Mumbai, Dhai Handi in dadar-worli area
Time: evening onwards
For those who do not know what the heck is written in the title.
Dhai (curd) Handi (pot) – it is an event as part of krishnastami (Birth of lord krishna) where a curd pot is tied high up and groups of people make human pyramids to try and break the pot. Higher the pot, more the levels, fatter the money. I thought it might be interesting to photograph it.
Sometime in the evening, i took a nerve wrecking local ride to dadar….
wait a sec – FLASH BACK
4 years back, my first visit to mumbai, i was returning from dadar station. That was the first time i got introduced to the concept of ‘peak hour at dadar station’. Those who know it, are smiling already. Those who don’t, this pic below is a mild representation of the mess that happens. So i was part of this mayhem one day trying to get into the train. Dadar station is not too kind to people generally. I was wearing a round neck t-shirt prominently displaying the gold around my neck, with a child like face trying to figure out how could modern laws of physics, mathematics & spaciomatics allow 400 people to get in and another 400 to get out at the same time from the same cabin door in 8 secs that the train halts. No kidding. Probably there are exceptions to the rule everywhere. Mumbai is an exception to every rule. Thats why i love and hate this city.
so coming to the gold… Suddenly, i feel a major tug on my neck. i instantly check my neck and yes, i just got mugged! A gold chain with a beautiful pendent. Gone in the wind. i frantically look around only to watch a sea of people flowing in random directions. Is it their last day on this planet? Whatever. One of them is a asshole. I rush to the cops cabin nearby. He tells me that i gotta put a written complaint in Mumbai Central station, 6 stations away. Another asshole. What is he sitting there for? to guide the victims to the magical place where complaints are collected be a part of national history? I was told later that it is a custom for both the assholes (cop & the bandit) to share the booty, particularly at dadar station.
anyways, i never turned up at dadar station that way again. With dawn of new wisdom i started to practice ‘simple living high thinking’. It has saved me a lot of $$$ thus far 😛
coming back to present time – Dhai handi, and the freaking train to Dadar. It was nerve-racking because i was again dressed like a stud, a photographer stud. DSLR and macbook in the bag, gold around the neck and finger. What if someone cuts my finger? Some people never learn. But 4 years had made me mumbai smart. I got into the luggage compartment where not many people get in or out. Much safer and i had genuine luggage. I concealed the gold and locked the bag between my legs.
50 mins later, i carefully got down at dadar station. My timing was perfect. It wasn’t peek hour. i made sure i was a couple of feet away from another human. It wasn’t possible. So i doubled-up to the exit, on safer grounds. I had read in the papers earlier that the dadar dhai handi was the biggest with a cash prize of Rs 25,00,000 would go to the team that makes 9 levels in the pyramid!
As i wandered around, almost every other street had a pot high up and Govindas climbing up to reach it in turns. I tried to find out which corner had ‘THE Event’ – the highest one with the craziest crowd. A pandu (cop) suggested i take a bus to worli. That one is close by and really spectacular.
So i walk. All buses are on a holiday. The BMC drivers are either making pyramids or watching the circus. So i take a taxi to Jamboree grounds, Worli.
There was a certain aura to the ground itself. As i approached, the human swarm grew thicker and thicker, most of them in their respective gangs with particular dress codes, the oranges belonged to Bharatiya janta party, while the yellows were patronized by Raj Thakery… and so on. There were multiple shades in the same color. Later it was announced that 250 Govinda groups had made an attempt on this ground. HOLY MOLY!
As i took the entrance with another million, i saw THE pot hanging from a crane, beautifully decorated with flower garlands. There was a stage at one end where celebrities were indulging the crowds. Opposite & across the ground, far away was a media stall raised on a platform 20 feet up. They had zoom lenses, so the distance did not matter. There was another media stall at 3’clock position from the dais…much closer, probably for media people who did not have zoom lenses. A water tanker was pumping huge jets of water that were targeted at the human pyramids. Rs 25,00,000 is not going to be easy after all.
It was a good vantage point. High up & closer to the action, both on stage and on the field. I decided to sneak in. My attitude had to be unquestionable that i belonged to the media. I AM the media. I walk to the temporary wooden stairs that lead to the media stall. A slew of pandus (cops) occupied every step, their single focus attention on the celebs on the stage. I look up to see the media booth… No media people! Only pandus! …swelling out of the media box… tons of them. Holy cow. If hell breaks loose with 30,000 people on the field, these pandus would have no clue. There was no security on the field. All of them were parked at the media box, smiling, laughing, giggling, gossiping and being entertained.
I pull out my DSLR and put on the longest lens. My cam looks pretty PRO with the long lens and i make it longer with the hood. A thin path remained on one side of the steps, probably for pandus wanting to go take a leak. I raise my arms in the air to make myself penetrable. With the camera in one and bag in the other, i start walking up the steps saying – excuse me, excuse me, lemme go. The pandus look around to see this guy dressed in a cool collar-t-shirt, khaki 3/4ths with lots of fancy pockets, cool hat, cool bag, big camera. Make way for the fancy photographer. Annoyed, they quietly make way. I had to literally squeeze push myself to the front. The front row was the only row occupied by media. The rest were pandus. Who said pandus are dumb. They precisely knew that the media box was a good vantage point for evening fun. Voila!
So I get to witness the carnival. Awesome view.
Rajpal yadav comes and wishes everyone. Someone nearby comments that he is a bhaiya, not marati…. booooo.
He stammer’s in marati. There is a uproar!
