Thursday, August 19, 2010

One Hell of a Night….

This is a true story of one night in my life, which lets say was not as any other night. All the characters, places and events in this story are exactly how things actually happened. Names of people are not revealed keeping in mind their privacy. And also as a statutory warning, I do not recommend any of the things mentioned in the blog to anyone. It’s highly subjective. Enjoy.

Sunday afternoon on 20th June 2010. I am at my brother’s engagement ceremony. People are cheerful. But I am so damn sleepy. My eyes are red. Body is tired. And lots of flashy images of previous night are running through my head. What a night it was. It was like you catch a flight to Hawaiian Islands but land up in African grasslands. Wow. Diverse places and characters. All in one night. And a very real fact had dawned upon me. That Mumbai city never sleeps. And so didn’t I.

It all started on previous day evening. I was supposed to catch up with a one of my best pals to just chill out on a Saturday evening. Also hang out with my cousin a bit and then I had planned my night stay at my friends place. But such a nice simple easily achievable plan was never achieved.

On that Saturday, when I left office at around 5:30 pm, one of my office colleague whose home was on the way decided to accompany me. We met my friend in Borivili station (It’s one of the suburban railway station in western railway in Mumbai). That’s it. That’s the only point till which we were able to stick to our initial plan. Now I get a call from my cousin saying that he won’t be able to meet us because of some priority work. So we three, my office colleague, my friend and I decided stick together for a while and munch on some food. We never imagined that we were gonna stick together for way longer than “A WHILE”. For food, the only criteria a restaurant has to fulfill to get us in is that it should serve liquor. And being the super class brainy children of Homo sapiens, we all decided to board a bus to search a restaurant rather than walk and search. (But must say it was a brilliant idea). Hopped into a nearest bus and the journey started with both eyes glued to the roadside for search mission of any eating, drinking joint. And after 15 long min, I spotted a flashy little restaurant named “Night City, Restaurant and Bar”.

We got down from the bus. Entered our newly found discovery. The clock on my wrist showed 6:30 pm. A warm welcome from the doorkeeper, a lovely smile from the waiter, a generous handshake from the manager… It all felt so nice. But the place was damn noisy. A orchestra was playing the latest bollywood number with the loudest music I have ever heard in a closed room. Suddenly the name Night City seemed to be Sound City… Or rather “City of record noise pollution”. But still the ambiance was nice. We were enjoying it as the waiter was ushering us to our seats. We also noticed many young beautiful women dressed up in most feminine attire standing randomly and enjoying the music. And that’s when it SUDDENLY occurred to us that we had accidentally landed up in a LADIES DANCE BAR. Now a discussion for a strategic plan to get out of the restaurant immediately (that too after such a warm welcome from such heavily build men) could not happen because of ear splitting music. So we just grabbed our seats without any fuss. Looked at each other with confusion and curiosity. Had to get out of that place quickly. So ordered one beer and a Thumps Up. But it would be unfair on my part to not mention the amazingly beautiful girls trying to flirt all around across 360 degrees. If we would have ignored the fact that the lovely girls around us were prostitutes, I am sure there was a possibility of Love at first sight. That’s all I can say to describe the beauty of those girls. Never in my life had I experienced such strong seduction power of feminism. SOS. We had to get out of there as soon as possible.

We ordered for the bill and paid a whooping ten times higher cost for what we had ordered. Imagine a Rs 20/- Thumps Up costing you Rs 200/-. I guess the entertainment tax was too high considering what we experienced. The captain servicing us would not let off my hand when I shook his hand. He hinted for a tip, which actually made me think of kicking his butt. But looking at his size I just politely kept shaking his hand till he released it with disappointment… sensing that the tip was a distant dream. When we were out of the restaurant… We started to curse ourselves for the misjudgment. I suggested out of frustration to head towards marine drive. And we all three went. Another mistake.

