Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mumbai Mein Har Ghar Kuch Jyada Hi Kehtha Hain

The Bandra lady was very sweet. Her flat was in a building that seemed to be in the running for heritage status. The Guard doubled as the liftman and we learnt that the “oc” of the entire building was yet to come. The lady took us around her 30 second flat and informed us how it was once possible to see the highway out of the “master” bedroom window. The price-Rs 1.35 Crores.

I began to understand the thinking of a dear friend who I thought had lost his nuts when I learnt he had paid well over a million dollars for a place in Parel.

I decided then that all I could possibly hope for is a rental place. And the hunt began again. Bandra, the first choice, seemed to have rediscovered its own value. Any decent place is at a 80k package. The longer it takes you to get to a place in Bandra from Linking road, higher the rent.

I was in Delhi for a pal’s daughter’s first and their three bedroom sprawling flat in GK2 with a Olive-like patio was all of 25k pm!

Mumbai has really gone crazy.

Another close friend who booked a flat in Mahalakshmi 4 years back has seen the value of her flat move from 50 lakhs to 2.5 crores!! And here I was spending hours every day analyzing the fundamentals of Bharti Airtlel, Infosys and RIL.

Yet another of my many friends was down from Singapore and took a day trip to Nagpur to buy land. In Nagpur! He informs me DLF has reached there too.

I am seriously thinking of investigating the US sub-prime crisis and see if I can pick up something in Manhattan.

Will be cheaper than Khargar, me-thinks.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Almost Bees Saal Baad

Today, the venerable Times of India informed us that we are the world. I am still figuring out the implications of that. Its brother, who is in business, gave us seven headlines, all permutations of 20-20. A hot FM station changed its nicely brand aligned promo from giving away Rs 10400 to Rs 20000. And I am looking forward in eager anticipation to all the eye care advertisements that will hit us soon.

The match was a cracker. A 20+20 Khan was doing a Michael Jackson impersonation while a 20+ team showed us how to beat it. Between biting my nails, gulping my beer, smoking my cigarette my mind wandered to the four musketeers whose cumulative age of 8X20 must have been weighing down their thoughts.

Amidst all this, a man from Jharkhand inspired his team to play without fear, made calls that were inspired without knowing so, and finally took off his shirt sans the helicopter act. Almost bees saal pehle, when I was 20 minus, a Nikhanj had inspired us from a famous balcony and taught us to “enjoy”. A braver brighter generation received its clarion call last evening.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Peking Ducks and London Smokes

The cabbie transporting me from Heathrow to St James Street offered me his Statue of Liberty Zippo and asked me if I knew where the name Cheswick was derived from. I had been pestering him with all kinds of questions (is it truly no-smoking all over, do you like Jose Mourinho, how long have u been driving etc) and Cheswick was the nice suburb we were passing at the moment. I was duly silenced as he explained how “wick” is an old English word for market. Cheswick, hence, was the cheese market. Gatwick should be easy for you intelligent reader. And the wicker basket makes so much sense now.

I had a series of meetings (read interviews-the British are so polite) with some very intelligent people and needed to smoke in between. The only choice was to walk up and down a definitely chilly street, passing similar sad souls. I did. On my way out to the hotel to check out I noticed the Chequers Tavern right next door. And praise be the lord, there was a bench with a solitary occupant who had a Guiness in one hand AND a cigarette in the other. I soon joined him and smoked nearly half a pack in 30 minutes.

The flight back was cold-turkey free. The Duck, however happened as my dear psychiatrist pal and wife were passing though Mumbai on their way to Tanganyika. Or was it Tanzania. We met up at the Taj Land’s End, downed a few single malts and frozen M’s. And made our way to the marvelous Chinese restaurant. We ordered the P Duck as we walked in. And added some ribs as starters and a crab to ensure we didn’t go hungry.

Waltzed in the ribs which we ate with gusto and plum sauce. Then came a basket (plain vanilla, not wicker) full of thin pancakes accompanied by a plate of sliced veggies and a plate of yummy brown looking thin slices of duck. We ate silently and purposefully. We were wondering if we had overdone the crabs.

The plates were cleared, I lit a smoke. Then the waiter asked if he should get the soup. Soup!! We hadn’t ordered soup. I was about to pick a fight, when it was explained to us that all we had till then was duck skin. This was followed by duck soup and then the main course of duck meat arrived! Phew..and let’s not even talk about the crustacean.

Fellow eaters, if you ever order Peking duck just order a glass of water to go with it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Met Life?

I started my career as a salesman whose territory was “rural” Maharashtra. Essentially meant anything beyond Thane was part of my kingdom. Annexed from the larger Mumbai land, whose rulers had little time to look into the affairs of Nagpur, Nasik and the likes. As happens when you have no expectations any performance seems spectacular and I was scintillating. As a reward for my toils, and they were toils, the fabled land of Goa was handed over to me.

