Thursday, August 04, 2005

Paradoxes All

Last week, days and nights rolled together to form one long, wet continuum. In such continuum, sometimes there was respite. I’m writing about the experiences I had during that respite. The exact date and time I do not know. I just remember those moments as the time when the rains had stopped and the air was filled with mojo.

Wee hours, Marine Drive

It’s an even indigo sky. Rain falls softly like scales of a silver fish. The sea is torrid but is generally behaving itself. The roads look freshly coated with paint – that’s how wet roads look when they don’t have potholes. This is Marine Drive. It now looks neurotic and beautiful – like the brink of sanity; like the psyche’s twilight zone; like the rim of a whim. This is the unreal Mumbai where there has been no flooding. Rain and its attendant despair are still meiotic.

My friend and I have driven here in silence listening to Dire Straits. We get out of the car and walk towards the Drive’s breastwork. Every time I walk with someone on Marine Drive, I slow down and observe this: who goes and sits down with the back to the sea and who remains standing looking into the distance. In my experience, it is always the one who sits who begins talking. The one who stands generally scans around looking for dreams this city is famous for; all kinds of dreams – old, new, lost, forgotten, stolen, broken, borrowed, own, unknown, familiar; all sorts. City of dreams. Stand and scan around. They’re there.

We both remain standing, monarchs of all we survey. There are few other groups milling about. A couple sits next to us and is arguing the way couples do. The woman shrilly says why something will not work out and the man infuriatingly stonewalls. Both are sitting with their backs to the sea.

Somewhere else a guy addresses his coterie of friends dressed in mustard yellow and rani pink and other colors you find in Jaipur palaces. He flails his arms and hollers a claim: ‘I’ll own Mumbai’; ‘She’ll be mine’; or something like that. People often say this on Marine Drive to others who sit with their backs to the sea.

I spot a guy on a cycle selling tea, coffee, and bournvita. My pal and I get our cups and talk about this and that. Meena Kumari and Waheeda Rehman actually – its weird, the things you associate with vanishing sea spray. Then I ask him about the last significant memory he had of this place.

He was there many moons ago with a girl. They had been friends for a long time and she was going away to follow her dreams. He knew she’d make it. She knew she’d make it. There was only one million other people she had to convince. Anyway, she’d made it. They were not in touch anymore.

I was there a couple of seasons ago with the person I was in love with. We were discussing home loans and where we’d shift and how we’d raise our children (okay, that’s what I talked about while he agreed.) Then he reached across and held my hand – and I had my first inkling that this was probably not meant to be.

We scanned around and went back to Dire Straits.


Some Saturday night

An interesting observation about Mumbai pubs, discs, lounges, restobars, or similar mutant variations – something called Insomnia will put you to sleep; something called Bed will keep you awake.

Speaking of Bed – the place has unearthed the kinky punster in so many of us. Sure, the Bed guys asked for it but then, it gets rather tiring after a while. ‘Will you go to Bed with me?’ (Wink! Wink!) ‘I was in Bed with three of my friends.’ Yes, yes – I grinned sportingly the first hundred times I heard it but now…blah!

Oh! There’s another club in Bandra called Squeeze and it’s amusing to see how people want to get witty about that.

‘Let’s go dancing?’

Hmm, it IS rather difficult to weave a name like that into a conversation.

Anyway, about Bed. S.H. had got his car that had spent one and a half days submerged in water. It was reasonably dry but still reeked of ..well, stuff that cars reek of when they’ve been under water for two days. So Doe, I, and S.H. headed for our night out. During the drive, our behinds were getting damp; and pretty noticeably so.

Doe: ‘Where are we going?’
S.H.: ‘To Bed’
Doe: ‘For what? To wet it?’

Sigh! You can get imaginative with a name like that.


One Monday morn

There’s a cute corporate graffiti that goes like this: ‘In times of crisis, some people turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.’

But it’s funny who all go to work in Mumbai when the tracks are flooded, the roads are overflowing, and gutters are spilling over.

Anyway, there I was in office with only two other people. One of them was reading Time Out, the March edition. The other one was watching Shrek 2 on the computer. I was stupidly waiting for more people to arrive.

Dana chortled and snickered and laughed eerily. Somehow, watching Shrek 2 in an empty office seemed sordid. Dunno why but…

Sanjana was reliving the time Mumbai was hot and scorching and dry. When people would actually venture out to check out a Ragz jean sale and go for a morning show at Fame Adlabs.

I was bored. And when I’m bored, (like when I’m sad or happy or agitated), I suggested that we go to Mocha.

A couple of reveries snapped.

Are you crazee! In this rain!’, they squawked. ‘It’s raining!’, more squawk. ‘Do you know how heavily it’s pouring?!

Here’s the thing about my pals – to say a thing well and to say it once is not their virtue.

