Homage

It was an impulsive decision to go out for some nice juicy non-vegetarian food on Monday. We put our thinking hats together and Mom exclaimed, ‘Amar’. Amar was a restaurant less than a five minute drive from my home and served awesome biryani, kebabs and Indianised Chinese. But just as we reached where Amar proudly once stood, we were shocked to see a bank! Thanks to my new found health freak avatar, we haven’t been there in the last year or so, but to see the place shut!

So we drove down to Churchgate to eat some Rogan Josh at Gaylords. Over dinner, we thought about all the places that used to dish out amazing food at amazingly low prices and I couldn’t help but write about them. This time its not about my memory eroding. These lovely places have been erased from the memory of Mumbaikars and I want to try and make a small effort to immortalize them by writing about them.

So here goes:

Amar Restaurant and bar, Wadala:

Amar was one of the few places in the Matunga east area to serve non vegetarian food. It did go veg for a bit of time but, it bounced right back with chicken tangdi kbabs, butter chicken and more! I remember going to this restaurant as a small kid. They always gave me a cushion, and a special plate full of candied cherries. I felt special. Mom was relieved, the cherries and butter rotis nourished me!

Crystal Punjab, Dadar (W):

I remember the brown and crème SunMica décor. I remember the fancy wall fans which left a blue or red blur as they turned side to side, sweeping with them the pungent aromas of biryani, rotis and rich Punjabi curries.

The owner was a lovely soul. He sat at the counter, talking to his customers and making sure that the food was great. My mouth waters as I think of the delectable bheja masala fry. The brain was cooked just right, soft enough to bite into and tender enough to melt in your mouth. The masala was a brown concoction of onions, garlic and some secret spices. Wow!

The modest restaurant was replaced by leather apparel store more than a decade ago. But the taste of their Bheja fry continues to live on.

PS: I haven’t tasted Bheja fry ever again. I don’t want my taste buds to ever forget the tastes of Crystal Punjab.

Gupta Dhaba, Dadar (E):

This place was just a large hall, with fans and radio on. The customers were mainly cab drivers, truck drivers or transit passengers from Dadar Station. The first time we went there, me and my sis screwed up our snobbish noses and said, ‘Yuck! We can’t eat here!’

Dad asked us to shut all these things out and just wait for the food. And he was damn right. The chicken tandoori, palak mutton and Chicken bharta arrived and that’s how our love affair with Gupta’s began. The food was so good, that we didn’t care about the mediocre surroundings or anything. We would eat there at least once a week as a family.

Of course, the rich bhartas and parathas made sure that I needed to go on a diet. But then one fine rainy day, my dad and I were craving for some chicken bharta and we drove to Gupta’s and our favourite eatery was now the office of Republican party of India.

Farmer Bros, Khodadad Circle, Dadar (E):

This one was a cool place. A fancy bike stood parked right at the entrance. The place did fabulous Chinese food. Roast Lamb chilly, egg fried rice and fish in hot garlic sauce was to die for. The owner was a cool dude, who was a foodie and a biker. He was a good friend of Dad’s. We’d ordered some kebabs once and he stopped by. “Without the coal grille, they just don’t taste right,” I told Mom, who was saygn that she could make tandoori chicken at home or something like that.

“You’re right, often the charcoal adds to the flavor of the meat. It’s not about the marinade so much,” Mr. Kersi said. And he ordered something for us. It was a big tuna fish in a honey mustard sauce, char grilled to perfection. If there was a heaven on Earth, I am sure I peeped into it at Farmer Bros. that night.

I also remember having a grand dinner out there once. My whole family, I mean WHOLE family, went to see the movie- Titanic. And after the movie, we enjoyed an elaborate Chinese meal at Farmer.It was me, my parents, my maternal grandparents, my maternal uncles, aunts, my cousins, my paternal grandparents and of course, Nani- my younger sis.

