No Suburb For Old Men

“If I could buy a nice house anywhere in Bombay, I’d pick Bandra Bandstand,” I often tell myself, before collapsing in a pile of tears, because I’d only be able to afford it if I were reincarnated as Laxmi. It’s sad because after having lived in Bandra for the past year and a half, I know that it’s easily the most fun part of the city, especially if you’re young (defined as “The age when Lilavati Hospital is just a landmark for all the bars nearby, and not the destination itself.”)

I’m not being snobbish here. I grew up in New Bombay, so I can’t look down on other suburbs, unless we’re talking about Nallasopara, which is such an honest, self-aware name. It pretty much says ‘gutter’. I wish other suburbs were honest too. For example, Powai should just own up and call itself ‘Leopards and Call Centres’, while Dadar should be ‘Local Resentment Shakha’.

Eons ago, town used to be quite hip and happening (this was when it was ok to use the phrase “hip and happening”) but has since lost out to the Bandra-Santacruz belt, so much so that the youngest person in Colaba now is Alyque Padamsee.

I don’t know why youngsters would flock to the Bandra-Santacruz belt, but I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that this area has the highest bar density in the city. That’s right. A recent RTI query revealed that there were eleven bars per square kilometre in the area, which makes it a total of 359 bars. And that’s just in Salman’s liver.

It’s not just humans; this place is so first-world, it regularly throws parties for dogs. These are specially designed events where people pay good money to play with their own dogs. It’s weird because the dogs I know are perfectly happy licking nuts, sniffing butts and humping legs. (Or as they call it in Andheri, audition.)

But there’s more to these suburbs than alcohol, especially on dry days. For example, Bandra gets decked up for all the major festivals, like Christmas, Diwali and Happy Birthday Baba Siddiqui – Here, Have Five Million Hoardings. I like the Carter Road area too, because it proves that in order to be truly world class, a locality must have 23649 cupcake and yoghurt shops right next to each other. I don’t even know who’s eating all those desserts, because most women there look like they survive on a diet of skimmed air. Their presence draws giant wads of hair-gel masquerading as teenagers, whose preferred mode of courtship is to drive by real slow in a woofer with an engine attached to it, until the bass notes achieve the desired effect of blasting the women into the sea.

Later, the cops chase you away, because HOW DARE YOU FAFF AT A PUBLIC SEAFACE THAT WAS DESIGNED FOR THE SPECIFIC PURPOSE OF FAFFING? I’ve tried reasoning with them. It’s not very effective:

Me: Why can’t we sit around for a little bit more?

Cop: For your own safety. It’s late.

Me: How is it unsafe when you’re stationed here to protect us?


Me: Well?

Cop: Aye chal hero, licen dikha!

It’s the little things that end up serving as markers for ‘home’ in my head, like the restaurant guy who doesn’t need my full address to deliver food at 3.00 a.m., the 50 bucks-a-peg place that shall go unnamed because it needs to, or oddly enough, the ladyboys lined up along Linking Road, whose work hours are often the same as mine. (Of course, they have a way more enthusiastic fan following.)

There’s also an East section to all these suburbs, in the same way that there’s another side to Harvey Dent’s face. I’d tell you more but duty calls. Bar no. 360 has just opened up. It’s very easy to find. It’s right next to the Baba Siddiqui hoarding.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 7th April 2013. Cross-posted from here.)