Friday, January 27, 2006

What we mean when we say it

As a rule, I don't like comparing places to Bombay. It's not fair to the place I think. No matter how laid-back a town or how frugal its facilities, it is still home to so many people. It is disrespectful to constantly measure someone's home to an impossible yardstick and delight in its shortcomings. And also because I partly think Bombay to be aloof, distant, yet complete. The rest of the world is just necessary accoutrement.

So I don't really get belligerent when people say how much cleaner the other places are or how much warmer the neighbors. It is mostly true. I also listen quietly when people comment on how rumpled Bombay's fashion is - how tackily wearable the clothes and how impossibly practical the accessories. Fine. Sartorial elegance is a flippant virtue.

However, I saw something on T.V. yesterday that made me very angry. It was one of those lifestyle shows that get launched with squiggly, psychedelic lines. A hep anchor was covering new watering holes across several cities in India. She was dressed in so many chains, belts, and bracelets that she looked like a shiny Christmas past. But she was a good dancer - spirited and graceful.

Anyway, the show covered one pub that has a swimming pool in the centre and serves free Bloody Marys every Tuesday. Then the chain-lady went to another one that was set up on a launch. Their specialty was some kind of a shot served in small glasses made of mushrooms. Another was a subdued, yet classy affair on the top of a hill. Chain-lady went around asking people what they thought of the place. Several thumbs were brandished to 'Yoo hoos!' and 'Awesome!'s. That was good.

And then came on this lady with Maggi noodle hair (in form and colour.) She slurred, 'You know how all those Bombayites used to go 'night-life' this and 'night life' that....well, we've got better 'night life' (bony fingers held up to make air quotes) now.'

Okay. First of all, I understand the need for well-groomed eyebrows but they don't need to look like the sides of an isosceles triangle, do they?

Second of all, not all Bombayites party all the time. There are plenty of people in this city who don't go to pubs or clubs. And yet, these people will vouch for Bombay's 'night life' - because 'night life' in Bombay isn't about exclusivist alcoves. (I'll hold on while geometrically shaped eyebrows rise and fall. Done? Right.)

It's about being busy until very, very late and not feeling that time is running out. You can be at work (wherever work is - tuitions at someone's place, storyboarding in an office, discussing bail at the police station, cooking dinner in someone's house) peacefully. You know that the last bus is several hours away and the last train is even later. You don't constantly watch your back while you walk to the bus stop or the station. In fact, your worry at that point is getting run over by manic rickshaws even as late night news is being broadcasted somewhere.

And let's say you get hungry. You will get food. Stalls will serve you. They won't make you feel guilty for being hungry at 11:00 p.m. It may be late but you will get a willing cook to make that egg bhurji with extra onions. When you finally reach the station, you find yourself waiting in a long queue. Sure, it's late but you're not alone. You're one of many, many people.

Sure, there are the clubs and their trendier cousins - the lounges and restobars where you get to in fancy cars with dandy dates. They may not be four storey buildings or stylishly alfresco occupying the space of a small continent. But they will make your drinks until the milk vans come out. However, that is not what Bombayites miss when they go to other places.

They miss being stranded in traffic at midnight or looking out for a place to sit in the last bus home or going back after clubbing in a modest rickshaw alone. They miss not having to be reminded that 'it's getting late', 'it's late', or 'it's too late now.'

The world over, the rich will always have cars and the beautiful will always have company. And you can have access to a whole different world with these. But in Bombay, you can have neither and still have options. That is the life, the 'night life' we were always talking about.

Note: And it’s ‘Bombay ’, not Mumbai, in this post because the reckless disregard for the setting sun began then.


Ash said...

Cheers to that !

And of course it's Bombay, just liek it's still V.T, Napean Sea Road and the Prince of Wales Museum

Khakra said...

There are of course the dubious parts.. Two Tanks (do tanki), dhobi ghaat and getting to that darn foresaken multiplex in Wadala. And the autos rock the most!!

shub said...

And you can have access to a whole different world with these. But in Bombay, you can have neither and still have options.

Nandan said...

Well put and well written. The great part of this city is that it is egalitarian.
for me, though, it is always Mumbai. Bombay was what out of towners called it.
Though of course, VT and Napean Sea Road are still that.

ajyrds said...

Very well written! Though i cannot relate to the emotions you feel towards your hometown (i've been in a couple of places and don't feel really attached to any of them though love each one of them for being themselves).


Prakriti said...

Aw beautiful!


"It's about being busy until very, very late and not feeling that time is running out."

I have struggled for this sentence for the last 6 years of my life!

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

very nice post! we bombayites a die-hard clan aren't we! i can't wait to go back to living there.

anumita said...

No one could have said it better! Darling, I asked for your no., you told me you would give it later! Didn't understand why you couldn't give it then! I wanted to call and then come n see you n your folks.

RT said...

That was a lovely post. Having moved out of Bbay just recently, makes me all the more nostalgic about my fav city in the whole world.
The best thing about the city is that it lets you be and that I havent quite felt in any other part of the world I have been to.

Chai Anyone? said...

beautifully written. god i miss that place. love bombay. aamchi mumbaiiiii!!! well said!

Rabin said...

all this over the comment of a drunk in a pub? tsk tsk..

Nonentity said...

ah! aren't we just a tad bit touchy today ... :)

kgroupie said...

Nice post. The only true cosmopolitan city of this country.

Deaths Head Roy said...

Wow, nice post....makes you realise that there is so much more to "nightlife" than just watering holes and getting plastered!!! And that is what makes bangalore such a sleepy city - it makes u remember that it is late sometimes!!

Ashish Gupta said...

how nicely put. And the populace is so much helping :)
The (night)life ain't frivolous but vivid & colourful... not with neon colours of pubs serving lifestyles of rich and famous but colourful with colours of life!

Amchi Mumbai rocx !!!!!!

journeylist said...

hear hear...
esp the bit about not having to constantly look over one's shoulders while travelling alone late at night. i used to take the train at all ungodly hours and never once had a bad experience.

Mukta said...

Hi Ash,

Yes! Cheers!

Hey Khakra,

That multiplex at Wadala (Imax) is better now. I mean the rickshaw situation. The popcorn has deteriorated though.

Hello shub,

Thank you. :-)

Hey nandan,
Bombay for 'out of towners, eh? By the way, there was a movie by that name. Very very funny. I think it had Steve Martin and this other very funny blong comedienne. Shucks! I forget!

Hi Ajay,

You've lived in many places? That must have been great fun!

Shucks Prakriti!

That is the very best compliment I have received! Thanks so much!

Hi Anonymous,

Where are you now?

Hi Anumita,

I will email you my number right away. Actually, I didn't remember my phone number at that time. (Things haven't changed since but I will email it to you sall the same.) How's hubby? Our birthdays are approaching. I want something in blue and satin please. Thank you. How about I come over to your place for dinner? he he!

Hi RT,

You travel around too? Lucky! Where are you now?

Hi chai! (hee hee! that was funny!),

Thanks! You are ALSO not in Mumbai! Wow! Where you?

HEY Rabin!

Don't tsk tsk me! Tsk tsk her! She started it! :-)

hello nonentity,

perhaps a tad. On second thoughts, not at all. Or maybe a little...:-)

Hey kgroupie,

Na re. I'm sure there are other places as cosmopolitan as this. I sure hope so!

Hello deaths head roy,

Nice pic! Although I'll hazard a guess that you aren't photogenic. hee hee!

Hi Asish,

Yes, people are pretty helpful. Today I asked around for a bus to goregaon and this person pointed me to the place and practically shoved me inside the bus. :-)

Hey journeylist!

Very very clever handle. I'm sure you get that a lot! :-)

Rabin said...

out of towners had steve martin and goldie hawn. This movie was a much better version of the original (taken in the 1960s)of the same name, which had jack lemmon and sandy dennis.

Mukta said...

tHANK YOU! Goldie Hawn!

Anonymous said...

I dont know who you are nor have I visited Bombay anytime.But I really liked your post and yes this is what Ive heard from everyone who has stayed in Bombay.No wonder it still rocks!

Ashish Gupta said...

wat the duck ?!?!?!
goregaon ????

Oops you too from mumbai itself! My girl in malad - I visit powai-to-malad-and-back more than once a week!

N said...

Beautiful post. Nostalgia hitting me hard.

Bombay Addict said...

Hi Mukta - I've linked up to your post in part 3 of my Bombay's Diaries series linked here. Thanks.

Vasu the terrible said...

I just loved this post..

Beautifulyl told and exactly the same sentiments in my mind.

All was well, untill I hit upon "Its bombay and not mumbai..."

I have a soft spot for the ethnic maharashtrian who gives so much character and pagentry to the common life. The Ganesh pandals, the vada paavs, the mama kanes..

I still think mumbai is right and bombay is elitist..

neway thats just one differing opinion.