My maternal grandfather wasn’t much of a restaurant lover, but that night, he actually enjoyed a meal and it wasn’t cooked by his wife!

Mr. Kersi had a fatal bike accident that year and the restaurant shut shop. May Mr. Kersi’s soul rest in peace. He’s one of the coolest dudes I ever met and his restaurant was the coolest one ever.

I have loads more to write about… Maybe I will some other time, but for now these are the restaurants that are irreplaceable. No amount of new restaurants with snazzy interiors and fancy dishes on the menus that you can’t even pronounce will fill the void left behind by them!

Sanity in insanity…

Have you ever told a lie and enjoyed it? Have you consciously tried to harm yourself knowing well what the after-effects would be? Have you created a make believe world to keep yourself from the insane reality?

Forgive my memory, I am trying to replicate a few questions Susanna (Winona Ryder) asks as the film, Girl Interrupted, opens. Through the film, you travel with Susanna into the asylum, feeling like a misfit. And soon enough, along with Susanna you start thinking that these girls are normal. They have their quirks but what’s wrong with that?

She has Lisa (Angelina Jolie) to keep her cosy in the walls of the asylum, far far away from the world. Just as you begin to realise Lisa’s game, you begin to realise that we’re always surrounded by numerous Lisa’s in our own lives. We resist change, criticise it, only to get cosy in its shadow. We deny ourselves another change, we deny knowing that it is not right to get comfortable. Few of us recognise Lisa’s game and still consciously make a change and confront the Lisa.

The truth is all of us are insane. But we’re hypocrites. This hypocrisy protects us from being labelled ‘unstable’. We unleash our insanities in the safety of solitude. We lean obsessively, eat compulsively, exercise compulsively, get abusive on ourselves and out in the open world, we are just normal, smiling as if there’s not a spot of worry in our lives.

But then there are those innocent victims of the society, who accept and live with their insanity, they aren’t scared of being insane to the outside world. They do what they want, and live how they want and we, we hypocrites label them ‘unstable’, segregate them and send them away. Their minds are highly receptive and they can sense that they’re unwanted for being truthful and they further degenerate. They lose control of their sensibility and become a magnified version of themselves. And to us, they are just MAD, mental, insane, crazy…

I am almost comfortable with my madness, but are you?

PS: This post is an after effect of intense conversations with the brother, 100 repeats of Comfortably Numb on iTunes, some walks along five gardens and a late night viewing of the movie, Girl Interrupted. Excuse the lows of the compulsivewriter!

Follow the sound of silence

There’s something about Simon&Garfunkel that makes you think think think. Here’s a story.

Saturday evening. An exercise addict who had decided that this was going to be a day of rest has ventured out. The grey clouds covered the setting sun and a cool breeze rustled the leaves. The dogs in the park barked playfully and children cooed and shrieked with glee. She did not want to listen to them; she plugged her ear phones and started walking. The radio was playing songs that didn’t mean much. She was restless, flipping through the radio, skipping to the walk. Suddenly, she heard a familiar tune. “Hello darkness my old friend,” and she stopped for a minute. The line just connected with her. The sound of silence breezed through her mind.

‘Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence’

Sang the duo to the arpeggios in the background, just as a huge group of women passed her, their lips moving frantically, but the girl heard only the sounds of silence. She looked up at the swishing trees and the numerous ongoing cricket games on the ground. She wanted to be alone. She turned into a lonely street and walked in the sound of silence.

‘In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone,
’neath the halo of a street lamp,
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of
A neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence’

The light nearly blinded her and reminded her she wasn’t alone. She couldn’t be alone in this city, bustling with people at all hours. Solitude is a luxury here. And yet, people surrounded by people are lonely within, helpless and lonely. They have forgotten how to long for a friend or a companion. Friends are people who might help you in your career. Every relationship is a result of a vested interest. And yet, you are never alone.

