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My Comfort Zones

The weather in Bombay seems to be mirroring the sentiments of the city - or at least part of it. Finally after a day of cloudy dull weather with no wind, today we can see rays of sunlight filtering in. The birds too seem a little more active than yesterday when all they did was sit around and suddenly take flight without a sound, en masse. It was eerie.

With the final official assault over, I guess the task begins to put together pieces of broken lives. Easy to say but so difficult to do.

On a regular weekend with my work done, looking for peace and comfort and relative anonymity, I usually wander off to Colaba. After walking down the crowded causeway with its many hawkers selling impossible and often useless items of brass jute and stones, I end up in Leopold's with a warm smile from the restaurant manager directing me to a small empty table. Having ordered my drink - a huge glass of fruit juice (there is no size except huge available) or a beer, I usually settle down there for an hour or so, read a book or just stare at people/ nothing. No one bothers me, no one ever comes back to ask for a second order. You call the waiters if you want something, a waiter who is usually conveniently hovering around, but not spying. They have their own thoughts. They are fun and polite and often provide snippets of information if they feel you are open to them. There is a general buzz in the air in Leopold's - the constant lazy movement of the fans hanging from the extremely high ceiling of the 1800's architecture, the buzz from the occupied tables, from the pavement and people on it. Because Leopold's opened out to the pavement via large French window kind of doors - never closed. Three pillars demarcated the pavement from the restaurant/ pub call it what you want. It was my comfort zone. The place where I could be part of a milling crowd yet be alone, not bothered, isolated. The Fried beef and onions and the prawns - chinese style were to die-for.

Sometimes instead of heading off in the afternoon, I would go to the Hilton cafetaria or sometimes the bar, and gaze out to the sea though the thin strip of Marine Drive road and loads of trees. Sitting in the air conditioned environment and quiet gentle music everything seemed all right with the world as my freinds and I sat there nibbling on something.

Why am I writing about them today? Because today is the kind of day I feel like going to a Leopold and probably end it with an hour spent in the Hilton bar. But both are out of reach. I was there last week, but I dont know when I will go there again.

When I used to stay in other cities and came to Bombay for short visits, I would always make it a point to go to Leopold's. It was what Bombay meant for me, for as long as I can remember in my adult life. But that is the place where my friend's colleague got hit by a bullet.

The back lane of Taj is known for its famous Bade Miyan and Chote Miyan late night roadside stalls selling the most amazing non veg food, famous due to its hotch potch crowd and being open till early morning, serving hot kathi rolls to whoever came there. Its a corner away from Leopold's, and a favourite place for late night roamers. It was also the first place where I ever saw gaily dressed high profile, rich transvestites in all their glory of evening gowns. Till then they were the normally dressed variety seen in Calcutta, but never a Mercedes driving spangled person I saw eating next to me at Bade Miyan in 1998. There was a fire there earlier this year but they rebounded almost immediately due to popular demand. But now I wonder if business will resume there, and when.

All these comfort places have gone now. I dont know when I can next go there aimlessly and alone. The Trident Hilton, The Taj, its back alleys, the Gateway of India, its polaroid photographers, Leoppolds, the surrounding shops. All so near yet out of reach. At least for today, for this Saturday and perhaps many more.

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
29th Nov, 2008 15:54 (UTC)
I know wat u mean..
It's the sense of violation. Not only the fact that random chance was all that prevented you from choosing to visit Leopolds' on the fateful day, but things would never be the same. You might as well have come home one day to find the place ransacked- a total violation of an intimate personal space.

Each time I go to Delhi, I make it a point to ride on the Metro, and take pride in having such a fine modern transport system. I also love strolling around CP in winter, or visiting the malls in Gurgaon, one of which is down the road from my house.
And each time I pray that nothing untoward happens, that the existing security measures are sufficient and we don't hear of bombs or similar attacks going off in these places.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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Regurgitations of my mind. Specific, Vague, Memorable, Forgettable, Thoughtless, In-depth.

More variegated than your dreams or colours off a crystal. More than I can pen down. What I can, you can read.

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