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.)

Home Is Where The Idiot Is

Here’s a brain-teaser for you: What do you do when you leave home in a hurry, and return a few days later to find that you’d left a couple of unwashed pots and pans to fester in the kitchen sink, thus turning it into a vat of toxic slush that smells like Mithi river hooked up with Mulayam Singh’s armpit?

On the bright side, the sink complements my refrigerator really well. Because as of now, my fridge is loaded with cartons of Chinese food cooked sometime during the Ming dynasty, that are jostling for space with assorted containers of slop that could deflect bullets, flanked by what used to be a banana and now looks like a forlorn zombie penis.

This is just one of the delightful scenarios one encounters if one is an idiot in charge of a house. So now that my expert credentials have been established, I’d like to present an Unofficial Guide to Home Management For Men Who Don’t Know Any Better.

If you’re a first-timer looking to move, realise that the old real-estate agent maxim still holds true: it’s all about location, location, location. (This is also the founding principle of Israel)

I managed to find a not-so-expensive apartment in Bandra West, partly because I got lucky and partly because the kitten sacrifice worked. Now I know that when you say Bandra, most people think of Bandstand, Pali and hot women that were manufactured in labs as a cure for impotency. But you must realise that there are bargains to be found in the dusty, neglected, and hence cheap corners of popular suburbs. For example, my window opens to a stunning vista of about 16000 vehicles going both ways in a one-way lane the size of a bandana, as hawkers stand by, casually launching rockets made of saliva and AIDS. Security consists of one comatose watchman and about twenty stray dogs that spend the entire night bravely barking at cars, rickshaws, pedestrians, rats, leaves, individual air molecules etc.

Once you land a place, your first instinct is to throw a house party. This is a great idea if you’re a fan of tailing people and placing coasters under their drinks, or being on Puke Patrol, or walking in on random people defiling areas of your house that you were waiting to defile with someone special.

Also, there’s a new house-party trend that’s emerging these days: instead of liquoring up and then basically ordering in bags of Type-II diabetes, people are now having cook-offs. Con your friends into this because then you’ll get to sit around and drink while they compete to cook you the best meal possible. This trend can be attributed to the popularity of shows like Masterchef Australia, thanks to which everyone I know is now a food critic. This is what the average conversation during a cook-off sounds like:

Friend: Mmhmmm. I like that when I bite into this, it yields at just the right instant – not too soon, not too late. The spices and the salt, combined with the stubbled texture, create a delightful ménage-a-trois that exemplifies rustic zeitgeist, giving me little mouthgasms that sing to the deepest parts of my soul.

Me: Dude, it’s Kurkure.

But the most important aspect of having your own house is that now you have somewhere to take your special lady friends to, once you’ve negotiated rates and stuff. Learn from my place, which is set up perfectly in this regard. First up, the elevator music is – I kid you not – ‘Here Comes The Bride’, which is a really smooth way of letting the girl know that I’m some sort of serial killer. Then she enters the house and sees the furniture, which is straight out of a Gujju wedding reception and works only if you’re trying to seduce Baa. But after that, it’s pretty smooth sailing. That’s when I take her by the hand and gently lead her inside, to the kitchen. That damn sink isn’t going to clean itself.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 2nd Dec 2012. Cross-posted from here.)