Senapati Bapat (SB) Road, 2006:
I dragged my luggage on Senapati Bapat (SB) Road, accompanied by Adi and his season’s companion to a brand new place to stay, not far away from the studio, on top of his Dad’s shop. He asked me to keep 4000 bucks handy to pay for the rent and the deposit. As it is, a matter of a couple of months to crash in the single room before things get sorted in Mumbai. For the past months, I’ve been a hippie, shifting house and luggage kept in some friends’ homes, except the basic stuff. Literally, I was living off suitcases in Pune.
We met the owner running a restaurant, dining, pool bar and alcohol joint. He looked like a don or must’ve been an encounter specialist in his past life with the menacing look and assholery that wouldn’t go unnoticed. He coldly stared, “2K for one month and the rest 2k as deposit” and pocketing the money, urging the helper to unlock the room which I shared with a Delhi dude. In fact, both rooms are separated by a door. We became ‘fair weather friends’ in a matter of days.
Trouble was brewing that could’ve seemed like a movie climax and the Netflix thrillers today, spicy episodes scripted by someone in the sky to make me ordinarily extraordinary, which I was totally oblivious to. The last straw in my cup and putting it that way, the last trouble ended with a bang. The evening was spent walking to Adi studio and munching on mouth-watering paani puri, sold by a guy on the roadside opposite to the main road. This part at SB Road was upcoming in 2006 and a new Crossword Bookshop has just opened at the ICC Trade Tower, making it a walking distance affair. New friendship made with the cool Uncle running the mini market, sitting to smoke and gulping coffee, to whom I sold my second-hand bike after moving to Mumbai. The place was frequented by the student crowd swarming to chill and opposite to the shop was another mini market which our friend viewed as the competition. Once he spotted me there and told, “We never refuse you anything, na. Why you go to the other shop?’ An account was opened in my name where I took on credit countless coffee cups, cigarette sticks and sundry stuff like my favorite Five-star chocolate, razor, biscuits and toothpaste or whatever flies in your imagination. After all, that’s how Kirani stores survived and thrived.
A roomie sneaking girls inside the room and boasting about sexcapades and porn magazines nicely tucked in some corners of the room was quite the rousing welcome. How do I know! Well, he showed me and telling how he is always on the lookout for a good lay. Trust me, there was no dearth of prospective partners, accompanied by their friends in the house, so much that once I got locked out of my room. No prize for guessing! After that, he apologized but I was all cool. It’s not that I never get any chance and there was with the friend of his so-called girlfriend who came all the way from Mumbai but lacked the dare. For once, I never wanted to be thrown out but then destiny catches you upside down. The smile on the face of that girl expressed a lot, naughty looks and this is what happens when you carry baggage or wear blinkers. I am just being honest.
Trouble came in the form of a friend C. I ain’t blaming him but you know how things are when you meet friends by accident? Hug, coffee and smoke. He was on a travel spree and looking for a place to crash. I couldn’t refuse him since in the past crashed at his room but told that we need to tread carefully so that the owner doesn’t get wind of the arrangement. Visitors were not allowed.
He came to stay on the day when I was running a mild and ultimately high-pitched fever in the evening. The anecdote on the day brings a smile on the face and remember how he coaxed me to have food that he bought, behaving like Mom,”If you don’t eat, you will be weak, confined to the room and will not be able to go to our favorite hang out on FC, Savera.” That was enough to get me slowly out of bed and wolfing the entire soup. I wasn’t allowed to smoke with fever. I was craving looking at him when he gently flicked the cigarette on my mouth. I took few drags and dozed off.
The worst was yet to come. C had no choice but to leave the room, after all. The owner came to know about the little secret of sneaking a friend inside and threatened to throw me out. It made me wonder how the roomie who kept bringing girls was never caught. Was it the roommate who sniffed things to the owner? I have my doubt till today.
The owner was livid on how I could bring someone to stay inside the room, without his permission. The last nail in my coffin. I pleaded with him and knowing there is no point to argue or make him see reason but listen. No way out. We didn’t reach the option of slugging out and initially thought would mollycoddle him till mayhem struck.
A was in her home town to visit her parents and she landed in Pune on a Saturday morning. C narrated the whole incident how the owner was planning to throw me out which means that I was royally screwed. I didn’t have a place to stay. In those days, both C and A were dating and decided to accompany me, speaking to the owner. She already warned that in case the owner acted smart, she will speak to her mom in a position of power and told me to chill. During the evening, we took a rickshaw and went to see the owner. I was told not to speak any word and let them do all the talking. Unfortunately, we went to speak nicely to that ass and we did but he was reluctant to see the voice of reason, choosing to shout at them. A told him, “We will close this place.” He was unfazed and told us to do what we will feel like doing. I had to vacate the place. Both A and C were pissed off. As we left the restaurant, she repeated and roared, “I will speak to Maa and make sure that this place is closed for good.”
I am no longer in touch with A and C but it really touched me to see how both stood thick, fighting my case and fearlessly threatened the arrogant owner with consequences. I knew that A was going to make sure that this guy ran out of business but it’s not something I wanted to happen. What a scene it was and the verbal fight took place at the restaurant during the peak evening time. I tried to interject but both A and C told to keep quiet. Somehow, I was scared to see the three of them slugging it out and we stormed out valiantly, like heroes. I shall never forget that moment.
Adi came to the rescue and asked me to join him in the studio above his Dad’s shop. His girlfriend has just left the place and made my luck to stay without paying rent. I think that had to fork out a sum to the owner for bringing someone as penalty. I left for Mumbai months later and the Pune adventure came to an end in the flick of seconds. Things happened so fast and the realization didn’t dawn upon me. It wasn’t and was never the last Pune journey.
To be continued.