‘And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence’

But she felt a fierce need to belong somewhere. The fancy cars, with fancy lights failed to excite her. She pitied the guys flashing the fancy mobiles and gizmos. She can’t belong here, so she seeked Silence. Solitude. Sobreity.

She walked alone, locking herself away from the world. She ignored the calls flashing on her mobile. She wanted to catch the sounds of silence.

‘Fools said I, you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you,
Take my arms that I might reach you.
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
And echoed
In the wells of silence’

She jacks up the volume on her ear-piece, and drowns herself in the song. She only wants to listen to more of it. For a moment, she closes her eyes to see what the sound of silence feels like.

In the world outside her earphones a loud screech and a honk, and she falls to the ground, the headphones separated from the phone, it continues to play the song she was engulfed in and a mob gathers around her.

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon God they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning,
In the words that it was forming.
And the signs said, the words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls.
And whispered in the sounds of silence.’

And she’s still listening to the sound of silence…

Yet another memory!

Birthdays are a whole lot of fun! But most of the times, I end up forgetting the birthdays right on the day of the birthday. Jugal popped up on my Gtalk and asked me how I was. As one would with very close friends, I began to rant about how stressed I was and all that. The gentleman that he tends to be, Jugal continued to talk to me and just when I was about to close the window, I remembered it was the 14th of July!

It was Jugal’s birthday and I was busy cribbing to him. That’s that. I wished him, he said thank you and there was no cake… What non-sense! Anyway while I figure out how to get kanjoos Juggy to part with some cake for me and Sneha, you guys read the story ahead.

It was a rainy day in June. I was driven all the way down from Pune to appear for my personal interview and a group discussion at Vivekanand College. I wanted to get into BMM at Vivekanand even though I had secured my admission at KC. As I took my seat in the classroom, I looked around me. There were absolute strangers and some of them were potential classmates. All of them seemed pretty quiet and reserved. Most of them were science students who were in a limbo with their medical or science admissions. The fellow next to me had the most curious questions ever. We struck a conversation, and soon when the group discussion started, we had a heated debate. ‘This classmate would be fun!’ I thought.

Much later, when the time came to make a decision, I chose KC. I graduated from KC, did my MA and then joined a Yuva. I was pretty excited about being a part of a newspaper launch team. “The initial team is always close knit,” is what the editor said to me. It was true. We spend 10-12 hrs a day together. And suddenly we were told that a new dude from Mid-day was joining us.

Now, our team was already pretty friendly and this guy, was not exactly the friendliest creature on earth. He came and kept doing his stuff and asking us questions and answering ours exactly to the point. We brushed it off thinking he’s just another ‘khadoos’!

Slowly and steadily as we approached the launch, all of us worked closely and got chance to know Jugal better. One day he just asked me casually. “Were you very fat in college?” Yes, I could have smacked the guy right on his face, but I tried focusing on the fact that he was indirectly asking me if I am thin now. He continued. “I think I remember you attending a GD in Vivekanand, but wasn’t sure it was you.”

Wham! The realization struck me. I had met Jugal before and he was that inquisitive and possibly fun classmate. Now we were team mates. As time passed, we realized that our initial impressions about Jugal were wrong. He was very reserved but when he considered you a friend, he was right there for you.

He will crack the silliest joke when you’re talking to him about a ‘dharam sankat’, he will be brutally honest and he’ll ask questions to which you may not have answers. That’s Jugal. I, Sneha and he hung out back in our ‘Yuva’ days, and we continue to hang out together today. We discuss human rights, politics, sports (sneha and jugal talk, I listen) or films with a passion. We plan trips to Matheran (though they are cancelled at the very last minute). We are the trio- and sometimes I do wonder if I’d have ended up in Vivekanand BMM and Jugal and I were classmates, would we still be the thick buddies we are today? I don’t have the answer but I have the buddies, so who cares anyway!

PS: Jugal… Now can I have that cake?

