Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Spirit of Mumbai – Part II (The Sea)

The sea
(Photos coming soon....)
Hari still remembers distinctly, that day imbibed so strongly in his memories, rather, that evening though he would go to any extent to jettison these sweet recollections. Not because he was afraid or because the nostalgia inflicted pain; he had buried it long back and had moved on, but…but that very evening was something else, it was an oddity in his erstwhile colourless life.

Hari gets high very easily and every time we are on Marine Drive after a session with the bottle bundled with head banging at the ‘Jazz By the Bay’, it requires very less prodding, provoking and nagging to get that detailed technicolor story out of Hari; the story that still gives him that tingling feeling, still brings forth the sweat of nervousness though today he stands to be the
Best Regards,
Manager, Marketing…
of one of the most competitive firms.

Almost after a decade, 10 years post that evening, down with a couple of pegs of ‘Royal Stag’ and elevated by the flashback I had managed to provoked, I hear the same experience yet all over again – alcohol can work wonders
‘Kaun kambakht gum bhoolane ke liye peeta hai,
hum to peete hain ke nashe me kahin unka deedar hi ho jaaye'

I know all of it much before he starts but his recollections are fun!! He blurts "Saala sab badal gaya hai, every f**king thing has changed. You remember what paploos, pyjama chhaps we were during college days – Shakal ke bhooke, akkal ke bhooke, har cheez ke bhooke (This was a dialogue from Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, one of our favorite movies)".

I act pissed off and say "Lukkhe, tereko chhad gayi, you are drunk; what I am asking and what you are saying. If you can’t take it, why do you drink?"

"Lukkha tera baap!", he retorts, hicks "Yes, I am coming to your point you jerk, you get enjoyment out of it, isn’t it? No she’s not in touch, why should she be? Why should she call? Rachu and I parted almost 9 years back, how time passes". Her name was Rachna. "Arre, you toh know, we were together only for about a year. Saala, I know what you want to hear, you dumb fucker! I really don’t know how I managed it or how Sandy managed it, but thanks to you guys yaar for all you did for me". Sandy had fixed up the dreaded romantic date between the two. These two, Hari and Rachna were no match, Violet and Red, the two extremes of the rainbow who needed all the yellows and oranges and indigo to bring them together.

Rachna, a pakka tomboy, verily insouciant, wore shorts, wore bathroom slippers to college, smoked filter less Charminaars – don’t get them here, in the US of white skinned Arses, she wrote to us; she’s settled there now with her husband (I feel like a lesbian with this jerk yaar, she wrote after she got there) and is the mother of 2 brown kids (my kids friends ogle at them as if they were 2 brown chicks in a storks nest, the jerks, she wrote).
Hari was the boring intellectual, not your regular kitaabi keeda, but born with that irritating intelligence, that know all ability, who knew why gravity existed, why India should go nuclear, why water had 2 molecules of hydrogen and 1 of oxygen and why and how the molecules mated. However, matters didn’t rest there; the guy had a heart too!! And it palpitated for Rachna!! Well, that’s enough of a descriptive, let’s not get into the pre-event and cut to the scene…

"We were sitting there, arre where is Marine Plaza, there it is, we were sitting there", he pointed. "The Queens face was lost somewhere in the darkness of the sea, Rachu and I became a part of her body, two small negligible moles on her neck. All that shone in the darkness of the night and in the brightness of the moonlight was the Queens necklace, a pride that the she, Mumbai adorned every single night. Rachu was wearing light blue jeans, torn at the knee on one leg, the cloth in shreds at her heels, she was wearing one of those green and white Action sports shoes. She had on her a plain white linen T-shirt with a little ship sailing across her stomach. Like the wind-cock, her unkempt hair swayed and showed the direction of the wind. She looked pretty yaar, very pretty!!"
I could see it in his eyes that he was already there; sailing on Rachu’s little ship, far away on the waves of that evening of his erstwhile boring life. His gaze was transfixed at the horizon, at the twinkling ships in the distance but he wasn’t looking.
He resumed with a contorted face, "Saala sa badal gaya hai. This marketing job has changed me. Today I use and abuse my clients, my team, my wife, my kids; but that day….that day I was nearly shitting in my pants out of fear and nervousness. I felt like disappearing somehow and relieving myself somewhere hidden between the tetra pads."
"Ya, and plunge into the sea to wash your arse, right", I interrupted.
"Chhup be ch**ye", he jabbed and then "Saayng" his shouted breaking the reverie, startling me. "Ka ho, kaisan ba", he mocked the young bhaiya "Do paach ka de". The chap made two small long conical jokers hats and filled them with handful of groundnuts baked in the sand. "Saala sab badal gaya hai! Earlier, we used to get this quantity in 1 Re, now the bugger charges 5", he said. Not satisfied with the groundnuts, he made that disrespectful longish sound which is the trademark of every Mumbaikar, "Pooonch", as if calling a dog. "Want some coffee??" he asked as I removed my pack of cigarettes offering him one. It was 2 in the night and the place was swarming with activity as if this was the last living day on earth. Another bhaiyaji had responded to his call and as he brought his cycle closer to us, Hari said "Chotte do coffee bana, tabiyat se banana". This chotte happened to be a fully grown man (WARNING: Alcohol gives you an impaired vision) who had at the least put 40 years behind him, wearing a lungi and a baniyan and an unshaven chin. The bhaiyaji didn’t react, put his cycle on it’s stand, poured milk from the small steel container balanced and tied down to his carrier into two tiny plastic cups without handles, coffee powder already being present in the cups.

