Sheer Melody

A mole's eye-view of the Cosmos


Bombay Blues

My friend, Saunak, frequently inspires me to write good blogs. You see, he has ze good ideas. I find it tough to think of topics. Inevitably, my topics turn out to be too political, which I don’t like, or about utterly banal and commonplace entities. Now, I am already writing a story of sorts in my other blog, on the whirlwind of days that I spent in Bombay, but I really liked this post of Saunak’s, called Bombay blues. It sort of perennially signifies an uplifted state of enjoyment which was limited to the confines of A-1101, Sun Srishti Complex, Saki Vihar Road, Powai.

A week in the life of three people. Sandy, Saunak and D-A-D-A. Times spent fighting, arguing and finally realizing that life just has this knack of scattering you to different parts of the world. Amazing yet true…

Monday: Dregs of Sunday stay over. The mind refuses to give way. Office beckons, the damp sullen walls seem to belong to another day, another world. Early morning blues rustle through a nightmare as I wake up in a cool sweat. The dump on the floor has some ironed clothes. The clothes are usurped. A hasty bath is taken, ze perfunctory soap applied on a moist body, a short stint at bathroom singing happens, sleepy hands drop ironed clothes on a wet floor; long-drawn curses follow. I get dressed finally; find Dada in peaceful slumber with the AC on full-blast. I call the lift to the eleventh floor, and catch a short nap as the elevator makes its way from ground zero up ten floors. When not napping, I curse silently as it stops as the tenth and fifth floor on the way down. Like every other day, I skirt past the smelly security guard before he can ask me for tips. I cross the road, which has been under construction for times immemorial, and reach the other side. Unhappy and tired legs move a battered body to the paan-shop; Wills Navy Cut, a packet is bought. One cigarette burns as a half-raised hand asks auto-rickshaws to stop, and take me to SEEPZ. Short, hasty arguments take place; the results are the same. A good soul finally does agree to take me to my office. I have the most unbelievably bumpy ride to the offices of i-flex. I wonder when the road will get repaired, look at the board and get amused, just like every other day at the expected date of completion of the link road project. I reach SEEPZ, feeling hungry, dazed and amazingly unhappy; pass the crowds waiting to enter the special zone; trudge down the steps to the offices of i-flex. I look at my watch, it’s almost ten o’clock. Trouble, I realize. I start to walk a little faster, I should at least reach by ten; the party-last-night excuse does not work every time. I am correct, people are waiting for me; there are hundred bugs and there are three people, which results in close to thirty bugs per person. I am aghast; my words fall on deaf ears. Nobody listens. I have tea, and fix bugs till lunch, when I have an oily chicken Masala in ICH, and come back and solve bugs. The afternoon drags on, drooling and having coffee at stipulated intervals. I have a few conversations on the futility of sex and longing with Prantik, when Sunil joins in with his opinions on the same topic. Evening comes, but respite doesn’t, as bug after bug goes into bugzilla, tormenting me, my team. It is eight in the evening, my mind has downed the shutters, I trudge down the stairs cursing information technology, the world and software in general. The autos are reluctant to go to Powai now, they want fares who want to go far; I fight with a lot of them, I curse them, a little scared, but audibly. I reach home, think twice about crossing the road to Gurukripa and a peg of Bacardi, abandon those thoughts, and reach the lift. I enter our flat; a cool waft of fresh air greets me, and seems to wash away my thoughts and peeves. Saunak is staring at the TV, an empty gaze on his face. Dada has not returned yet, it seems it’s a tough day at office for him. The night drags on, Dada comes home, and dinner is ordered, unpalatable crap from Gurukripa bar and restaurant, promising ourselves with dreams of pizza for Tuesday night. Nightly slumber descends and makes us sleepy. I curl into a moderately comfortable beds and watch the fan make circles, my mind slips into happy oblivion as Saunak reads passage after passage from English, August.

Tuesday: The mind feels fresher, the autos behave no differently. Office looks just as dull as on Monday, and the people just as unfriendly. I call up Saunak and ask him if he is able to work. Apparently, his ass is on fire, and he will be late in reaching home tonight. There goes my pizza, I think and sulk for a while. I sulk as I stand outside with a coffee in one hand a cigarette in the other. I wonder if I should get stoned on Tuesdays; maybe it would make them less common and less boring. I get calls from Thailand, frustration creeps into the mind and being as the day drags on, and the count in bugzilla seems to remain stagnant. Life seems like a poignant memory of the restful college days. The bug-count has come down a little and it’s already evening, the sun is setting. I want to play a game of TT, but there are too many people waiting for a turn. I stand expectantly hoping to get a chance to play, and catch snacks being served through the corner of my eye. Prantik has come out for a smoke; we talk about inane things, strip joints in the US, comparing them with dance bars. Prantik wonders if we should visit a bar tonight. I veto the idea, and call it a day. Have the predictable fight with four auto-rickshaw-drivers. Link road is in a mess as usual, the maze of traffic seems to stretch beyond the horizon. Irate truck drivers curse at each other and blow fumes into my face as I get drenched in a cold sweat. Dust from construction sites, and smoke of freshly friend diesel makes for a heady concoction as I wonder if I am high. I reach home, tired, sweaty and smelly, and want to take a bath. I think about cold Haywards as cool water washes the tiredness out of my body, but abandon the idea in favor of a grander Wednesday party. Night falls, Knopfler soothes strained nerves with ‘Are we in trouble now’.

