SoBo: When time never stops (II)


Mumbai is a religion. South Bombay (SoBo) is a sacred prayer for its aficionados and loyalists for it adds zing to lives, adorning the city like sweet and pure desi ghee. I bring the second part of SoBo, narrating places for its larger than life character and appeal that never stops growing on us. South Mumbai is an obsession, right from shopping like crazy at Colaba to trawling for novelty at VT, cozying at Churchgate, gliding through Peddar Road or Kemps Corner and the trilled notes of waves at Chowpatty Beach. The dock of life just never stops in Mumbai and more so in our SoBo. It’s an obsession that never halts. It forms such a potent character in our lives and jaunty existence. We may carp about pot holes but we love the city to death.

  1. Colaba

 

 

A second view of Colaba.

There is no second thought about it: Colaba is one, if not, the most frequented place in South Mumbai where people living in the western part or outskirts of the city make it a point to throng in droves every single day or week. You name it, you get it! It’s a haven for everything where you haggle among the swarm of crowd at the Colaba Causeway for a steal.

It’s the destination where branded shops snuggle with street hawkers who haven’t left any space left or stone unturned to give wind to their imaginations. Fake Gucci bags, chains, fancy wrist watch with decorations or cover, perfect imitation of designer shirts or tees, lockets or bracelets where you can scribble the name of the special someone, colourful  bangles in all hues and size, wristband, clocks, beads, fancy bells, lamps, goggles, unique toys, belts, bracelets, handcraft made elephants and Goddesses and Kohlapuri chappals for women. The list is endless.

It’s the place to shop ‘cheaply’ for your favorite items as you are transported in a fancy world and lanes of the extraordinary and magnificent items to cherish over time. Your eyes and mouth want to scoop up everything as if it’s the last plate of yum biryani. Strolling leisurely at the Causeway and shopping for small items was one of my favorite activities where I would visit Colaba every two days to whine time or gape at everything ‘marvellous’. It feels like an invisibly mysterious force that sucks you inside some Chamber of Secret. I remember bagging my prized toy, the iconic black, and white taxi for 70 bucks after much haggling.

 

Image credit: http://www.travenix.com
Olympia Cafe at Colaba serves one of the most amazing cakes.

There is no dearth of eateries such as Picadilly, Cafe Churchill, New Apollo or Sahakari Bhandar that serves one of the best vegetarian foods, be it Pulao, Biryani or Pav Bhaji. One of my best places for breakfast was Olympia to gorge on the caramel custard and flavored cake, decorated in various colors, green, yellow, Orange, and pink coated with cream exuding a flavor of exquisite ice cream. I call it the cheap man breakfast served with amazing Indian chai or coffee. Of course, bread and Kheema are always something to die for. It’s delectable.

In the mood for yummy and mouth-watering non-veg food at an affordable price, Baghdadi which is behind Colaba Causeway and minutes away from Gateway of India and the grand Taj Mahal Hotel is the place to be. Beef and mutton fry masala were priced between 25 to 30 bucks in those days with a jumbo naan worth 5 bucks that fill the stomach to perfection. Of course, Bade Miyan serves a multitude of legendary food such as Seekh Kabab, Mutton Seekh roll, and Chicken Reshmi Tikka. The tables are set and spread on the bustling street as you relish your food with cars zooming behind you. It’s truly a jewel in South Mumbai.

There are so much to do and see in South Mumbai, stretching your legs at length wading past Regal cinema and entering the world of Colaba Causeway where you can spot small jewelry shop. Believe it or not, once I landed myself a decent room for 100 bucks in 2004/05. The room was enough to move luggage, legs and sleep with two beds, a small table, and chair.  It’s no shady place but was quite cozy which translates the spirit of Mumbai finding expressing and giving an identity in cramped space showing seamless happiness.

Waltzing at the Gateway of India for the first time becomes an enthralling affair where you set on a path of discovery and indulge in a squinting exercise. It’s marvelous, the deep water at the bridge, admiring the boats on all four sides and taking a walk where visitors and couples strike a pose.  Be wary of photographers who hound you and pressing for money in advance for hunting them may be quite a task. Not quite so in today’s times where everyone has a smartphone with camera. Monsoon is one of the best times to visit Gateway of India and the waves crashing and water splashing behind your back as you stand with your back firmly entrenched to the bridge propel you to jump or feel the cold waves with the wind blowing in your direction. One of my favorite past time was to bend my body on the bridge and watch the deep water, spritzing walk, the caress of the sea waves, breeze, and water accompanying me as a protective force. The Taj Hotel is one of the city’s monuments and an architectural marvel that your eyes doesn’t want to leave since it’s a tale of glittery gold. I enjoyed walking in the concrete pathway where Taj is housed, admiring the branded shops on the ground floor and the marbles where the bricks are done with an aesthetic taste that makes it a blissful moment in life.

Drinking in Colaba and clubbing finds echo the spirit with much-frequented places like Leopold, catching a cricket or football match at Sports Express Bar and guzzling beer at Cafe Monde. Of course, Gokul is always a cheap option but worth visiting in a lifetime.