BMM memories…

Nostalgia is wonderful. I like listening to an old Bryan Adams track after a long time and close my eyes. I see the Podar auditorium and can smell about 300 sweaty students swinging to ‘Summer of ’69’. I open my eyes and realise that time’s gone. But for those 3 minutes, I recreate my first jam session and love every second of it.

I like smelling an empty bottle of a perfume I used to wear back in my degree college. I take in the citrusy smell and close my eyes. I am in my car, loads of friends with me, driving along, singing to songs. I open my eyes and I am back in my room, smelling an empty bottle of perfume. The projects, the songs, some places, they just take you on a minute long ride back into the past, the moments you’ve cherished and miss deeply. And you come back to the present, with a smile, realising that you’re older, maybe wiser but most importantly, how much you miss the people from those old days.

When a girl from KC called me and said that as an ex-student, I have to come for the BMM orientation, I decided to take the long and winding road back into the past.

BMM was the best thing that ever happened to me. Nah, academically it didn’t do wonders, but it changed a lot of things. I mean college does that to everybody, but I don’t think I would be the person I am today if I’d chosen to do a BA or Bcom.

If I ever wanted anything badly enough to give my life up for, it’s BMM. I strived hard through 12th to get the 50% (yeah I remembered I had to study a month before the boards!). I prepped myself up for entrances and made sure I was well-rehearsed for my personal interviews. When I got into all the colleges I applied to, I almost thanked Paulo Coelho! The universe had indeed given me what I wanted.

See! I am doing it again… Just getting lost on the long and winding road. Anyway, I landed up at the orientation, excited and all that. The same gates, the same audi…awww.

Once seated in the ‘alumni’ row, I looked around. Not a single familiar face! Once upon a time, I could’ve identified each and everyone in the audi… And just then, I saw Mr. Gupta. And, I was glad to see a familiar face. Ankit Gupta and I were classmates, project-mates and very close friends… We joked around like the good ole days, giggling but something didn’t feel the same. Ankit had changed through those years and so had I.

But we were trying hard to recreate the old days. But we saw that there people who had taken our place in the course. Our time was back then and it’s gone. So we ran for the HR Canteen, where many a love stories had bloomed, many fights materialised out of thin air and many kilos were put on. The same old hakka noodles, same old crispy noodles, we tucked in. But the fun factor was missing yet again. There was no juicy gossip on the side or eye candy for dessert. It was just not the same.

So much for nostalgia!

All of the experience left me depressed and on the ride back home, I realised I wasn’t the only one. “Our lives revolved around this college. We shouldn’t have to try so hard!” Ankit gushed. It was a shocker. Ankit was not the emotional types back in those days. We started talking about the old days, the new days and everything and I realised that though the college doesn’t hold much for me now, it is people like Ankit, Mruns, Pooja, Pranali, Satam, Lathi, Sapna, Suraj and so many more, who make me miss those days. I am glad I have these people, who each have a piece of the jigsaw puzzle of our college memories. And when we get together after 4 odd years at a random coffee shop at Bandra, we still create a halla gulla like we did in college. We still tickle each other and make screwed up faces in photos. Who needs nostalgia, when you treasure the ones you love through the years…

So this one’s for you…yes I am going to take everyone’s name here, as if it were my Oscar speech!

Sapna- My first friend in KCBMM

Nausheen- For saying ‘penneka’… haah

Sanket- for being a good sport with all the jokes made about you

Mrunmayee- A friend, fellow ponderer and of course my partner in crime in scaring couples on AC buses

Ankit- for the late night phone calls, advice on dealing with a certain boy, fighting with me through most of BMM but still being a friend I can share a laugh with.

Riddhi- for being the bholi bacchi I could educate 😉 ur welcome lol!

Lathia-For singing with me in the car! Na sur na taal bus dhamaal!

