Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bandra : Unplugged

The following piece won a prize and has appeared in the Celebrate Bandra Souvenir for the Bandra Festival in Nov'09. Some would surely find echoes of a past post, but in these days of Pritam-da's music, everything is "inspired".
Some find their Bandra in the rarefied, testosterone rich air of swank Gold’s Gym, where personal trainer sculpted bodies of celebrities rub shoulders with overweight wives of diamond merchants, huffing and puffing on the spinning machines. Where fitness is more of a fashion statement, liberally spiced with giggles, whispers and some overt attempt at catching the target’s eye, rather than just a boring work-out. Where every casual hello between strangers is laden with the unspoken promise for at least a coffee at Gloria Jeans, maybe a drink at Firangi Paani and a definite attempt at something more. After all, Bandra is as close to NY as we can get, right?
For some, Bandra is in the salwar kameez-ed, t-shirt-ed drove which descends on Almeida Park every Sunday afternoon. The small shy groups which turn bolder as time passes. Where the lucky maid always finds the romantic driver to run away with over a shared plate of sev puri. Where street sharp slum children always find some new rich kid to bully near the broken swings and slides. Where tired horses keep going around in circles to feed their owners. Where the street lights coming on in the evening leads to a collective sigh as participants in this strange courtship ritual resign themselves to another week of back-breaking work.
Some find their Bandra in the quaint little one-story bungalow sandwiched between glitzy glass facades of brand-new buildings on Turner Road. The one with the crumbling side wall, lingering smell of Goa sausages, the overgrown hedge and the scrupulously clean wooden cross at the corner. Where the old lady of the house wearing her faded burgundy dress walks haltingly, while the shaggy brown dog pulls at the frayed leash out of habit. Where the perpetually out-of-work son dozes on the front porch to cure last night’s hangover right next to the overflowing ashtray, his dreams rich with surreal promise of the next high.
For some, Bandra is as simple as finding the next place to park their car as they negotiate the small bye-lanes full of Honda Civics and Skoda Lauras. The monsoons bring their own flavour to this game, ensuring a slushy pitch where daily battles can be fought between paani-puri vendors, unconcerned cows, the neighbourhood druggie looking for a dry place and countless four wheel drives, breeding like cockroaches. The result is as always, a tense stalemate.
Some find their Bandra in that short stretch where the paved Carter Road promenade suddenly descends into the squalor of the koli fishing village. Where the stink of drying fish and unwashed bodies replaces the aroma of coffee and expensive anti-perspirants in an instant. Where similar groups of well-dressed teenagers hang out, mindlessly puffing their Davidoffs while wearing the same vacant expressions as the world walks past them. Where the weekend jogger juggling the IPod, IPhone and the Blackberry stops abruptly and hurriedly turns around maybe in fear of crossing that unseen line into the unknown.
For some, Bandra is the multitude crossing the Lucky signal, always running for the next Borivili or Virar local as they unconsciously try to flee the queen of the suburbs. Some glance at the kababs on display with barely concealed hunger. Others wonder at the utter futility of the spanking new Skywalk supposedly being built for their benefit. Most concentrate on simply avoiding getting run-over by irate drivers, desperate to reach home as the maximum city runs its daily instalment of the north-south marathon. Maybe some of them run after having glimpsed the rotting core underneath the flashy wrapper of Bandra. Or maybe they have other dreams to chase while nightmares chase them in turn.
Some rebel at Bandra in their own way, when their screeching bike tyres meet the burning road on a Friday night. The tattoos, the studs, the leather jackets all tell their own story. The story of the unaccountable rage, the steadfast refusal to be pigeon-holed, the failure to comprehend and to be understood. Maybe their only solace is writing “Knights Rulz” and “Kings Sux” in big bold red letters on school buildings as they create their own version of Harlem in their minds. Or maybe its just too boring to write “Bean Bags 2640 7383” over and over again.
So where is your Bandra tonight?
Is there any other place you would rather be?
I know … not really, dude.