wash right on your face. And you know what, getting your face dirtied is not even the worst part. This shit cloud gets in your ears, a place you can’t even wash with much soap, and even water. That’s the ear where you would later insert your finger in and give a nice little shake and feel good, and get that shit mix out on the finger tip. Eat it.
So why won’t you take the bus instead, if your daily destination does not fall on a local train route? Buses in Mumbai are so convenient, available everywhere. I am sure that should be the solution. Right? Wrong. I will tell you the story of my moment of awakening.
That was one of my first days in Mumbai monsoon. I used to take my office bus for commuting and I missed it one day. Sure enough, there were BEST buses to take me home. I hopped on one. I got a window seat and was happily looking out. BEST buses are good buses, not gloomy at all, so, as long as, the person in front of you is not spitting and the obliging wind not bringing it to your face, it’s all lovely in a BEST bus. It had just stopped raining a few minutes back and the roads were slightly over-wet, the state of being more than just wet, with a thin little film of water still on. But it was absolutely not raining. And just so I learn my lesson early and permanently, I was wearing a plain white shirt. A few minutes later I realized I had tiny brown spots on my sleeves. I was flabbergasted. Where the f’k from man? I was too high up for regular Vehicle showers, and anyway the traffic was not moving that fast. Suddenly I noticed tiny suspended water particles in air. There was no other vehicle nearby. It was my own dear bus!!! I was getting friendly-sniped by my own bus. The vehicle shower of my own bus was rising and staining my shirt. It was one of the most heart-breaking realizations I had, ever. It was so unfair. It was like getting shouted on by your own Dad when you got beat up in a fight you did not start and was just passing by. Why I had to know this grimy fact when so many others were happily oblivious to it? I was never to be the same happy me on a bus in Monsoon again. As soon as the rain starts, I slide close my bus window and hope that he guy in front of me shares at least half of my rain-apprehension and keep his closed too.
But, you know what, buses are still the best way of transport in rains, second only to private cabs, but there is absolutely no fare comparison, so buses win hands down. Buses are spacious, frequent and save you from the world, you are so high up, and so cheap. But that’s why they are so crowded too, but then comes the champion: your office bus. It covers the maximum distance between your office and home, is inhabited by people just like you, you are guaranteed a seat almost every time, and you can doze off!! After having spent nearly five years commuting an average of 2.5 hours daily, I have come to the conclusion that the best you can utilize the commute time is by sleeping.
The auto inverted V-zone: But office buses would not take you elsewhere and it is the service of Autos that you invariably would fall back to. Now, autos are never safe. You always run the risk of tasting the paan the auto-driver is relishing via the spit-volleys. It seems like they spit out of boredom, I don’t know. There is no sane reason to spit so much. Only sportsmen come close to as much spitting. But that’s ok, you can always ask them not to. But the auto V zone, you can’t do anything about it.
It’s the inverted v shaped jet autos tyres expel in their wake. It’s amazing, because I rarely saw it form under any other type of vehicles’ tyres. Other vehicles seem to emit straight jets which just annoy the biker behind them. Not the autos. They spread it V-wise. I don’t know, maybe it’s the small size or the threads, but it’s amazing nonetheless. And it does the maximum damage to its other auto siblings.
The autos, during the monsoons, are generally fitted with plastic flaps to save the passengers from water. So the only open sides are diagonal to the passenger. You sit almost at the vertex. And it’s through this direction, those jets of inverted V variety hit you. It is beautiful in its execution. You get f’ked but you can appreciate the beauty of it all.
In absence of transport, you are bound to be at home, which, honestly, I don’t mind at all. But you can’t be home all FIVE months of Mumbai monsoon now, could you?
But who am I kidding? Aren’t Rains, if somewhat gloomy, just the most beautiful? I don’t think the world is so wrong after all. They stir up emotions like no other season. I think it just has a lot of character, the rain. That’s why we respond so strongly to it. It takes you through such highs and lows. I have always been a lover of extreme weathers; the blazing hot summers and finger numbing chilly winters. The kind of weathers, which, overwhelm you so much with their, seemingly, prolonged presence, that you wish them to end and still, when they are gone, you look back, and, remember just the good bits, forgetting the nails, which, ironically, made the good bits good. I think it’s my turn with the monsoons now.
And they make such a good photographer out of you!