One of my best places at Colaba is Barista off Hanuman Mandir. You can reach there either by walking through the Gateway and Taj Pathway or on the main road at Colaba Cause where you take a left just after the Hanuman Mandir. It’s quite big and spacious. There are two sides to the coffee bar, one is the AC room and the other compartment gives a colonial ambience since it’s an open-air shelter made of mortar bricks and spacious with wooden structure where you can enjoy your thick cappuccino, smoke and watch the traffic swirling outside with the cars and buses screeching their way. In short, it’s cozy, comfortable and super friendly.

2. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST)

 

Originally and famous as Victoria Terminus, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) is one of the biggest central railways in SoBo for the Central Lines and translates into the culture enshrined by Mumbaikars. Trains are our lifelines chugged to thrust us on our feet.   Every single day, 6.3 lakhs commuters travel on the iconic station that was built in 1887 and bearing the imprint of British architects Frederick William Stevens and Axel Heig. The Gothic structure and the huge clock make it a very thematic and aesthetic marvel that finds its way among the gems in South Mumbai. It has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage which is never shy in attracting tourists in drove.

The iconic station was earlier named Bori Bunder before it was christened VT and now CST, has two main lines, one is local Central Railway and the second is, Indian railway traveling from one destination in India to the other. The booking counter for traveling outside Mumbai is enshrined in a large, spacious and amazingly done Gothic structure adorned with huge steel pillars.  The window and dome structure is crafted in a half circle, circumference form coupled with dotted and shiny window structure which bears its signature design, owing to the Raj era. The booking is super efficient with the token system as you sit and admire the delightful structures and in no time, the job is done. At night, the station shines in iridescent colorful lighting that sparkles in all corners and forms where the place becomes truly alive.

The CST area is one place which is no short on entertainment, be it the nonveg food on the street stalls, cheap restaurants and semi-luxury or comfort for foodies. You name it, you get! There was a small, dingy non-veg place as one get out of CST station and scything past the bus terminus which was the place to be for me.  It’s a small and cramped place but bearing a homely feeling where the mutton curry or Biryani was available during those times for 15 bucks.

 

 

Taking a detour, the bus terminus at CST was always a favorite for the fruit salad, Bombay sandwich, bananas, Vada Pav for cheap and the delectable taste quenched the hunger raging in the growling stomach.

Off you walk past CST towards the JJ school of Arts which is one of the landmarks to your right and keep walking at a stretch and sweating it out in the heat, you come face-to-face with the Maharashtra Police Department which is not far away from Crawford Market. It’s another iconic and colonial building made of brick in the hustle-bustle of city life. There is more to the entire sprawling space when I had a chance to zoom my way inside to see the numerous police chowki and police quarters.  Trust me, you can zigzag and lose your way if you don’t ask for directions from the cops stationed inside their vans. There are the north and south wings, grand entrance floor where the panel teak ceiling will grab your attention. It’s called the nerve centre where major decisions and planning are taken to ensure Mumbaikars sleep peacefully at night and the city breath.

 

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View of Crawford market. Image credit:@ dnaindia.com

Time to get a peek into the crowded and popular Crawford Market nestled between CST station and the Mohamed Ali Road. The market was built during the British Raj and has been renamed Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandi but is still apparently known by its iconic name. The market has a charm of both the old and new world, boasting of its old colonial structure, cone building that reminds one of the traditional Bombay at a time where every city is losing its spark to the new, superficial structure and every old legacy is being razed off. The Crawford Market stands tall as you enter the world of birds, parrots, fresh fruits, imported chocolates, cosmetics, dry food, spices and goodies, garments and every imaginable thing under one single roof where you will never be tired of shopping and visiting. It brings to the mind the ubiquitous charm and simplicity of the old Bombay days at Mohammed Ali Road.

 

View from JJ Flyover.

Everything vintage Bombay is sprawled in this part of the city merging branded and small, modest shops, old flats in the buildings dating back to ages. Taking a ride on JJ Fly is a wondrous trip snuggled between the old, decrepit buildings and apartments. Of course, Eid is one festival where this part of the city sparkle with the best food, deserts, and delicacies cooked spicy hot on the streets, restaurants serving unique dishes and shopping for garments, kurtas and salwar. The uniquely amazing crowd throng during Eid showcases the cosmopolitan culture of Mumbai. Tootle your way below the JJ flyover and you are chaperoned by a line-up of hotels and restaurants where you should absolutely try the Chicken Sanju Baba at Noor Mohammadi Hotel on Mohammed Ali Road. The recipe was given by superstar Sanjay Dutt who visited the place late at night and entered the kitchen to concoct this amazing dish.

Of course, CST boasts of several cinema theaters right from Sterling, New Excelsior, and New Empire. One of my favorite hang-out was at Barista which is minutes away from Mc Donald and New Empire Theatre where I was a regular almost every day sitting with the gang outside, having coffee, chatting and smoking.

3. Chowpatty Beach

 

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Image credit: http://footage.framepool.com Chowpatty Beach.

Girgaum Chaupati our famous Chowpatty beach off Marine lines is one of the biggest city attractions with the crystal clear white sand and various food outlets, Vada Pav, Pav Bhaji, Pani Puri, Bombay Sandwich, Masala Dosa, Bhel Puri, Papdi Chaat steamily cooked right in front of your eyes and the Bombay Falooda or Gola sipping at the beach. It takes the Mumbai spirit to a whole new level. The beach always teems with children running and prancing, lovers stealing a silent intimate moment at dawn to watch the magnificent sunset. There are balloon sellers set to make a killing to the children’s delight and you can sit on the beach and plod the naked feet watching the waves crash. It celebrates the spirit of Mumbai in all its forms and colors.