We have umbrellas’, I patiently explained.

Sure! And THAT definitely means we won’t get wet!


Mukta, no idiot would have stepped out of their houses to come to work’, Dana said with mock brilliance, like she was voicing some real original thought.

We came.’

Dana sheepishly looks about. No-one else around.

Okay, let’s go.’

Anyway, Mocha was open. We ate, drank, and made merry. Then these women started thinking about ground realities. They had to buy some alum because the water they were getting could only be used to peel off nail-polish. But, would the alum shops be open?

Mocha was open,’ I zenly stated. (It is indeed a glorious day when I get to have the last word.)

So off we trooped around Hiranandani. Grocery shops – closed. Chemists – closed. Dispensaries – closed. Doctors offices – closed.

The only shops that were open were opticians and jewelry stores.

Sanjana was flummoxed. ‘They expect people to buy glares to shield themselves from the rain?’

Dana: ‘And jewelry? Lets take gold chains and boil them in water. I think Romans used to do that or something.’ But that’s how Dana explains any ridiculous idea under the sun. The Romans – her eternal scapegoats.

Seriously, it is strange – the kind of people who turn up when no one else does.


Rabin said...

I've always found marine drive vaguely depressing. Prolly coz of all the fights I've had with my ex girlfriend there. Thankfully she is out there depressing some other poor sod. Dire straits are cool though!

Talking about hangouts, there is a new diner opening in chennai thats titled 'don't trust a skinny chef'. Can't wait for that place to open now!! Imagine a pick up line, 'would you go to don't trust a skinny chef with me', rather painful wot?

Office on a rainy day...booorrinng...home curled in blaring and tv on, dats the good stuff :)

Mukta said...

hee hee!

Send me her snap. I'll look out for her on marine drive. Will tell her R says hullo!


Rabin said...

Hey she's easy to find out. Just look for the saddest looking guy in Marine Drive. She'd be right next to him.

Mukta said...

R - Ouch!


Khakra said...

Vertigo and mocha and Chiffonxxx .. are they related?

d-Snob said...

Just curious...errr...are you the BRAND ambassador for MOCHA?
I think they can use your blog to advertise how much someone loves Mocha.

Mukta said...

Hi Khakra,

Not sure what you mean.. You mean Vertigo - the dessert they have at Mocha?

Hi R,

Been a while, eh? And I am the ambassador for all things good and fine - not just Mocha. Also Mumbai, also rains, also books, also sea, also....u get the idea.

Mukta said...


The last comment was meant to address d-snob and not R.

jaygee said...

hey mukta.. my sensible self wants to rant and rave and ask you why weren't u sitting at home instead of venturing out in the deluge mistakenly called the rains... am sure even mocha does not expect such regularity.
on the other hand.. marine drive never sounded so gorgeous and inviting.
toodles, am off tom.. see ya in delhi soon.

Yours Truly...Conman said...

Wow... that was such an amazing description of Marine Drive... super. I could almost smell the salty black sea.
I could almost feel the breeze pushing my hair back towards the curving road.
I was almost scared to turn around... to reality.

Nagesh Pai said...

I was thinking about going all the way to the "Drive" from my den in Deep suburbs.. just when my net connection came up and i read this blog.

It was as refreshing as a walk there. I remember staring at the sea with a friend close by.. She was perhaps looking at her dreams.. I was merely watching a movie on the worlds largest dome theater called... The Sunset :-)

Cheers to you Mukta!!

Arjun said...

A long drive and Mark Knopfler ....aah a stirring combo.

Khakra said...

just a little spin on Mocha.. do you keep going there so you can buy pot to keep your mind spinning in trance?

Mukta said...

Hi Jaygee,

Sob sob! Yes I will meet ya in Dilli..I'll mail you today.

Hey conman!
So, tell me - when you did turn back to reality, how was it?

Hi Nagesh,

Hmm - yes...those dome theater movies are always a treat to watch! How's your pal with her dreams?

Hi Khakra,
Nope ya - I'm not a hukka person at all. No pot, no dope, no crack, etc. etc. Food. Thats why I go there. Actually, certain Mocha outlets have art books as well that you can browse through when you are there. There you have it!

Mukta said...

Oh hey Arjun!

Didn't see ya there! Long time. Yes - stirring combo it is..but then, you know, in that state of mind - most kinds of music would do, I suppose.

But then, I'm not much of a musique person.

Khakra said...

you're much of a straightlaced person :) lets see if mocha has taught you anything arty -- see Mulholland Drive and see if you understand anything. it's apparently made for artists only, if i were to believe a friend. Rated R, be warned in advance.

Mukta said...


I shall cheerfully dismiss off the 'straitlaced' bit. But you are the FOURTH person to recommend Mullhollands drive. Will see it.