Wednesday: It’s a rainy morning, the mind is elated. It’s mid-week, it means more bugs, but it also means a party at the end of the day. The entire day passes in expectation, longing and the promise of intoxication. The pent up desires make my boss seem kind, almost benign. Lunch is a long-drawn affair at a dark and dingy Chinese place inside the office compound with hair-raisingly high prices for an ambience similar to a road-side shack. Food is palatable and less spicy, and most people gorge on it. Lunch ends late, and the entire team feels sleepy; we consider abandoning the afternoon session, but better sense prevails. I call Saunak from the office phone, apparently his fire-fighting has come to an end, and I look forward to a happy evening. Time seems to stand still, as I count the minutes left to six o’clock. Saunak comes to SEEPZ at six and my boss wants me to wait till seven. I want to tell him to fuck off and get lost, but manage to tell him politely that I have personal engagements. My consistently prudent use of the word personal has its desired effect. Some other bakra gets the chance to do the work I was supposed to do. Saunak is standing outside SEEPZ, cigarette between lips and holding one in his hand. Don’t you love the first smoke at the end of the day’s work? I agree with him, it’s heavenly. We hail an auto to Sai Palace, the hideout of the tired Wednesday evening, just within happy hours time and order jarfuls of gimlets and Tom Collins. The waiter knows us but looks suspiciously, perhaps out of habit. The music is hopelessly innocuous, and makes me want to throttle the DJ with a dirty piece of cloth, but my baser instincts fail to prevail. Saunak goes and tells the DJ to think of better songs to play, and he plays Summer of 69. The general public leaps up with the kind of cheer I would have given to Comfortably numb. The high is getting better with the second Gimlet. Fish n chips are ordered, bekti with tartare sauce. The Sai Palace cooks surpasses himself, the fish fingers are absolutely delectable. Our drinks are over; Saunak asks me if I want to go to Laxmi Palace. I want to get stoned and then go. We make our way back to our place, Saunak rolls one, we smoke it; we want a better high, Saunak rolls another, we smoke it. The auto seems to take forever to reach Laxmi Palace, the same guy with the long beard and the moth-eaten dress stands at the door, and salaams us. The main room is chock full with drunken youth and fat middle-aged businessmen, squandering the day’s earnings. I feel a guilty pang of hurt conscience; the waiter takes us to the VIP room. The lights seem bright, brighter than I had imagined, my mind makes desperate futile attempts to enjoy and appreciate the music. The beer is cold, and the dancers are tired, and as the night moves on to a close, I feel comfortably stoned. It’s two o’clock in the morning, and we call it a day. Generous tips handed into sweaty clamoring palms, as we rush out of the bar and heave a sigh of relief. It’s a silent conversation-less ride back home, where DADA is peacefully asleep, stoned, with a smile on his face.

Thursday: Wake up with a dull throb, and instantly realize that the whole day is going to be lousy. Taking a bath before wearing Monday’s semi-ironed clothes seems to take a lifetime. Saunak barely opens his eyes to say You carry on before drifting back into helpless sleep. I toy with ideas of sick leave, mentally calculating my eligibility; leisurely light a cigarette and smoke it completely as I think. Wet hair drying itself under the lulling fan makes the head throb feel less painful. I decide against taking a sick leave, and reach office before my boss freaks out. My phone is in silent mode, and I must have failed to realize that he had given me three missed calls while I was in the auto. The client seems to have become a little more demanding and a little less understanding, overnight. I feel a premonition of a long night. I fail to lift my head and say hi to the big boss as he passes by with a cup in his hand and a smile on his face. Miracles are known to happen, and several bugs get solved by lunch time. My boss gets inordinately thrilled and tells me to take the afternoon off I want to. This is the time to go, I decide, and with remarkable speed and gusto, I am out of SEEPZ, out of Andheri and back in Powai, sleepy and happy. I knock on the door, realize that someone is home, and find with a joint in his hand, dazed look in eyes, and his head a mess of tousled hair. So, you’ve come, he says. I don’t reply and take a drag, a soft horny feeling tinged with sadness washes over me. We think of watching a movie, and watch Life is Beautiful for the n’th time and feel happy and contented. Gurukripa is called to get four special teas and a few snacks. I play a few notes on the guitar, put on BB King, and marvel at his dexterity. Try to copy him, but fail miserably. Dusk is settling in on the vast ruins of Mumbai, and we stand at the big living-room window, staring into the red sky, with the setting sun in the background, and watch an enormous Singapore Airlines jet land at the international airport. Glazed eyes follow every movement of the plane as it lands on the runway, and vanishes away from sight as the airport terminal comes in the way. It’s only a few days from my Bangkok trip, and soon I will have a stamped passport. I feel elated and a little apprehensive at the same time, what if there’s a visa problem. Thank god, the first place I am visiting is a tourist-friendly place, says Saunak. I can’t help but agree with him. Night falls, four pizzas are ordered from Smoking Joes, Napolitana, Mexicana, The smoking Joe’s special and Meat Feast. Two people with eyes hungry and desperate for sleep gorge on eight slices; Life seems right and everything is ok with the world.