There are numerous coffee shops such as CCD opposite to the beach, popular branded shops such as Levis but also Wilson College just opposite the sea. As you walk towards the beach, you can spot the restaurant owned by actor Sunil Shetty H20 and of the course, the beach is walking distance from Nariman Point and Marine Drive which makes for good 20 to 25 minutes exercise. But, you also get the BEST buses from Marine Drive that ferries passengers to Chowpatty beach. Of course, the Taraporewala Aquarium and the Savitri Phule Girls Hostel are very near to the beach and keep walking off Girgaun Chowpatty, there is a sea of discovery that awaits you. One of the best place to visit is during the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi to witness how Mumbaikar come together, singing Ganpati Bappa Morya and immersing the idols of Ganpati in the sea.

Whether it’s the Marine Line flyover where vehicles storm the way in a rush as you make your way to Bombay Hospital or Liberty cinema at Marine Line or Inox Metro, it gives a feel of life moving at blistering pace.

There are a couple of landmarks very near to Chowpatty and one of them is Walkeshwar Road which you can reach by turning right after Wilson Collge and keep driving. There are several interesting spots such as Walkeshwar temple and the Hanging Gardens as well as St Elizabeth and Kemp Hospital. Aditya was one friend who stayed at Mumbai Central with whom I would initially stay in my earlier days and at night, he would drive me on his bike. The night drive is dazzling with the lights adorning the city. Of course, Dhobi Ghat which is the spot of washer men cannot be missed in the city to get a feel of the real Mumbai.

4.Kemps Corner, Nepansea Road and Cuffe Parade

The posh, high flyer and most expensive localities in the suburbs boast of city heavens like Kemps Corner, Peddar Road and Nepeansea Road that lie at the crossroad, offering breathing taking views.  High-end shops, hair parlors, upmarket shopping outlets, banks, coffee shops frequented by the creamy crowd have found a place in the frame of filmmakers capturing the city to perfection on celluloid with the wide roads amid fanfare, frenzy, and chaos of a city life. Make no mistake, property prices of sea facing ostentatious flats and bungalows start above Rs 8 to 10 crores. The sloppy roads are a treat to walk in the monsoon and admiring the vehicles swarming their way and honking can blow your ears like splitting glasses.

 

Kemps corner.
Image credit: http://d131n82dij7gxv.cloudfront.net

It makes the city life a tale worth captured in your memory box. Of course, Cuffe Parade makes for a joyous outing to one’s aesthetic senses, appreciating everything grand and marvelous in an opulent fashion.  It wouldn’t be ludicrous to state that Cuffe Parade bears the great divide in the city where on one hand you have the rich and famous snuggled in palatial sky rises and swearing by obnoxious wealth but on the other hand, slums dwellers of Ambedkar Nagar surviving on morsels and living in match box, which was partially demolished this year.

No wonder Mumbai is a city where folks crave for the extraordinary, opulent, simple and below ordinary in the same fashion. Elphinstone Road is your go getting place for everything electronic be it mobile, laptop or repairs. The world impossible simply doesn’t exist on Elphi and ask it, you get it.

5. Churchgate

Back to sashaying one’s way to Churchgate as promised and you can read the earlier post here. This part of the city has never ceased to fascinate and intrigue me at the same time, be it the fashion street for cheap stuff or Khau Galli off the station. Churchgate station has always remained a favorite spot which I made home eons ago for two years. It seemed like a life time. The Biryani sold outside Churchgate station for a measly 20 bucks, paperback books and the uncle who sells all of the wares from China, be it fancy gas lighter, scissors, newspapers, and magazines, imported cigarettes during those days-aha the Marlboro pack of ten from Malaysia. You will find him under the umbrella near LIC building. Take a walk towards Baroda Bank and there is this shop I call magic, Enkays with its fancy lighters, zippo and imported cigarettes were a luxury in those days off Dinshaw Vacha Road.

Of course, the guy making anda burji at night was the place to visit, and soothing drinks like Mango which was a favorite, rose or chikoo flowing in a huge container. Mango drink was always a favorite for me that soothed and cooled the heels in the hot summer.

Our real treat started past midnight outside Churchgate station gorging on the yummy bun maska and sipping hot tea. It’s one of the road stalls that concocts a delicious serving of bun maska at nightfall as we admired the city, right from the Rajabhai Tower at Fort when the clock struck and Bombay High Court or the last train siren at 1.40 a.m

Strolling around ITC and Ambassador Hotels off Marine Drive is always a pleasurable activity where we would be spending our time in the cafeteria past one in the morning and in those days, a coffee worth 70 bucks came with a refill, enough to keep our body and brain well oiled to study till the wee morning hours.

Discover a fancy world in Asiatic Department that has everything for you as your body temperature sizzles to the ac, flitting your steps from one place to the other, boasting of snobbery, simplicity and jazzy where you get everything in this ‘fairyland’. It was my feeling when I first entered this haven for the first time in 2002 which became my favorite that displayed home wares, spices, dry fruits, food, medicines, footwear, cards, flowers, memorabilia and anything your mind can ever imagine.

