It began with an innocent brochure about the Corbett National Park. I showed it to a colleague who began leafing through it with my nine-year-old daughter looking over his shoulder. Soon, both were engrossed -- he in describing the animals; she in listening to him.
My daughter was fascinated with the brochure and took it to my husband's office later in the day. He suggested she look up some of the animals it mentioned on the Internet. He opened the Google seach engine for her and returned to his cabin.
When he returned, my daughter was staring at the screen in horrified shock! She saw her father, turned crimson, covered the screen with both hands and begged him not to look.
My husband was confused, but left the cabin. When he checked the screen later, he understood the reason for her strange behaviour.
Instead of Asian elephant, the animal she was interested in, my daughter had keyed in 'Asin Elephent.' Instead of the pachyderms she was expecting, the search engine had thrown up pornographic images of 'elephent' sized breasts.
Zelda Pande, Mumbai [ Images ]
It happens with unfailing regularity. I get out of my building, turn left, then right, then left again and there he is, waiting for me.
The moment he spots me, his ears cock and he stands. I try to ignore him, but I hear a faint growl. As long as I am running in his direction, everything is fine. The second I pass him, he thinks I am fleeing. He tries to chase me down. I, of course, pick up speed. He is sure I am a thief trying to escape. Since he has designated himself unofficial policeman of the area, he runs faster too. Finally, I have no choice but to face the problem head on. I stop, turn around, walk towards him and raise my arm. He tucks his tail between his legs and flees.
By then, the street dogs on the remaining stretch of the road are awake. This entire process is repeated again and again, every day.
One day, matters got out of hand. A dog nearly feasted on a chunk of my calf muscle. My back was towards him (or was it her?) so he thought I was running away. I had my earphones on and no idea the dog was barking and running straight towards me. Thankfully, when you have evaded enough of these vigilantes, you develop a sixth sense. I suddenly turned and the dog stopped, barely two metres away.
Now I run with a stick in my hand.
Salil Kumar, Mumbai
The moving stairs
They stood there giggling, their heads demurely covered, looking and sounding more like bashful teenagers than the 40 odd year olds they actually were. Then, one of the ladies took a hesitant step forward. But, as her foot touched the moving escalator, she gave a small shriek and hurriedly stepped back.
They had obviously never used one before. From their conversation, it was clear this their first visit to a Mumbai shopping mall and they were overwhelmed. The moving stairs, in particular, took their breath away.
Another lady decided to try, but she too couldn't sum up the courage to take the first daring step.
A third lady entered the fray. Hoisting her sari above her ankles to display a thick pair of traditional anklets, she stepped onto the escalator. And stumbled. The others watched in terror. But she regained her balance and, within seconds, was on the mall's first floor.
The others watched her victorious climb wide-eyed. But, despite her urgings, they just didn't have the courage to emulate her. Finally, an impatient woman security guard took each lady firmly by the arm, pushed her onto the escalator and watched her giggle her way to the top.
S Gayatri, Mumbai
Taking a local train in Mumbai means an inevitable battle with those who prefer to travel standing on the footboard. This penchant of theirs has nothing to do with how crowded or empty the compartment is.
In their bid to climb in, some people can be very persuasive. Like this man who said: "Andar jao bhai, aage bado. Aage badoge to hi ladkiyan tumhare peeche aayengi [Go on, get inside. It is only if you go ahead (in life) that women will pursue you].
Take this scene from another jam-packed local train. A passenger got a call on his cell phone. Miraculously, he even managed to take the call. From the conversation, it was clear he was talking to his wife. And sounding progressively irritated by the minute.
No one really paid attention until, at one point, he yelled into the phone. "Nahi, pura khali hai [No, it's totally empty]." He was obviously referring to the overcrowded train.
"Kal hi mere baap ne kharida tha naa [My father bought it just yesterday]," he continued.
Wifey got the point. End of conversation.
Dhiraj Shetty, Mumbai
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh