Travels through India

This is a story about three great cities, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore

Chapter 11

“What a place, huh?” muttered Tarun, inhaling deeply and handing the cigarette over to Subho.

Anup had become quiet and was not saying much. “Here, have a cigarette”, said Tarun, offering the packet to him. “Is something the matter?”

“He’s just a little shell-shocked”, said Subho, reassuringly. “It’ll all be better once we are back in the hotel. How do you intend to go back? Isn’t anyone feeling hungry?”

Anup found his lost voice. “Yeah”, he mumbled. “We need dinner. I can’t believe people actually come and squander money just to see a few girls shake their hips.” A thin film of sweat had clouded his brow and he looked displeased, shaken and a little ashamed all at the same time.

“The kick”, explained Subho “is that you get the girl to dance for you. That in itself instills a sense of power in you, (and by you, I mean the guy who is making the girl dance). Maybe when you are here in Bombay for some more time, you will get a little more accustomed to the closed theatre. Until and unless you actually make a girl dance yourself… It’s an intensely personal experience”, he said and laughed aloud.

“All’s fine”, conjectured Anup, still serious and worried. “How come you were enjoying it so much?”

“That’s because he is a sex-starved maniac, who has spent a weary childhood gazing and fantasizing on the bare midriffs of bulky south-Indian porn actresses. Isn’t that so?” asked Tarun, pleased at having scored one over Subho in the meaningless post-dance-bar-experience banter.

“Remember that video we saw in KGP?” asked Subho, apparently unmoved, and unaffected by Tarun’s scathing sarcasm. “Bombay-ki-raatein? Apparently it starred some of these bar-girls… They looked pretty sad in the video. I expect they put a lot of makeup on, hayn?”

“No idea”, replied Anup, disgusted, and a little hungry. “Where do we have dinner?”

“Let’s try out one of these rather dingy watering holes”, said Tarun. “I am sure it’s gonna be a really enriching experience.”

“Wouldn’t you rather we went back to the town-side. I mean – traveling the whole way after you are more or less sloshed is not going to be very enjoyable”, said Anup.

“We could smoke one first”, said Subho, smacking parched lips.

“OK”, smiled Tarun, and hailed an auto for the nearest station, which happened to be Andheri.

Andheri station is probably the biggest mess of them all in the western suburbs. Mumbai is mostly a north-south city, the development has happened along the railway tracks. Andheri is a mass of shops selling everything from shady-looking video CDs of sloppily made Indian porn to cheap imitation jewelry, from black-and-white T-shirts of questionable quality to mobile phone covers, and sported never-ending queues at its many ticket counters. Andheri is the biggest of Mumbai’s suburbs, and most of the working population is concentrated around this area of Mumbai. Infamous for the maximum number of dance-bars in the city, it was also infamous at one time for a frighteningly high crime rate. Prone to acute water-logging during the rainy season, Andheri station came as a surprise to Tarun and his friends.

“Wow, this local-train station has more platforms than Bhubaneswar, ha ha ha”, whispered Tarun to Subho, wondering why it thrilled him so to say that.

“I suppose we can take a fast local from here. It won’t stop at all the stations”, said Subho, looking around for a place to spit out his chewing-gum. Having found a dust-bin, he did the needful and turned to Tarun and said, “But it all depends on where we are gonna get off. If we get off at Churchgate, we can take a fast; else we need to take a slow. I have just the kind of place that we are looking for very close to Churchgate, in fact right next to Bade Miyan.”

“Isn’t Bade Miyan the place which makes better rolls than the road-side stalls of Cal?” asked Anup.

“That’s pretty much a misconception”, laughed Subho. “Rolls originated in Cal, and as much as people may crave for Bade Miyan’s rolls, it’s nowhere close to what we used to get in that lousy place opposite Jamuna after the porn-film. I had one before you guys arrived, it’s pretty much a heap of over-hyped and over-oily food. Not enjoyable in the least”, said Subho, disgusted.

“Hmm”, nodded Tarun. “And this place where we are supposed to go… This is called what?”

“It’s most probably called Gokul’s”, said Subho. “I heard rave-reviews from my cousin who stayed in this part of Bombay during his early days, and used to eat there regularly. The place is said to make pretty good Fish fry. Of course, I am not quite sure if the place has managed to maintain the same standard through these years, but it won’t be too bad. And after we smoked, even mess-food tasted heavenly, remember?”

“Yes, yes. Those were good times”, murmured Anup. “Give me three tickets to Churchgate”, he shouted to the morose-looking bearded man with bloodshot eyes at the ticket counter. Having collected the change, the three friends climbed the footbridge, in effect, becoming a part of the teeming multitudes of Mumbai on their way back from a hard day at work. Mumbai’s steely spirit inspired and disgusted Tarun at the same time, he wondered at the kind of a life a person would have in a city like this; no time for friends, for lazy phone-calls, for romantic liaisons; basically life would suck admirably after the euphoric first days...

The local they boarded was a fast local which stopped at three stations before Churchgate, and thankfully was moderately crowded, enabling the three lightly drunk friends to get seats for some time. Gazing through the windows at Marine Drive, Tarun felt tired and sleepy. Stifling a yawn, he told Subho, “We’ll have to take a cab from the station to the hotel, if we have to smoke one first.”