Simply Mumbai

Love

V

 

 

 

Simply South Mumbai: An enthralling SoBo affair (1)


You know the story, right?! After all, it’s Mumbai, the city that never sleeps and an addiction that you cannot live without. While Mumbai is a world in itself similar to the tale in the movie Inception, a universe in itself as you wade deep inside the city. It’s South Mumbai that we affectionately call SoBo. Posh and glamorous. Once you set foot in SoBo as a traveler, resident or a plain visitor, it grows on you in more than one way where you can spend hours exploring its various facets and populace that merge seamlessly like a whole mass. Today is Friday. I take you on a tour in SoBo which I made my home for two years. For sure, it’s super expensive to afford living there but hey, it’s a lifestyle with the spacious roads, eateries, sea view, our lifelines the local trains, beautiful and sexy damsels, of course, street food, paperback books…and much more. It never cease to fascinate and intrigue.

  1. Churchgate

One of the most expensive places in SoBo, cosmopolitan in outlook and bearing obnoxious wealth with the super expensive abodes but, at the same time, showing a human face. So many things that you can indulge in Churchgate where I stayed and be surrounded by the local railway station where millions commute daily, hip and cool colleges like Jai Hind on B Road, Sydenham and Government Law College on A Road, KC College/HR College near Oxford bookshop and opposite Oval Maidan where the great Sachin Tendulkar trained. Of course, Cyrus Broacha would be seen on Sundays with his family for a lunch outing at Oval Maidan, watching Mumbaikars playing football and cricket.

One of my favorite places at Churchgate is ‘Not Just Jazz by the Bay’ and it’s not a rare sight to see Shibani Kashyap performing. The best part about Churchgate is that it’s a minute walk away from Marine Drive to your right and to the left is Eros Theater and eateries such as Stadium Restaurant and Gaylord. Stadium serves one of the best kheema, scrambled eggs and of course, tea. There is also a cyber cafe upstairs and post my meal, I would hop upstairs to surf the net.

Guzzling a beer and pizza by the wooden window as the waft of breeze air flows from the sea-facing Marine Drive kissing the cheek is pure bliss. Not Just Jazz by the Bay is thronged with the creamy crowd. It’s the best way to relax where the waiters dressed in black are on their feet almost tirelessly to serve the growing crowd. You walk straight, past HP filing station, and hop on to Gaylord which serves the most amazing coffee, pastry, bakery and French bread. The restaurant is divided into the pastry shop, restaurant on the ground floor and dining upstairs. There is a host of celebrities whom you can often spot and one afternoon, I saw Perizaad Zorabian chilling out with friends.

There is more to SoBo and after a sumptuous dinner, you could always treat yourself to ice cream at K Rustom that serves an exquisite variety adorned with wafers and life couldn’t get better than that. I remember the elderly uncle and aunty, going the extra mile to serve and giving orders to the staff to ensure that patrons are comfy. It’s a place that you couldn’t skip in this part of the city. Mocha’s hookah is always sinful and the place is frequented by a bevy of young students as you sit down to enjoy in a very cozy and comfortable ambiance to steal an intimate moment. It also happens. After all, it’s Mumbai.

Sundance Restaurant is just after Eros Theater and one of the best places for beer and the best non-veg food that should quench your thirst or satiate hunger for everything extraordinary. Of course, the street shops are a must to visit even if you don’t buy anything or books spread on the pavement makes it an exciting choice for book worms.

2. Rajabhai Tower, Fort area

The University of Mumbai at Fort is one of the main tourist attractions in the city where sits the famous Rajabhai Tower, designed by the famous British architect Gilbert Scott. The iconic clock is a huge 280 feet structure and it’s near impossible for someone to plod its steps in the city and not fall for its charm. You can see it from a distance as you get out of Churchgate station, standing outside Eros or the Oval Maidan. It bears an out-of-the-world structure which is aesthetic and the 13.5 feet in diameter clock bell striking loud like a drum to remind us of its rich legacy and place of prominence in India’s history.  It stands tall like the majestic Gothic structure building on which it sits atop. During my student days inside the Rajabhai Tower library, the bell reminds us it’s time pack up and you know it’s closed at 6 p.m to be precise or 8 p.m during exams time.

The Rajabhai clock Tower owes its name to the mother of millionaire broker at BSE, Premchand Roychand who funded the construction cost for a princely sum of 2 lakh at that time in the 18th century. Legend goes that Roychand’s mother was a devout Jain but was blind and the evening helped her to know the time by herself.

The Fort area stands home to the architectural delight of the Flora Fountain at Hutatma Chowk which is majestic, elegant and bears the old world charm. It marries water, architecture, and sculpture depicting the Roman Goddess Flora. I am sure the Goddess witnessed beautiful and tragic romance of young couples swarming in the city. The Bombay Stock Exchange, Planet M and of course the lining of shops under the concrete roof where street stalls cohabit together in the Fort area. It’s the place where you get the mouth watering Bombay sandwich designed with capsicum, onion, tomato, and cheese. There is no dearth of restaurants in Fort as you walk your way in the lanes that host BSE, veg or nonveg food, depending on your culinary taste, be it mutton, chicken but beef deleted. Of course, shopping for clothes, you name it, you get it…branded shops, clothes scattered on the road in the same vein as paperback or Westside housed in the gothic style architectural Army Navy Building. Before I forget, you should check out Cafe Military which is famous for its bun and chai, one of the best Irani cafe at a touching distance of Bombay High Court.