When the bhaiyaji was gone, he continued "I didn’t know what to say, twitching and being tormented by myself, by her, by the whole world; I didn’t have the courage to glance at her, I was sweating like hell. The only thing that held me in place was the calmness of the sea, it's waves waving and ensuring that this feeling, this absurd feeling was just normal!! Rachu was as indifferent as always, in fact she was the one who broke the ice, she said "Bol" and I quivered "Kya bolu" and she said "Mind if I smoke" and I wanted to say "Please don’t" but ended up saying "Yes" and she said "So mind!!" and coolly brought out her pack of Charminars….saali adiyal!!". "Yaar, why do you drink Royal Stag, bloody chaprasi, you should drink single malt, it’s….."

Where did Royal Stag and single malt come from?? Well, what happened later, I know and you don’t need to; but Hari says when he finally managed to pop the question, it started to RAIN!!

But then, this isn’t just the story of Hari and Rachna, the sea reverberates similar tales of the thousands of love hungry, high on testosterone couples, the righteous rebels of the city, the keepers of faith in that word called ‘LOVE’. The euphoric dance of the sea, the symphonic orchestration of the waves lends them an outlet to emote, to sing their songs without fear, gives them that inexplicable strength in the heart, coaxing them, cajoling them to keep the romance alive at least at that tender, confusing and insouciant age of helplessness. The quite and secretive exchange of the waves and the stars at the horizon, the gentle breeze, the glancing into nothingness infuses that tingling happy feeling deep in the pit of the stomach. The sea has witnessed the swaying of lovingly held hands, many a promises made, many vows broken, many a tear drop being shed on its wet face.

Be it the open stage of the Marine Drive or the Worli sea face, or the hideous rocks of Bandstand, Mumbai’s sea has cuddled and sang lullabies to the city’s love birds, lust birds. It has seen them kissing and hugging even on the hottest summer afternoon and it has seen them deceitfully compromising under one umbrella, soaked and shivering in the silvery wet torrents of the skies. Mumbai’s sea has gleamed at the row of couples sitting only a few feet apart, oblivious to and unperturbed by worldly worries. It has felt shame when the unending game of the eyes and heart, the reverie being broken unceremoniously by the frightening chorus of “Eh Raju, dus rupya de re, teri shaadi ho, bache ho…..” from the chakkas or the disturbing “ Saheb bhookh lagi hai, paanch rupya do babu, wada paav khaana hai” from the numerous beggars or the bullying “Chala chala nighaa, ghari jaa…eh kya karta hai idhar, andar daalu kya, baap ko bolu kya” from the mamas.

And the sea, the Arabian Sea isn’t a relief only for the couples; Mumbai belongs to the sea and the sea belongs to Mumbai; and why not?? It is the sea that brought the city to existence. The present day city was built on what was originally an archipelago of seven islands of Bombay Island, Parel, Mazagaon, Mahim, Colaba, Worli, and Old Woman's Island (also known as Little Colaba). The islands were coalesced into a single landmass by the Hornby Vellard engineering project in 1784. By 1000 BCE, the region was heavily involved in seaborne commerce with Egypt and Persia (Source: Wikipedia). The Gateway of India, erected to commemorate the landing on the Apollo Bunder of their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary when they visited India in 1911 and overlooking the sea, the Taj Hotel are the city’s biggest tourist attractions. The city boasts of a mosque and durgah in the middle of its sea, Haji Ali, off the coast of Worli. A ferry ride on the sea from Gateway takes you to a getaway, Mandwa, Alibaug, made famous by Amitabh Bachan as Vijay Dinnanath Chauhanpura naam, haaain – in the movie Agneepath

The Kolis were the first inhabitants of this island. The sea is worshipped during Nariyal Purnima. On this day, an offering of a coconut (naral in Marathi) is made to the sea, as a mark of respect to Lord Varuna, the God of the Sea. Narali Purnima marks the beginning of the fishing season and the fishermen, who depend on the sea for a living, make an offering to Lord Varuna so that they can reap bountiful fish from the sea.
            You should see the sea come alive to the cutest of all Gods, Lord Ganesha during visarjan time - thousands of happy and dancing devotees, raths, taals and dholaks, nasik band, shlokas, mantras and the sweet aartis, the pinkish orangish gulaal floating in the air everywhere, colourful faces, no religion, no differences, the huge huge idols of the Lord -  as we bid farewell to the Lord and the sea carries his home, only to return the next year with more pomp and celebration.


Sipping on hot coffee from the mobile coffee wallahs, slurping on kulfis or faloodas, taking turns to sink your teeth into the charcoal cooked, mirchi laden makka (corn) – “bhaiya thoda aur nimbu lagaana”, eating hot bhajiyas and pakodas, or satiating on chana jor garams or teekha bhels or simply sipping on coconut water by the sea and guffawing with your college pals or having some rubbish thoughtful intellectual life talks or just walking hand in hand, swearing, making jeene marne ki kasme or just taking that boat ride to change your point of view, our sea is our pride, our glory.

We may not religiously pay a visit to the sea everyday, but there would not be a single Mumbaikar who hasn’t had the pleasure of having a rendezvous with the creator of this city.
Well, by the way, Hari swore that he wasn’t aroused when the two of them were soaked, "true love" he said, but Rachna’s version claimed that he couldn’t get his eyes off…...!! That year, the lagaan guys didn’t call the rains, Hari did!!

Places in Mumbai where you get a glimpse of the sea:
  • Gateway of India, Apollo Bunder
  • Marine Drive
  • Worli sea face
  • Bandstand, Bandra
  • Juhu Beach
  • Girgaum Chowpatti
  • Haji Ali
  • Gorai Beach
  • Arnala Beach
  • Aksa Beach
  • Versova
  • Madh Island
  • Manori Beach
  • Marve Beach
  • Sewri Jetty

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