We reached Marine drive at around 9:30 pm. Enjoyed taking in the cool breeze from the sea. Remembered the women we loved and the women we lost. And then suddenly one of my friends wanted to buy a computer part from lamington road. It was 11:45 pm. Still we went. But all the shops had closed down. Now my office colleague suggested hurrying up to the nearest station which happened to be Grant Road, so as not to miss the last local train. But unfortunately I had seen the movie “Ek Chalise Ki Last Local”. So I suggested them not to hurry. And we leisurely walked towards the grant road station. We reached at 12:45am. Way before Ek Chalise. But the last train had left at 12:40 am. I cursed the movie and my friends cursed me. Now the option of hiring a cab was out of reach considering the night charges. So we decided to hunt for a restaurant for dinner. But let me tell you something. At 1 am at night, not a single shop is open in Mumbai town. But luckily for us, we found one young chap who had also had the same fate as ours (missed the last local). He was a local and agreed to take us to the nearest restaurant. And we three went.

The restaurant we reached at was closed. Only the shutter was slightly opened. I thought it to be a shady joint. But when we entered it, we were amazed to see so many people having their dinner. The cabbies, the hawkers, and beggars. It was chaos. But we still managed to get a seat. The hygiene was of least priority at that place. To such an extend that when we were having our cold drink, what we considered as ice crystals in our thumps up turned out to be washing soda from the not so properly washed glass. But the food was amazing and damn cheap. Delicious food I must say. Lip smacking. And then we saw two foreigners enter and sit besides us. That moment was crazy. Two sophisticated foreigners eating in such a shabby place. It happens only in Mumbai I guess.

After food we rested at one of the footpaths. It was 2:45 am. We had to kill time till 4:30am (That’s when the first train starts) And we had loads of it to kill. Kind of hunters. Deadly time killing machines. We got chairs to sit near one Pan Shop which was partially closed. The shopkeeper was sleeping but every now and then, odd people disturbed him for buying something or the other. But we soon found one massage guy. And we took his service. Damn cheap and damn good. Felt like king. But then we started getting lot of unwanted attention from odd people. At night in Mumbai, there are many. So we decided to go to the nearest ATM where we could rest. Coz it has light and watchman.

But on our way to search an ATM, we got lost and landed up in a RED LIGHT area. Again loads of prostitutes. What the hell. I guess god was simply tempting us with the worlds most basic sin. But we didn’t give in. Many pimps started offering us the best deals. I never knew that one hour with a women costs only Rs 600/-. And there was continuous inflow of beautiful prostitutes in that area. We got scared. Just imagine the worst case scenario. 3 young guys are caught by police in a red light area at 3:45 am. Who would believe that we were innocent? So we hurried up. Again cautiously, as we did not wanted to attract any attention. And then as if the nightmare had come true, we saw cops. Staring at us. We cursed the entire night. But luckily for us, the cops were there to use the services themselves. Phew… So they didn’t bother us. Sometimes corruption really saves you. HeHe.

We reached the Grant Road Station at 4:40 am. The feeling of being safe from the cops and jail and social embarrassment was so damn posted on our faces. Now that’s what I call as Facebook. But instead of taking train to home, we again decided to go to marine drive. I know it sound crazy. But we did. And enjoyed the morning cool breeze from the sea. I finally reached my friends place at 8 am. Slept for only 2 hours as I had to attend this one engagement ceremony of my cousin in the morning. And that’s how I was so damn sleepy during the ceremony. But that night was a night to remember. And decided to never roam Mumbai at night.

But rules are to be broken. And that was just the beginning. After that first night, there have been so many nights wherein I have spend my nights roaming in Mumbai (town) on bike with my best pal, admiring the night life and getting mesmerised by it. And every single time the last point of the journey has been the edge of marine drive, the edge of the city, enjoying the cool morning breeze from the sea, and remembering the women we loved and the women we lost.

The Real INDIA

First thing… I know it a biggest cliché to write about India on 15th August. But still I could not resist. Sometimes I am a slave to my own writing.

I have not the seen the real India yet. So this blog would not be like one those many articles that jam the pages of almost all dailies (newspapers) on every 26th and 15th of every year. But you can expect some amount of truth and honest opinion about India considering the fact that I have traveled to places like West Bengal, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Jammu, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Goa. I know that this much traveling is too less to draw a final conclusion but it’s sufficient to draw a rough sketch of that conclusion.

And all I can say after much of my traveling is that India is different. Different from the images projected by bollywood and television, different from what’s written about it and different from what a youth in a metro city has an idea about it. And it has its reasons why things have to be different. Coz the lives of almost 90% people in this country is such that once they die… their story would be lost for ever. (I guess I am also one of those 90%. May be that’s why the desperate attempt at bloging.) And these 90% people are the real India. The mango people. AAM ADMI.

But then there is no need to register so many stories. I know that. What’s the point in knowing how an odd doctor who used to live in pre partition era Bangladesh was forced to migrate with great difficulty to West Bengal during partition to start again from scratch? (By the way, that’s my grandfather’s story) Or how a soldier who spend most of his youth freezing in cold chilling winds of north and one day died without any action because a single bullet from the enemy side hit him at the wrong spot. But then that’s what this country is made of.

India is not about the “Top 30 or 50 Indian’s who are world famous”. (I read one such list on 15th Aug in Hindustan Times). First thing, what’s the big deal about such list from a country which has the second largest population? Second thing, such list will have majority of individuals who either only have their roots linked to India or are no more settled in India. India is about the daily commuters who travel for two tiresome hours daily just to earn a living. People who have a daily routine as boring as the worst bollywood flick you must have ever seen. People whose entire life is as boring as the one most boring hour of your life. They make India. And not the spicy snippets of a actor or businessman. Actually majority of Indian’s are least bothered whether Deepika Padukone is dating Ranbir Kapoor or Siddhart Mallya… Ok. Wrong track.

India is not about some over qualified jerk simply contributing to the huge brain drain that we face every year. Getting in NASA and inventing something. And making the country proud. Wow… that’s a cliché. Isn’t it? Or some individuals born in foreign country, adapted to foreign culture, know too little about India, may not have visited a single India village… why do we still tend to label their success as India’s success? It’s about the people who really make a difference to the society here. India’s success lies in the achievements of the people living here. Mother Teresa was not an Indian origin. But she is the Indian Hero. Gandhi may have studied in a foreign law school… But he is the Indian Hero. I would say Amir Khan is the India hero. Contributing so much entertainment to our society. A local police inspector who saves a child in Mumbai floods. A school teacher. A journalist.

Making money is not bad. Going out of the country to explore and earn is great. But then acting like a jerk from one of the many Yashraj and Karan Johar movies who will constantly keep saying “Mera Bharat Mahan” inspite of spending so many years in a foreign country. That’s weird. Because the basic logic is that people don’t ever leave what they love. That’s what I personally believe in.

India is also not about clean cities, good roads, and luxury. Because many still don’t know the meaning of luxury. In the interiors of India, the definition of luxury is basic necessity. If a family has electricity, water, and medical facility, they are living in luxury. India is about not having enough money to spend, worries about the future of children, lack of social security. That’s India.

And by mistake if you ever thought that India is about changing mentality, broad minded youth and new horizon of thoughts, I feel sorry to let you down. Because even today things like dowry and gender biasness is India’s forte. A youth in India may talk a great deal about being broad minded. But they still are so damn hooked on cast & creed system and old age superstitions. And all this are so well displayed during the time of their marriage. This is a country where irrespective of his deeds and worth, almost every guy wants a virgin wife and dowry. Great and pathetic. Or should I say, pathetically great. An Indian youth, irrespective of gender, while marrying will prefer a partner from his or her cast, a partner who is not Maglik and with whom the Kundali matches. And all this will be done so smartly stating the reason of “listening to the parents” as an excuse. In other words, respecting parents. That’s India for you. A joke in the name of broad minded youth. So you see, we have sustained our age old traditions of kundali and all. But does that mean we are preserving our culture. Huh. Not really. Many youths are quite disabled when it comes to communicate in their mother tongue. Many languages, traditions and customs in India are on the verge of extinctions.

But India is also not that gloomy as projected by a pessimistic jerk like me. India is about festivals and customs. They are great fun in small towns and villages. In cities festivals are just like some formalities which are followed with compulsion. Ya… so I was talking about India’s positive point. I can start to write about the economic growth and all. But I am sure there are many jaded journalist and writers to write about all those things. But I will say one last thing. I don’t know who, but some astrologer had predicted that India will be a super power someday. I am sure many Indian’s will believe that… Not because they think positive, but because they believe in astrology. Ha Ha.