3. Marine Drive

A confluence of souls converges in one of the most breathtaking spots in SoBo. It’s Marine Drive where the Arabian sea stretches in a seamless stream of water that makes it the favorite spot of not just the residents of the neighboring Churchgate area but also from far-flung places who comes in the city to get a peek of its soul.

In the hustle bustle of city life, there is no guessing which is the place that provides solace to lovers stealing a secret moment, elderly walking at night, street urchins begging for alms, people jogging as vehicles honk and screech their way in the mad dash. The palm trees offer shade as one take a long walk from one end to the other, towards Nariman Point and on the opposite side to Chowpatty beach. It’s quite a sight at night from your room where Marine Drive becomes the Queen’s necklace with light adorning its pathway. I enjoyed my walks towards Nariman Point and climbing atop the boulders to watch the sea flowing down from top. Anil Ambani was often spotted, sweating it out at 5 a.m in the morning followed by his black cats commandos and once I saw in the evening where the sun was surfacing, Priyanka Chopra and Bobby Deol doing a dance sequence atop a roofless double-decker bus, waving to cheerful fans shooting them on their camera phones.

Sipping a hot cup of steamy cup of tea which is sold by vendors walking and on a bicycle is common spot on Marine Drive. The afternoons and evenings witness a flurry of activities with people thronging this spot. There can be no better place than this hotspot in SoBo. Of course, ITC and Ambassador Hotel lingers on the main road where you can hop on in the wee hours of the night in the AC restauranr and you get a refill of your filter coffee for the price of one. Cool, na!

Staying in the hostel at International Students House (ISH) has its own perk as you just need to cross the road to find yourself at Marine Drive. The roads that elongate at Marine Drive, starts from A-Road to D Road and Wankhede stadium is 10 minutes walk away. Standing and walking on the parapet is always bliss and the pathway is a good exercise to stretch the limbs and legs. No wonder, Marine Drive is everyone’s favorite.

4. Nariman Point

Strut your feet at Marine Drive and you will ultimately reach the posh and richest places in South Mumbai, Nariman Point, that houses Trident Hotel, Mantralaya, consular offices and embassies as well as a host of names such as Birla. It’s a haven for office goers. The place serves the best of street foods such as Pani Puri, Bombay sandwich, fruit salad, fresh fruit juice, masala dosa and of course my favorite breakfast menus, Idli, Poha and the amazing Sheera. It was my morning ritual at 5 a.m to walk from Churchgate towards the station past Asiatic Department Store to reach Nariman Point for chai and the sweet Sheera. On Sunday, Nariman Point abandons its cloak of corporate and hospitality look to transform into a family haven and fest for everyone, elderly, young or very young.

It’s a shimmering sight that serves the plate full with entertainment for children, horse and buggy ride for the small ones and lovers, munching on channa and bhel. It’s nothing less than a festival of sort with lassi, falooda and sugar cane juice cooling your heels. You can always catch a movie at Inox inside CR 2 mall or a play at NCPA. Of course, before the ban of the Tonga (horse carriage) ride, it added sheen to the SoBo experience at Nariman Point.

Postscript: This post has been written in mind taking into account the time I stayed in the city. Of course, it has been prompted by Sharukh Bamboat’s Mumbai blog and this wonderful post on Mumbai: An Unlikely addiction. As it, we all have our own Mumbai stories. Of course, there are places such as Suryodaya supermarket outside Churchgate station which is now closed. I have also omitted Satkar veg restaurant where I was regular for afternoon snack and dinner. It’s hard to do justice in one single post on my beloved SoBo and reason why there will be a second part, where I might revisit Churchgate again as well as other places such as Chowpatty, CST and Colaba. Hope you enjoy it as I did revisiting the iconic places which I made my home less than a decade back and revisited four years earlier. Happy weekend and hope you can soon plan a trip to Amchi Mumbai if you haven’t yet and fellow Mumbaikars in the suburbs, what are you waiting for?

If I have omitted something, feel free to add spice to the SoBo adventure.

Love and happy weekend

V

Excerpt from the novel in progress


Hey people,

The novel is still work in progress. It’s the first draft that I decided to start all over again and the good news is that I have almost reached 25 brand new pages, an entirely different product from the earlier draft that I was writing. Of course, it’s a rom-com and sharing an excerpt. Of course, looking for honest feedbacks. I shall tentatively call it, “Half-baked Love.”

Excerpt from, ‘Half-baked love.’

Walking past Churchgate Station, they hailed off the stationed black-and-yellow taxis scouting for passengers and plodded their steps past the fountain, where a line-up of shops selling cheap jeans and tee shirts put on display and hanging on ropes on the colorful tents. A shopkeeper stopped Zoya, “Salum walekum Malkin! Apne Mister ke liye kuch lijiye? (Buy something for your mister)” Kshitij face was amok with excitement and congratulated this guy in his heart , wondering why the fuck they don’t make such kind of commoners. Deep inside, he was plotting that this hawker blurts out some more rubbish.  He was amused and signaled the hawker who sported a grey beard to tell more by waving his hand. He made faces behind Zoya back. She turned towards Kshitij with a serious look and exuded a timid smile, flashing her jaws before turning towards the hawker.