Subho was a person who rarely felt tired, and even when he did, never really showed it. “Of course”, he said. Tarun said non-committally, “You’ll roll it, na?”

Churchgate at nine in the night becomes a calmer and a little more sober shadow of itself a few hours back. The crowds had thickened when they got off the train, and other than the eternal few who can’t help but work over-time, their was no undue rush to get onto the outbound trains. The Wheeler store had a beautiful girl thumbing through a seedy looking Harold Robbins book, making Tarun sneer instinctively.

“Didn’t like her?” asked Subho, eyes rotund and wondering.

“Didn’t like the book”, replied Tarun, shaking his head dispassionately.

A plain-clothes ticket-collector asked Anup for the tickets, which after a few anxious moments of rummaging through pockets stuffed with a bulky mobile phone, cab-receipts and application forms, he finally managed to hand-over. They got into an old Fiat taxi, playing one of the older Bollywood numbers which some dancing-girl (Tarun smiled, as he thought of the luminous face of the actress) had sung for her beloved emperor (Akbar or Shahjehan, Tarun was unable to recollect). The song lines went:

When I have loved, what is there to fear?
I have only loved; I haven’t committed a crime,
So why should I stay in a corner and pine away in loneliness?

“Ah, the small pleasures of Bollywood”, mumbled Subho happily, reclining against the tattered cushions on the back seat of the taxi. “Small pleasures, fleeting, but so enjoyable, huh?”

Tarun smiled in consonance.

Claustrophobia hit the three friends when they entered the hotel room. Anup took off his shirt and applied powder indiscriminately in all parts of the body; Subho reclined against the wall and lit a cigarette, while Tarun worked on the joint. “Why do you always put so much powder on yourself?” asked Subho.

“No. I mean – yes; Big body, more surface-area, more sweat, you see, ha ha ha ha ha”, laughed Anup, as he took out a bright-orange shirt from his kit-bag and placed it on the bed. Subho stared at the shirt, looked at Tarun to see if he was also looking, and smiled at Anup, “Don’t tell me you are wearing that!”

As the room filled up with smoke from the weed, Anup painstakingly managed to get one arm inside the shirt with the rest of the garment dangling from his shoulder, as he struggled to smoke and dress himself up at the same time. “Mind the ash”, Tarun said disconsolately, looking up at the cobwebs on the ceiling, one arm outstretched for the final drags from the joint.

Time doesn’t seem to pass. It’s been one day in Bombay, and office was, well, pretty much a lousy bore. The train journey is a lousy bore, and it won’t be long before the euphoric drive of a new city’s lifestyle is wasted on us. It won’t be long before we fall into the groove of the white-collar software professional who stays back in office because his clients in the United States of America are too conceited to come in an hour early to work in the interest of the off-shore support guy. Product company, or otherwise, a life in software is pretty much similar, only some offices have more girls than others. Tarun smiled.

“What are you laughing at?” asked Subho.

“Oh! Nothing… Just thinking things over…”

“What kind of things?” Anup asked. He was grinning for no particular reason.

“Just general stuff. Like how fucked-up a software job is really. Body-shopping or no body-shopping, it’s still pretty much selling your degree to your firm so that they can impress some client in the US with the IIT-tag which you slogged four years to get.”

“The perennial question.” Subho smiled disconsolately, with a sad nod of his head. “The thing is, even if you stay back in India; and feel that you are doing wonders by not being a part of the brain-drain, you are sadly mistaken. Ultimately, IT, or if you narrow it down, the software-domain of IT contributes so little to the economy in the long run, that you wonder if you are doing justice to your potential. But then again, if only the other jobs paid that well, you could think differently, as in, think about joining someplace else.”

“Heavy topic”, muttered Anup. “Why make dinner a gloomy affair?”

“I think there’s some budding actress staying in the hotel. I saw her on my way to the shit-pot today morning. She looked shy, and sexy. It was almost like raw arousal was writ on every feature of her face”, said Tarun.

“Yeah, I know who you are talking about”, Subho said. “She came to me for a Nokia charger before you guys arrived here. She has a fake accent. Awesome figure, hayn?”

“Yeah!!! Does she look like she is married?”

“No, no”, exclaimed Subho, “Definitely not. At least, I hope so, ha ha ha”. Subho continued laughing for no particular reason until they reached the reception when the suspicious look in the receptionist’s eyes forced him to wipe his smile off his face.

“What a tartar!!!” he hissed, as they left the hotel, and started walking in the direction of Regal cinemas.

3 Responses to “Chapter 11”

  1. # Anonymous Aru

    :D :D !! cant stop grinning .. superb depiction of the "Powder and Body Surface thingie ..:p".. and yess finally the Damn Hot, Wildly arousing , and notoriously controverisal Budding actress part !! Way to go dude !! ...
    One more thing, have u ever wondered that the names of these economical but decorous eat outs in Mumbai sounded so bloody similar .. I mean Gokul,Govind, Ganpat, or Sai Dham, Saidev, Sadanand, Sharda etc etc .. phew !  

  2. # Anonymous Kaustav

    Sandy..stumbled upon ur blog today ..nd wat a find!!...keep up the awsome work...too bad u didnt send me this link earier..  

  3. # Anonymous Sandy


    Hey sorry, I forgot to tell you about this. Please keep visiting. Though I haven't managed to post anything over the past few days, I shall attempt to be more regular in the future.

    Take care  

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