Ashwini- For just being there

Pranali- For being the one and only friend who knows me better than anyone else, for so many things… I can’t include it all in just a line…

Satam- Same goes for you, thanks for chasing away my body consciousness and having faith in me throughout! LOL and of course- ‘guppa bus Shakti’! HAHAHAHAH

Delu- fellow music lover, radio enthusiast and guy basher… you have no idea babe, when I met you in London, I felt like I finally had family in a foreign land!

Shraddha- the drive to and from college, muthia and a lot more…

Nikita- my very own Maniben… never seen sans a smile… keep smiling

Sneha- her crazy jokes about the management prof… she took lectures to a whole new level!

Suraj- Haah… I have no words for this guy… Loved verbal thrashing around the whole place with him!

Mansee- The true free-spirit! Loved the little bit of hangin out we did…

Mathew- the 6th October lunches… burrrp… thank u Mat, thank you aunty!

Suhani- I haven’t met her for years, but I know that the day we meet we will connect… She and Mruns are the reason I decided I want to be a writer!

Pooja: The most straight-forward person in the class! Love u 🙂

I will keep adding names… I am too overwhelmed to write more… Love you all boyses and girlses…

Home Sweet Home

What are dream homes made of? That’s a question I often ask myself. Swanky high-rise, plush marble floors, ample rooms, snazzy decors, location, neighbourhood, blah blah. While all those things are cool, they wouldn’t exactly compose my dream home. And I realise that no matter how many of those things you get right, your home will still be one-step short of being a dream home… Why you ask? Yeh hai Bombay, yeh hai Bombay, yeh hai Bombay meri jaan!

 

Okay let me give you my example. I live with my parents (what, it’s normal in India for a 24 yr old girl) and they bought this house back in the 80s.

 

Its a five minute drive to Dad’s office, it was housed in an old building that boasted of Scottish architecture, Italian mosaic floors and a brown-tiled roof. We were housed on the top floor, with humongous rooms and loads of airy windows. For the toddler in me, it was a great wide space for hiding and seeking. The building had a nice garden that was promptly taken over by Mum. There’s 2 schools and 4 colleges within a walking distance. There are two vegetable markets in the area, both are a 5-10 minute walk. The station is a 15 minute walk and there’s a bus-stop right under with over 20 buses connecting us to the city! Brilliant.

 

The house has few rooms but they are big and spacious. Me and my sister, have taken over the attic. We have our tiny little den cut off from the rest of the house, every teenager’s dream come true!

 

So yes, I live in my dream house. I have my parents to thank. I love it that it takes me 25 minutes to get to work on a great day and 45 on bad day! I love it that I can reach anywhere in the city in 40 minutes (on an average! Don’t ask me how long I’d take to come to Yaari road!)

 

But… there’s a catch. The area I live in is the quieter side of the town. We have few multiplexes, and even fewer restaurants around. Me and the sister are adventurous with cinema and food, and our area does little to cater to that. Most of the restaurants within a 20 minute reach are fantastic, but they’ve been here ages and we know the menus inside out!

 

India, especially Mumbai, is getting global. We’ve got world cinema releasing in our theatres, we have cuisines of the world being offered on the menus (dude! The quality is really bad and if you want the real thing, be ready to cough up an entire month’s salary!) and of course we have interesting brands coming to our malls.

 

That makes Mumbai such a vibrant city doesn’t it? Of course, but all that happens in the suburbs of Mumbai. The world cinema is released at a late night show in a theatre far far away. At the end of a tiring day at work, I don’t feel like taking a drive down through the mad-mad homeward bound traffic. And the parents don’t exactly feel great about us daughters being out in a film till 1 am and then driving back home.

 

Every week, the newspapers recommend new restaurants, new pubs. I see what’s on offer and I say, “I am going there!” Then I look to the bottom of the review and read Malad, Andheri (W), Goregaon and Mulund and the enthusiasm just pipes down. I don’t mind driving all the way, but then the prospect of spending 2 hours stuck in traffic listening to Emraan Hashmi films’ songs lifted from some Chinese musicians doesn’t excite me at all!

