It is amazing what patronage of the local watering hole can provide. Complimentary snacks, the occasional tidbit of gossip, your favorite corner table, unlimited time to ponder the mysteries of the universe while being lubricated with your choice of liquids, aerated or otherwise. All of this in exchange for a few well placed tips and a smile here and there.
Now news filters through of a girl being assaulted in a taxi somewhere in Colaba. The waiters here are of the opinion that the absconding taxi driver was bribed for his silence. Amazingly the view here is that the Mumbai police know who is responsible, and fat bribes have ensured not just their silence, but complete cooperation. That being as it may, it is said of the Mumbai police that it knows in advance the details of most major crimes before they are committed, but are held back by forces not within the democratic process.
Forget all that, lets get back to the famous, or should I say, infamous watering hole, the subject of this post. "Ek taraf uska ghar..ek taraf Maikhana" - Pankaj Udhas' honey sweet voice lingers hauntingly inside my head . It is but the truth. Nowadays, the latest Bollywood tracks play in the background, forcing me to realise two disturbing truths. One, this generation's utter disregard for lyrics of any quality ; Two, the contemporary music director's complete understanding of this phenomenon and compliance with it. So what if the results are the often senseless lyrics that are frowned upon by the so-called connoisseurs of hindi music. This is after all pop culture, and complying with it surely is no crime...or is it?
And I digress yet again. What was intended as a post about the watering hole, has mutated into the kaleidoscopic equivalent of random thoughts pretending to be facts when they are in fact just...er umm...random. This is just the nature of the damn thing, or should I say place. Coming back to the topic, (I promise, no rambling this time ) . There is a clear hierarchy here, as in most such establishments. Let me start from the bottom, there is Gopal, the waiter's assistant. He gets you ice, spoons, tissues, your favourite brand of nicotine, and intermittently cleans your table - all with a smile if you are a regular, and a poker-face if you are not. A 10 rupee tip ensures this smile for eternity. Then there's Manoj, my favourite waiter. If you are a patron, he knows your usual by heart. But will also suggest other 'specials' for your dining pleasure. His special is usually the best dish you would have tasted in ages. So you ask him to bring it, like you ever had a choice anyway, and then he's smiling at you like a co-conspirator of some sort. Come now, lets look for where the buck stops. This is Sudhir, the resident cashier. His links with the local police and government are legendary. He never speaks to customers, and a nod of the head is about as agreeable as he will ever get. The king of the jungle is a faceless entity known only as 'Seth' aka Lucas Shetty. Him being the owner of the place. From a long line of Shetty's, his description fits the stereotypical gold-embellished, ultra-rich Shetty who signs every bodies paycheck. Apparently everyone and his dog here knows Lucas personally, though they may be embellishing on the truth a mite. Enough about him, he is best relegated to the darker side of things.
Of course, there are hundreds of such watering holes in the city, each with nuances that identify them, and yet unite them under the umbrella of their combine. They are all patronised by others, such as myself, and have never felt the need for any publicity or marketing. In fact their very existence depends on their ability to blend with the shadows of Mumbai's gullies, never disturbed by local authorities, unnoticed by the yuppie crowds who swear by the Barrista's and 'happening' lounges and eateries which usually have their own DJ playing the latest UK-Bhangra/underground genre of music...Yes, I detest them, those yuppies and their hangouts. I am paranoid about letting them pollute my watering hole, and will fight them till the very end...for now though... my favourite watering hole shall remain unnamed.