What is about this wonderfully cheap, dirty place called Gokul that draws men like a magnet? The quarter at almost wholesale rate? The spirited air? The tear gas filled interiors? The half chicken tandoori? The dry chicken liver fry? The boiled eggs?
Or is it the comforting fact that when you ask for rum you are served the familiar old fellow and not a bat (white or reserved).
I believe it’s more than that. There’s something about the combination of all of the above that creates a unique mood for conversation. People chatter at Goks. I have seen men sitting alone and talking to a fried Surmai.
The Parsi, the Goan and the Bong were nursing their usual. The conversation was about the yearly turnover of beggars in Mumbai city. The bong had read in the morning rags (he was the only one who read the papers in the group) that it was to the tune of Rs 180 crores (post-tax, of course).
Parsi was quick to jump in as he was wont to. (They hadn’t ever discussed a topic that P did not have a first hand experience or knowledge of). “That’s absolutely realistic” said P. He informed that in 1995 he had done a research among Colaba beggars. He was stopped by G and questioned at the need driving this primary research. It was a result, the group was informed, of a bet with a journo where P was trying to prove his hypothesis that beggars were, well, umm.. poor people.
P lost an evening’s drink at the Press club. His findings showed that (11 years back) the average take in Colaba was Rs 80. What got to P more than losing the bet was that this amount translated into a monthly sum that was half his salary in his coveted advertising job.
The conversation also threw up the fact that the most famous beggar family own a flat in Virar and travel to their respective job locations as most Mumbaites do by the 7:10 Churchgate fast. P was, however, not sure if their dabbas came from home.
Last year, the group was lead to believe, when this famous (yes, famous) beggar retired and went back to his village he sold his spot on the Colaba Causeway for Rs 40,000 to a hawker. Of course, P informed, he would have retained about half of that post deductions by the authorities.
It was just an early elevenish when this round wrapped up. P was rushing to catch the bus for his office trip to Mahabaleshwar. Next week I will educate you on how to open the sealed window of a perfectly engineered AC Volvo.
That too with a bottle opener.