Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Visiting Mumbai for Munia's Convocation

Rupu and I went to Mumbai for a short 3 day trip, ostensibly to be present at the 2009 Convocation of IGIDR where Munia got her certificate of M.Sc in Development Economics.

We flew by Spicejet in the evening of Thursday, the 5th of January. Munia was there to receive us at the spankingly new terminal of the Mumbai Airport, and took us to her apartment in West Andheri area, near the beach of Versova. Later we went to a restaurant in Juhu called Mahesh , where we had one most amazing meal that consisted of four types of fish, namely Bombay Duck, Lobster, pomphret and sole, all cooked in different styles. This was truely an experience of great eating.

Next morning we took a taxi to IGIDR at Goregaon. Munia(Nandana) wore a sari in bengali style, and interestingly the mother daughter duo had almost identical attires. The convocation was addressed by the present chairman of RBI, Dr Subbarao, and also the chairman pf the 13 th Finance Commission of India, Vijay Kelkar. IGIDR being a very specialised institution (and a deemed university), there were only around 30 recipients of degree, which included 5 PhD , 8 M.Phil and 17 M.SC candidates. The whole function lasted for barely one and a half hour, including a very erudite lecture on the GST (Goods and Services Tax) by Kelkar. Kelkar claimed that introductiof GST in India (slated for April, 2010) would constitute the most significant reform after the 1992 economic reforms, and would fuel economic growth of the nation by as much as 1.5 %. The function was followed by lunch in the beutiful IGIDR campus. We met some of the professors who taught Munia in IGIDR. They all spoke fondly about her, and praised her academic ability.

Later that afternoon we went back to Munia's flat, had a bit of rest (sleep?) and took a taxi toward Worli to go to our niece Babi's residence. It took us nearly two hours to travel what would hardly be a 12 kilometre journey, giving us a taste of slow traffic and congestion on the Mumbai roads. Pampa (Sanu's Daughter) was also there, and joined later by Bibek, her husband. Pampa (Debopama Sen) is with the Citibank. This was the first time I met Pampa since the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai, in which she got stuck for 12 hours in the Tajmahal hotel and was witness to much of the mayhem and killings that happened. We did not speak about it much, but I felt I must express my admiration for the cool headednes she showed during that time.

Babi (Suvolaksmi Chakraborty) now works for Berkleys Bank as the Commercial Director in India. Her residence is on the 16 th floor of a highrise building very near the Worli seaface, and is a very specious and well appointed 2500 sq ft flat. We spent two nights in her flat. Babi' s mother, our Chhotoboudi, was very pleased to have us around for the next two days. Aniket, Babi's son, is hardly eight years old, and have grown to be a little diffident sort of person. He likes computer games (we took two such games for him from Delhi), cartoon networks and video films. He is also good in his studies, and also in Karate (in which he has alredy got a Blue Belt). Babi was very proud of the interior decorations in her flat, which she designed herself with help from a professional artist.

Next Day was a Saturday, and Babi took us all in her Toyota Innova for a day long trip to Lonavala (also known as Khandala?), Mumbai's nearest hillstation on the Paschim Ghat Mountains. The journey was nice, especially after we left Mumbai 's congested roads and took the Mumbai-Pune highway. We went into a resort (called the Farayas), where Aniket indulged in some water sports. We had lunch in the restaurant, after which Munia was taken to the nearest Bus station to catch a Volvo Super express to Mumbai via Goregaon. Afterwards we had another car ride towards Ambey Valley, the famous city of the Sahara Group, which was about 20 miles from the Lonavala town. We could not however enter the city, which appeared to be out of bounds from non residents and cordoned off by private security forces.

We returned to Mumbai by the late evening. Next morning Sanjay (Babi's Husband) arrived for a short visit, from Dubai wher he works. We lefft Mumbai by the 12 o'clock flight to Delhi.