Rahul mahajan comes up with his wife, does a dance number, picks up Dimpy in the air and kisses her. He is a marati. There is a uproar! The host is exhilarated that the crowd is getting their meat. He announces that we are witnessing krishna leela live on stage!
Jaggu dada (Jackie shroff) comes on stage, takes off his glares, put them back. There is a uproar. He says – ‘serve your mom and dad, rest all is fine. Wait for Sallu (Salman Khan), he will come later.’ There is a mega uproar for heart throb, sallu bhai. 30,000 people and counting.
There is a dance number.
Anandi and jagiya come on stage and perform Krishna leela, a dance drama. The uproar is passive. clearly the kids haven’t connected with the crowds.
Some random celebs come and go. The madness is varied. If the celeb finds his popularity to be faint he ends up saying a few words in marati, screams ‘JAI Maharashtra’ and ….There is a uproar! He is happy, the crowd is happy.
The crowd wants sallu bhai. The host assures them that his appearance will be the desert of the night. MEGA UPROAR!!!
In the mean while Govinda groups continue their attempts at the virgin pot. No one yet goes high enough to reach it. The max i see is 7 levels. A cameraman says that it will be broken only by 11pm. It is 7pm now. What happens till then?
Sukhwinder singh enters stage with a jazzy golden dress and performs on a bunch of popular numbers with his sexy dance troop wearing crazy amount of bling. Was it a desperate attempt to blind 30,000 oglers’?
sukhwinder – “Beedi jalai ke…”
host intercepts – “Govinda aala re!!”
crowd screems – “AALA RE!!!”
sukhwinder – “jigar se piyaaaaaa(alap)…”
host intercepts – “Ganapati bappa!!”
crowd screems – “MOORYAA!!!”
The symphony was awesome. somehow all of the cacophony seemed to sync perfectly with the music – the uproar – & the shrill noise from a huge suction truck that was trying to soak up excess murk created from the freakin water jets.
Then, suddenly, Sukhwinder Singh goes nuts. This very large muscular man takes several steps back, takes a deep breath and charges at the crowd. He runs across the ramp and leaps…. Like a meteor strikes the earth unaware, there is a large human crater at his dive point. Some of them have near death experience. He is slowly seen emerging from underneath the crowd. The organizers go nuts and are screaming at the crowd to handover their Sukwinder back. He is slowly lifted and passed on stage. someone passes his cool wireless mike. He puts it on and continues his number. Two guards take position right behind him just in case he goes crazy again.
Random celebs come and go…some perform…. the crowd is screaming for sallu bahi. Its 10pm already. Incidentally, Sallu bhai’s upcoming film ‘Dabaang’ is the co-sponsor of this event and its posters are all over the place.
The grand finale is all planned. The crazy host announces the entry of Dabaang music director and his team… the crowd goes crazy misunderstanding to be an announcement for The Dabaang himself. When the music guys enter, there is huge confusion. The crowds from front begin to booo… but The crowd from behind who really cannot see or hear much scream in ecstasy thinking it to be sallu bahi’s entry.
The music guys perform on the dabaang songs for people at the back, the once who cheered for them. During the 4th number, ruckus begins on the stage. YES! Sallu bahi has arrived!! There is a swarm of people around him on stage. His height is below the stage average, so he is difficult to locate. The swarm keeps shifting towards the front slowly. The crowd is going bonkers as sallu bhai approaches stage.
4 photographers and 2 steadycam operators are between the crowd and sallu bhai. They are politely asked to move as sallu bhai emerges to the crowd like the light of god appeared before Moses. The radiance of sallu bahi has engulfed humanity entire. All hands in the air, hooting, screaming, no one even blinks. Sallu bahi joins the music guys and sings a few lines. UPROAR!! He pulls up his sleeve to show off his biceps… INSANITY!
Vocal chords of 30,000+ are unified in one word T-SHIRT, T-SHIRT, T-SHIRT, T-SHIRT, T-SHIRT. Yes! They want him to take off his T-shirt! 95% of the crowd were men. They never screamed this way when karishma kapoor or dimpy mahajan came on stage. Mumbai has the highest number of gays or wanna be gays.
Harbahjan singh and few other celebs join him on stage. The crowd climaxes in ecstasy as Sallu bahi bends down to touch the downtrodden and throw away music dvd’s of his film.
There is a sudden commotion behind me in the media box. I turn around to see – Not a single pandu. A couple of senior cops are on checking and have driven all pandus out. They are beginning to take position downstairs. Finally. I hear some more unrest coming from below. The camera man next to me gets info on his wireless that cops are beating up some media guy. He instantly abandons his position with his camera and rushes downstairs to capture the drama. Peepli [LIVE], Live.
In all this madness the host calls for the pot to be lowered a bit. The crane height is lowered. A particular Govinda group is given the go ahead. They make a lousy 5 level pyramid with ease and breaks the pot in moments. The crowd breaks into a giant dance again. What the heck was that!? There was no competition! Thats right. There wasn’t one going to be. It was meant to be a bollywood night. Period. Breaking of the pot meant show over, go home. I feel bad this Dahi Handi had to looses its virginity this way.
Carp. I wonder what happens at other locations.
At the end of the day, sure there was madness, a few broken bones (insured by the BMC), some from the janta actually got to touch their alter egos- the stars. Pandus had a masti filled night-out, sallu bhai’s appearance was total paisa vasool, i got a few cheap trills with a free-bollywood-night-viewing from a prime spot.
The show is over. I pick my bag and make a exit. I have no connections with the media. The media is stupid & pointless. Utterly.