Lindsay Pereira: Reclaiming the night for ourselves
Bombay will soon be liberated, apparently, and live up to its reputation as a city that never sleeps. This is supposed to happen because restaurants may soon be allowed to stay open all night. Shoppers may soon be able to window shop at malls until daybreak too, while cinema halls may be allowed to show awful films to those desperate enough to give up sleep in order to watch Akshay Kumar sleepwalk his way through another slap in the face of good cinema.
None of this will actually happen for a while, of course. There have been talks for years, because the government of Maharashtra has always been enthusiastic about talking, more than it has ever been interested in actually doing something. And naturally, political parties are rushing to take credit for the fact that these so-called ‘24-hour entertainment-zones’ will come into being because of their initiative, and because their intelligent leaders have dreamed of a day when Bombayites can eat a meal at 3 am instead of 1.
Mumbaikars celebrate at Juhu Beach as they bring in the new year — one of the rare occasions when the beach is open late night. File pic for representation
Bars and pubs, including those in two and three-star hotels, are currently allowed to stay open until 1.30 am, while restaurants have to shut by 12.30 am. Cafes in four and five-star hotels can supposedly serve liquor until 3.30 am though, because rich people are obviously not a threat to peace and quiet the way poorer people presumably are. Naturally, because the people managing this city mysteriously end up being rich within a few years of becoming politicians, they can eat or drink whenever they feel like it, irrespective of the hour. This may explain why they haven’t gotten around to amending that rule for the rest of us salaried folk.
The government says it wants to do this in order to increase tourism, revenue and jobs, but without inconveniencing residents. This is what amuses me enormously because, if there is one thing the government of Maharashtra does better than any organisation on Earth, it is inconveniencing residents. Nothing it offers us — from birth certificates to public health, driving licences to tax payments — ever comes without inconvenience. When was the last time you ever got from Point A to Point B in this city without any inconvenience?
As for increasing tourism, you can gauge how interested it is in doing this by taking a trip to the Elephanta Caves anytime you feel like. It is supposedly a World Heritage Site, which means its caretakers are paid a little extra to make sure it’s going to be around for at least the next couple of generations. And yet, as any trip on any weekend will show you, it is maintained in much the same way as your local park currently is. There is trash everywhere, the caretakers care about you and your comfort as much as Salman Khan cares about making a film with a plot, and may God have mercy on you if you happen to be a woman in need of a clean toilet.
This sounds like a great plan on paper, obviously. Let people have a life after 1 am, then take credit for it in the hope that they are stupid enough to vote for you in exchange for your largesse. The fact is, we live in a city governed by people who don’t care about us, our needs or desires, unless they happen to coincide with their desire for earning some revenue. It will be no accident if eating establishments granted permission to stay open all night are found to be magically connected to people associated with the political class.
Getting a licence to open a restaurant in this city is a nightmare, as anyone running one will tell you if you care to listen. There are bribes to be given at every step, long after you are granted permission to open your doors. Serving alcohol is not without its own hassles, as any bar or pub owner will inform you. And as for the security of citizens, please try walking into any police station and filing a simple FIR without a fuss.
If Bombay’s eating establishments are allowed to stay open, there will be millions of people who will benefit, of course. If these entertainment zones are ever a success though, it will be entirely because of the hard-working people of this city who create genuine success stories. None of the credit will go to politicians because, as every sane man, woman and child in Bombay knows, the only people they have ever helped are themselves.
When he isn’t ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira
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