She addressed him in Hindi, “Janab, aap ko kisne bola key eh mere Mister hai? (Sir! Who told you he is my Mister?)” There was no smile on her face nor sign of mild irritation. She is an expert in addressing people in a super cool manner that doesn’t make them back out nor feel apologetic. In turn, it makes plain strangers warming up to her as her cool and calm demeanour makes them feel so good. It’s this one quality that drew Kshitij towards her and wonders how she can easily gel with people like that.

The elderly hawker in between measuring legs for a client and marketing his clothing materials, gave Zoya a tenderly father figure touch. “Kya fadak parta hai! Agar Mister nahin hai toh boyfriend hai ya banjayega. Usske ankhein meindekh aapke liye bohot pyar beti. Ban jayega ek din Mister (What difference it makes? If he is not your Mister, he must be or will be boyfriend. I have seen love for you in his eyes, daughter).” He winked at Zoya. She became sheepish and her face turned red with embarrassment.

Kshitij felt like touching the man’s feet and wished that Harry Potter was real, that he would mix a magic potion to make both father and daughter. He felt like telling the guy, “Thank you Sasur-ji. Banoonga mein aap ke damaad when you adopt this girl. (Thank you father-in-law. I will become your future son-in-law with this adoptive daughter of yours).” Kshitij had to take things slow and was wary of the implications of blurting out such nonsense. He was still reeling under the nightmare.

The only  that he could do was make his heart clap like a silent spectator in his theatre of real imagination. Zoya caught his amusement and waged her middle finger at him, whispering threat into his ears, “You having fun, na. Now, you wait what I do to you? You think that I don’t understand…saala kaminey, harami.” Kshtij immediate change his expression from amused to serious before mocking her. She turned away from him and let off to the enthusiastic, “Yeh koi Mister nahin…bas raaste mein mila (He is no mister and I found him like that on the street)” The hawker let off a smile and tried not to laugh on Kshitij’s face. It was his turn to become red.

She shook the guy’s hands before asking his name, “Suleiman. It was nice meeting you.” Suleiman shook the hand of Kshitij tightly and hugged him with, “Koi baat nahin dost” and whispered in his ear, “Don’t let her go ever. Be stubborn. Yeh ladki Heera hai.”

Zoya scolded Kshitij and pulled his hand, “Let’s go. Do you want to get married to his daughter or what and set a stall here at Churchgate. That way, both son-in-law and father-in-law will make good money.”

Love

V

Sex with an ex (9)


Anita’s furtive eyes followed Ajay’s gaze as the BMW car they were in, waded on the busy street of Mumbai and he almost cursed at the yellow-and-black cabbie doing a U-turn in front of them. He avoided the taxi just in time and banged on his window. “Easy,” Anita said. “Bhenchod,” Ajay cursed.

He sweated as he steered the wheel with his right hand and fidgeted with the latest silver coated i-phone with his left hand. Anita was losing patience and lunged out at Ajay who didn’t say a single word, “Dude, do you realize how I escaped from there? I almost flirted with death to get out of there to meet you, the moment you called. At least, say something rather than driving in silence and pointlessly doing the round of Mumbai on New Year eve as if we are some fucking tourists. What’s the deal?”

Ajay slowed the car and removed a bottle of Black Label Johnny Walker whisky snuggled under the driver’s seat and gulped a drop down the throat.  His eyes were red and he looked like a weak, emasculated man who hasn’t slept for days. He tried to reassure her and touched her naked arm, “Roshni is my estranged wife and she is sleeping with your fiancee but not for long. He came as your fiance and the whole thing has been a set up by Roshni who brought him into your life since she was persuaded that you are the only one who could break the locks of the vault that would make them richest to rule the entire Mumbai. She has meticulously planned the whole thing and played the victim card to earn your trust. She knew about us from day one. Roshni is behind the biggest gang of corrupt business nexus with politicians involved in nuclear weapons who want to bring the city to its knee so that they rule us,  You have been part of their hatched conspiracy and she has exploited your emotional weakness at very instance. It’s either us or them. Two people have to die or else, the guilt will forever haunt us to our grave. You have given them the password to the biggest secret. It’s a scam, a terrorist attack to destroy the city today. We have to stop them. It’s their last act.”

Anita was flabbergasted and looked at Ajay with shock written all over her face. She lost her voice and felt dizzy. “Sh…” Anita couldn’t complete her sentence when they heard a sharp beep inside the metal silver coated roof inside the car. Ajay was seething with anger and was scared at the same time. His heart was racing ferociously. He knew that Roshni and her lover has put a device inside the car. He had no time to react but steered the car to maximum speed, almost flying over the pavement and leaped onto the JJ flyover. Ajay saw no possibility to stop the car and the black-and-yellow cab that was on their trail and reared the BMW.

Suddenly, a flurry of gunshots hit the high luxury car. It was Rohini and her lover who were following Ajay and Anita since a long time. A deadly device was planted inside the car. After doing the cat and mouse chase and firing were exchanged, Ajay lost control of the vehicle which hit a concrete wall, painted in yellow with the phone number of Vijay Coaching class.