 

BIGFlix, the new DVD rental service on the block, has my list of dream movies, but guess what, they don’t have a single outlet remotely close to my area! And they have a rocking network in the suburbs. Result: I don’t get prompt service from them nor can I go and demand movies L

 

It is times like these when I start to think about moving to the suburbs. Life is vibrant there. With the new restaurants, funky theatres, new services offered and a plethora of pubs and clubs, I believe that the true spirit of Mumbai is out there. I share this with a friend who lives in the suburbs and she goes, “You mean you want to eat at new restaurants and watch crazy films from countries I haven’t heard of and for that you’re ready to switch places! Sounds good I don’t mind living in your exotic building, walking to work everyday and chilling….”

 

The grass is always greener on the other side! For now, I will settle for the green grass on the Parsi Gymkhana lawns that I can see from my window…

June Songs

So June has come and gone. I have been blogging heavily and just reading through the past posts makes me realise that I can revisit my life anytime. So I am going to put down stuff that needs to be maintained (Remember my worry that my memories might go?)

So here’s how my past month was:

Mood: more or less mad

Work: it was a busy month. Had the CJ contest and a whole lot of other stuff to organise

Happiness: I appreciate the lovely time with the sister while the parents were on vacation. The sister has finished her Ogilvy internship and we’ve had a whole new wardrobe courtesy parents’ trip to UK.

Music: I was into a lot of radio, but I also managed to organise the 9000 songs on my computer, so there was a lot of Simon and Garfunkel. I love listening to happy and mellow love songs. The monsoon called for it. Also, absolutely tripped on Kabhie Kabhie Aditi from Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na.

Friends: Sneha, Jugal came over to eat food cooked by moi. Om joined us too… a lovely evening J Pannu started working with Kuku and man I am excited about the fact that she’s working with someone I thought was hot on screen…. Hehe… I am so filmy! Satam has had a rough patch with her Dad being unwell, but she will bounce back and uncle will be up and about soon.

Reading: I read chick lit through June. First I endured How Opal Mehta Got Kissed… and then I read Salam Paris by Kavita Daswani. They were a good brush through. But right now, I m right in the middle of The Secret by Rhonda Byrnes and I am loving it.

Dreams: There have been mad dreams, some feel good, some shocking and some just about forgettable.

Movies: Sarkar Raj, Sex and the City and Indiana Jones are the movies I saw at a theatre. I revisited many movies through the month on telly. I revisited Bicycle Thieves in the last week of June and it touched me just as deeply. Me and Nani also caught Sideways, which too the meaning of ‘wine’ to whole new level. Of course, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was revisited too.

Disappointment: I was very excited about my BIGFlix membership but their service has really let me down. I hope they pull their act together, so I can watch more movies and be happy J

Hope: I’ve learnt to enjoy my family’s indulgence in the idea of my wedding. It gives them joy and I think the joy’s rubbing off me too…

Love: I want it but whenever it comes on its own… Meanwhile, I am in love with the idea of love…. *smiles*

Achievement: I saw my pictures from a couple of years ago. I’ve lost a lot of weight, I definitely dress better and I am happy about that. But I m happy knowing that I was happy with the tomboy I was too! Nanu, thanks for inspiring me to kick the fat off…

Favourite place: Five gardens. Walking there soothes me. I owe it to the iPod

Food: I have indulged this month. Right from chicken hot n sour soups to tuna subs… I ate it all. Loved cooking the squid ink pasta and totally loved eating at Open Affair at Bandra. The food was strictly okay but it was a windy day by the sea… Wonderful ambience.

I am a sucker for meat but I have enjoyed vegetarian food through most of the month and I’m loving it.

Dance: Banana Bar, random music with Om. Thanks for coming back to Mumbai brother…

Talk: Sneha and Nani- heavy discussions about life, people and more… Love them both…

Wanted to: Spend more time with Pannu… July will be the month