Which meant I could officially fly to Goa. Whenever I wanted. That was the good news. I had inherited a dealer whose last year sales was 4 printers. Annual sales. (We used to sell Panasonic dot matrix printers and HP laser printers) My Bombay sales genes were stirred. How could someone possibly sell just 4 printers. Even Aurangabad had managed 20.

I learnt that the only flight landed in Goa at 2:15 pm or something. So the zealous sales person took an overnight bus. Bad idea. When I got off at Panjim, I could barely walk. I needed food. I needed water. I needed sleep. It was 9 am and I stumbled into the first hotel that I could spot. I sat, grabbed a waiter and ordered an omelet and toast. The waiter stared for a while and then walked away. I gulped down a glass of water and then looked around. There were four solitary men at four lonely tables, all with an open pint, a glass and a happy expression.

I walked over to the Mandovi, registered and fell asleep. Got up at 1 pm, feeling guilty as hell. Called my dealer, No response. Got ready, forfeited lunch and rushed to the dealer’s shop. Felt a little like it was a bandh day, most shops seemed shut except the booze joints. Reached to find my dealer’s shutters down. These were the days of no-mobile. Called him from a PCO and soon had a very sleepy man meet me outside his shop. I had encountered siesta.

That first day, despite the Agudas and beaches and prawns that were to follow, remains my most memorable memory of Goa.

I think it was the day I met life.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

All That Jazz By The Bar

When I walked in that Thursday night, it seemed a bit under par in headcount. I wasn’t complaining as I attached myself to the bar. The draught glass appeared. I took a gulp and looked around.

Next to me were two tallish specimens. One a bit rakish. The other a bit fattish. Both a bit loud. Draught beer and vodka tonic and not their first. I slowly swiveled the other way. A really button popping specimen cradling a whisky water smiled at me. My nightmare. I can’t remember names. He looked familiar and effusively greeted me with “Long time, no see”. I murmured the usual “How u doing, boss”. This looked like a one draught night for me.

The music could have been better. “You are my hero”, sung as if it was a lead in an Opera version of “Night of the Long Knives” at 11 pm after a day of no ideas for a brand presentation at 1030 am the next day, wasn’t helping. Needed some comforting and numbing. Just as I was about to give up on the night, things, as they are wont to, looked up.

She was alone and in a red spaghetti. And she choose to settle down at the bar next to the draught beer and vodka tonic. The whisky water next to me perked up as if he had a ruler shoved up his shirt back. Waiter A looked pleased as plum.

Fatty with Vodka suddenly realized that life had a new purpose. The Rake had been informed, who was soon checking out Red Spaghetti in an obviously obvious manner. This was not going down too well with button popper to my left, who was trying to pierce the Rake with his deadly glare. I think the whisky had dulled the usual sharpness of his killer laser eyes.

Soon, Rake and Fatty started behaving themselves. That is they starting acting like men. Desmond, old fellow, could have added an entire chapter to his book. Soon, in even louder voices, the best single malts were being enquired about. Water A’s smile grew wider. I think they stopped short of Blue Label. Having spent a grand on thin slices of peat smoked Scottish water, courage was soaring.

Then, Spaghetti asked for the bill. Ooops! But the Rake wasn’t giving up. A conversation between Waiter A and Rake ensued at the end of the bar. Outcome: A came and informed Red that Rake had paid her bill. She was a bit flustered but recovered admirably. She accepted graciously, smiled at the Rake warmly, spoke a few words, picked up her handbag and left!

Rake and Fatty started an animated discussion about the single malt bill, Button Popper was grinning as if Red had agreed to meet him after closing hours, Waiter A was still smiling. I asked for another and retuned my ears to the dulcet charms of the female Pavarotti.

Another day in Mumbai was downing shutters.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Tata, Sky?

The first thing I do when I get up every morning is to open the sliding windows of my living room and take in the breathtaking view of the sea. This Sunday as I lazily swiveled my head my eyes brushed over the tree tops and came to a jarring halt on two discs staring at me.

I was transported back to early childhood when, thanks to a soccer world cup, the television set finally entered our living room. My life changed and has never ever been the same again. With Chitrahaar came the perennial running up to the roof and tweaking the multi-spoke antenna. Arre, ektu edike ghora..bas na abar snow aasche..ulto dike ghora.

Every rooftop had number of these objects and soon the sky was trapped in a mesh of wires and aluminum rods. Which soon got covered with pigeon shit and other such allied substances.I was the happiest when the cable man made his appearance. The antennas disappeared and though there where thick cables strung across, the sky was blue again.

I am dreading the thought that DTH will win and we will be left with a saucerful of sky to look at.