Thud! A huge explosion deafened their ears and the glass windows splintered, hitting them on their faces. Ajay and Anita clutched to each other and their eyes slowly blinked. They fell unconscious. Rohini urged her lover, “Fast! We got them. The device is hidden in Anita’s handbag and both must be dead by now. Get it now.” As she rushed towards the car, the two lovers mysterious disappeared. “Where have they gone,” Rohini’s eyes which were sprouting fire suddenly became icy cold and her face went blank. “We don’t have time. It’s do or die. Jaldi, let’s find them,” she dragged her companion along.

Ajay and Anita’s face and clothes were soaked with blood and hid behind the abandoned and rusty railway track. Anita was shivering and almost shrieked in fear when Ajay pressed his hand on her mouth. He flung a red apple and crushed can that landed inside the BMW car which rolled and escalated to make the noise of humans struggling inside. Rohini and her lover were distracted and ran to look for their targets inside the car.

On the spur of the moment, Ajay pressed a button on his i-phone and bang the car exploded and the fire ravaged both Rohini and her lover. Anita was flabbergasted and hit Ajay on the chest, unsure whether she should cry or laugh. She held him tight.  Ajay whispered in her ears, “To the world, Ajay and Anita are dead. We will be born again in a new city and taking a new identity. Tomorrow is a new day with hopes and aspirations to start all over again.”

Ajay cupped her lip with his hand, kissing every layer and she pushed her lip inside his mouth and their tongues pressing and biting each other, swirled passionately as they embraced a new life. It was the kiss made in paradise.

(To be continued)

Love

V

Depression and suicide: Listen, remove labels and fight it out


It sent us into a tizzy of shock when a young student, Arun Bharadwaj, sitting in a posh hotel room in Bandra and filmed a tutorial on committing suicide before throwing himself out of his window room. The man confessed how drugs and depression weighed heavily on his life and it leads one to think the extent to which he buckled under pressure to take his own life.

We live in stressful times where it is easy to pull the trigger that sends the brain into turmoil and one suddenly feels there is hardly anything one can do to fight the evil. The question one can ask is, was Arun feeling alone and whether there was no one he couldn’t reach out or relate to. Of course, I am assuming things whether there was no one to listen what he was going through and the feeling of being ‘misunderstood’ or the ‘guilt shame.’  Drugs are one such scourge that destroys lives and our youth are at its receiving end across the globe.  The saddest part is that as a society, we are so quick in judging people going through a rough patch in life and we throw the so-called moral rocket about destroying the self, bringing a bad name to the family reputation or being attention seekers.

Our society is sick. Depression is not a crime. There are so many of us who goes through it at some point or the other in life. It is very easy for us sit and criticize someone trying to find solace in drugs, thinking that it will help combat the stress that is ripping lives apart. As I said, in today’s times of running against time to outwit the other in this ‘silly’ competitive world, we tend to ruthlessly face the brunt of society. It is a natural tendency to feel wanted and prove to the world our worth. We feel ignored when things doesn’t go our way and many of us resort to drugs for it’s an assumed medium to hit back at society that excludes people. Validation shouldn’t be sought only on social media channels but warm human interactions.

It is very important to educate our own self and the surroundings on the need to stop labeling people and stay away from criticizing someone who is going through hell. What a person needs is a shoulder to lean on but more so to listen to them. How do we do that? Let the person speak and touch him gently in ways that he will speak without the fear of being judged in society. I think it matters more than anything else. There is a gentle way to convince them to come out in the open and vent out what is suffocating them inside. It is important to check on someone who will try to hide things by putting a brave smile and never let them be alone on their own. True, we do fight our lone battles in life. But, there are times when we will feel vulnerable and that’s how our loved and dear ones can offer their helping hands in keeping a close eye on us and step in if our behavior is worrisome.

Depression is gender-neutral and lacks caste or class bias which can affect anyone in varying ways. There is always the misconception that someone who doesn’t lack the means is safe and that this evil will not affect them. It’s not true at all. The case in point is public celebrity Deepika Padukone who choose to come in the open and was also part of a TV program together with her Doctor who explained it so well. It is high time we remove our conceptions, be it on depression or the scourge of drugs who are destroying our youth and injecting death to them at an age where they should dare to dream and make it bigger in the world.

The death of the young man Arun Bharadwaj is something that scared us in the way in which death and suicide were committed. No, friends, there is nothing ‘glamorous, daring or death-defying’ in killing the self. I am not judging him because I don’t know what he has gone through when his dreams were waiting for him. Always remember, if you are going through depression, seek help not necessarily from psychiatrists but your closed ones and postpone suicidal tendency. Be a real life hero in cheating death like our heroes on celluloid.

Love

V

 

 

Sex with an ex (8)


The mind wandered between putting an end to the whole thing and at the same time, gathering her wit, telling the whole truth to Rohini. Over time, the two women became the best of friends. One night, Anita’s world came crashing down when she saw Rohini having a showdown with Ajay in the hotel lobby.

She followed the movements between Rohini and Ajay who dashed out like a storm. Rohini was tripping with the alcohol running inside her vein, fuming and her hands trembled when Anita ran towards her. She innocently asked, “What’s wrong, Rohini?” The latter was trembling, “Arrey! It’s my ex-husband. What a bastard he is. I mean, we live under one roof but we don’t have any relationship. I just discovered his affair with his ex. I am sure he is banging that bitch. I will get that bitch killed.” Anita was silent and went numb.