Friday: Extreme elation in the morning, the weekend is just a few hours away. It seems everyone is in a hurry to reach office, get it over with and get on with the partying. Link road is in a mess which seems like it will take a few hours (at least) to untangle itself. Three cigarettes are smoked, anxious prayers are sent out, hoping for lesser bugs and client sick-leave. I finally reach office, have a perfunctory bread-omelet at the India Coffee House, and enter office an hour late. One of my prayers has been answered; the bug-count has not gone up. I get to work; have banal discussions with Sunil and Prantik on the efficacy of the Indian judicial system, and the quality of the evening snacks. We all agree that both have a long way to go before they can be considered acceptable. Lunch is a slow affair, in ICH, with the oily Chicken Masala and Chicken 65 as accompaniments. The post-lunch session is a sleepy one, struggling to stay away, counting seconds to the evening game of carom and liberty; mailing every other person that I know, calling up friends all over Mumbai, making elaborate plans for the evening binge, and calling everything off in favor of a light and slow dinner at Chakra. Dinner ends early, and we are back home by eleven. Floyd keeps us company, as three people go to sleep, happy, contented, and expectant of a weekend.

Saturday: Wake up at eleven, lazily rub my eyes; nudge Saunak awake, who gets up from the bed, irritated, and unpleasantly angry. The brainless Gurukripa waiter is asked to bring up overpriced teas and heavily overpriced bread-omelets. He also brings two packets of Wills Navy Cut. Saunak wants to spend the entire day at home, lazing around and doing nothing in particular. DADA wants a trip to Mondegar, followed by a lazy cab ride on the Marine Drive. The pros and cons of both the plans are discussed and laid bare. The trip to Mondegar sounds nice, I say; I am looking forward to an outing, it has been quite some time since we have gone anywhere. With the Thailand trip looming large in front of me, I feel the need for a last outing so that the pangs of separation don’t hurt when I really leave. The local to Churchgate is packed to breaking point, but we manage to stuff our bodies in nonetheless. Churchgate looks fresh and washed after early-morning showers, and the lush greenery is a sight for sore eyes. The Mondegar waiters are rude as ever, and three six-a-downs get drained before evening. Some people use the jukebox to play their eccentric and rather childish kind of music, which starts at boy bands and ends at boy bands. I play my choice of retro and alternative to liven up proceedings and while I do so, toy with the idea of a movie, but abandon it for bheja fry at Bade Miyan. I want to try the roll there, but my bad experience of rolls in Mumbai in general makes me desist. We decide to take a cab back, and spend a sweaty hour as the cab trundles its way across Chembur, and the narrow alleys of Ghatkopar, before finally reaching Powai. Aura seems a stone’s throw away, and the last hours of the evening are getting drunk and happy in the dark corners of Aura with a good looking but vocally deficient Filipino band murdering some popular English numbers.

Sunday: The day dawns bright, but not sunny. My mood in the morning is horrible; I realize it’s the last day of the weekend. Monday blues seems like striking with threatening vengeance. Take an early bath, and smoke an early joint, and soon, things fall back into welcome perspective. Watch Shawshank Redemption for the umpteenth time and amaze at the bad luck of the movie to be released in the same year as Forrest Gump. We decide to cook lunch at home, and soon the room is a whirlwind of activity with chicken being cut, onions being shredded, two old potatoes getting the beating of a lifetime, and finally finding ginger-garlic paste in the confines of a lower drawer. Chicken is cooked, rice is ordered, and post a heavy satisfying lunch, all of us plan on a siesta. The great Indian Laughter Challenge repeats all it’s week-episodes, and we try to laugh along, and crib about office during the ads. National Geographic shows the crash of Pan-Am of 1992 for the twenty-seventh time, and we watch it, stoned, horrified and disgusted. Evening passes quickly; Dimple Wines is called and told to deliver six beers, Haywards 5000. It takes around an hour for us to get drunk, with the harsh reality of Bob Dylan making us sad and inspired at the same time. This is followed by the lilting voice of Peter, Paul and Mary, and the night ends with a rousing performance by Elton John at Madison Square Garden. Sadness grips the three friends as the endless night draws to a gentle close, and sleep beckons.

That was one hectic week in Mumbai, and in spite of all the cribs, the peeves and the brickbats, we had come to love and associate with Mumbai, each in his own special way. Miss those days badly!

1 Responses to “Bombay Blues”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Mmm. Hemingway.

    You're getting ze corrupted, you know :)  

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