Anita couldn’t comprehend what’s happening with Ajay who turned out to be Rohini’s husband and the latter plotting to kill her. Her phone rang and as the number flashed on her screen. She almost fainted. It was her fiancée, the man who is controlling her with a remote control. During the past few months, Anita has turned into a swindler, siphoning million from a random company’s account, transferring funds into her bank account.  The man at the end of the phone ordered,” Hey baby! What are you doing losing your time with a random woman in the hotel?.” It pierced her heart. She turned around to see if he was following her and it was impossible with random men and women swirling in and out. She is being watched. She knew for sure.

The guy said, “Back to business, business. It’s the last assignment and I promise not to make your life hell anymore. We will live happily after with loads of money and rule over the city.

Anita couldn’t muster the courage to refuse and nodded her hand, stammered with a hesitating, ‘Y-e-s’. She took her laptop bag and scampered into her green Maruti Swift, driving recklessly to reach the hotel room where she put the machine on.

She scanned her laptop to steal the password from the corporate giants since she came across that they are going to do the biggest business tie up in Mumbai that makes the stocks run into a tizzy. Her fiancée wanted to cash on that to make crores by stopping the deal and the only way is to hack the emails and block the company’s account. It’s like a fortress. She knew it. She took a sip of a cappuccino when she incidentally stumbled on an email that was left open which someone forgot to close in a hurry.

It felt like a Pandora box and a volcano that hit her on the head. What, how, why! Fuck! Oh my God! He is having an affair with a powerful lady and they’ve been conspiring to use and kill me after the deal is closed. Oh! I am trapped! Anita couldn’t believe her eyes. She hit the keyboard in frustration. A fear ran down her spine and she felt like her would explode. “So…I’ve been used as a scapegoat…the whole engagement and that woman knows me to the core…Everything was a trap…”

The ringtone screeched inside her ear like a cry of despair that compelled Anita to pick it up. “Listen! No, I don’t want to hear anything. Just come and meet me near the Railway Station…No time to argue with you. Both of our lives are in danger. Yes! Rohini! It’s my wife. She is behind everything. We need to save our skins,” Ajay’s voice crackled as if he encountered the face of death.

To be continued…

Love

V

Har ek friend on Sunday and things like that!


You know what’s the best feeling on earth? When you make first calls on your brand new phone to your closest and bestest friends, no matter how far away distance separate you from your folks. Saat Samundar Par is just another excuse. The first call was made at  Dadar in Amchi Mumbai where the best buddy is nestled with his wife. Love birds and new couple. Ha! He told in a whatsapp message that he got rear ended on his way back home when three cars stumbled to hit each other. Thank the stars, no one were hurt or bruised.

The first call was made and we spoke for a good half an hour about the lazy Sunday in Mumbai. Shit man! How much I miss that place? The conversation verged on my impending relocation plan and the first thing in his mind was don’t come back, till I get a well-paying job since the place is getting so expensive by the day and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for bachelors to secure a place in the city. Travelling can be taxing, he said. My thought harked back to my routine travel by the local train and which is really my comfort level. That was form another era.

Despite me being out of the city and the country for hell long time, I reasoned that it shouldn’t really be an issue. After all, it’s a matter of time to get back to the grind despite the 8-year-itch. He doesn’t travel by Mumbai local nor BEST buses. I teased him about how he has become the typical NRI. We discussed and agreed on the possibility that I can consider moving to the outskirts, Navi Mumbai and places like Vashi, Kandivali or Thane. It would make it easy to travel through the harbor lines and not the western route, he argued.

Still, he doggedly believes that travel is a drudgery of sort. The conversation was done. I felt bad of not being able to shift owing to issues made by homeowners of denying a roof to bachelors. You know the whole so-called social norms and what’s not! It’s such a fuck-all feeling of wanting to shift but not being able to do so based on economic reasons.

I had a networking event to attend along with a colleague and friend for the Bangladesh Independence Day as part of our job for the website when she along with her husband was supposed to pick me up past 5. I reached the place one hour earlier and sat at the coffee shop, sipping cappuccino and reading magazine and stuff. I love to sit in coffee shops to read and drink coffee. It’s my idea of relaxation. The whatsapp call buzzed and it was Meghna from Mumbai, whom I was trying to call subah on the new handset. After all, what better way to use the new phone than calling close friends?

She was my first caller on the new phone. We spoke for a good 20 minutes about her work, lack of holiday by working crazy round the clock, meetings we both abhor attending and of course, Mumbai. I think that I am going to turn into a sentimental memory freak for the rest of my life, hanging on to the past and wanting to reclaim the life that went by. A lovely conversation about everything under the sun, right from munching Maggi  as quick but unhealthy bite to fill up and both us looking for extra freelance work. Naturally, the conversation hovered on housing in the city and how everything is fine, except renting a home. Mumbai can truly be called Sankat in the city.

There are few Sundays like that which ends in the company of friends over the phone, travelling and working together. In today’s stressful times, the only thing that makes us sane and healthier is the company of friends…har ek dost zaroori hai!

Love

V