December in Mumbai, nip in the air. Old friends come to town. Nostalgia, NH highways loom temptingly. Maybe a drive to Lonavala. Like we did in our youth.
I call my buddies, “I’ll pick you all up, it’s a Sunday.” My journey begins in Colaba. My smile fades. Nakabandi. Rusted yellow barriers, ominously titled ‘UMBAI POLIC’. No money for a re-paint.
Three overweight policemen, on red Modella chairs, sunning themselves.
“Nakabandi yahan kyun?” I ask jocularly.
The humourless Khakhi Klan point to the Arabian ocean.
“Kya saab, serious maamla, yahan se Kasab aur doosre terrorists aaye the.”
I think, “Ya right, Einsteins, another dinghy is likely to appear from the same spot as it did on 26/11.”
I look ahead. Another annoying jam at Mantralaya.
A khadhi-clad politico with kohl-laden, corrupt eyes informs me, “VIP movement.”
I wait while 15 white Ambassadors with red lights and revolving fans, and plainclothes personnel, sporting machine guns from World War 2, wave all other cars to move aside.
I make it past this impediment, joy, joy, happiness, I’m free. I fly down Marine Drive, chalo some predictable traffic at Babulnath Temple. Mothers-in-law praying for sons. I encounter a car build up at Peddar Road. A smashed up Aston Martin. Some rich kid hit some other cars and the driver sped away in an SUV.
The sea link, yeahhhh. Bandra here I come. I take the Lilavati turn. It's Friday, The day Salman Khan appears on his terrace baring his chest while hundreds wait. Idiots, the guy is on Koffee With Karan tonight. So who are you expecting to see? Malaika Arora Khan doing her Zandu balm item number. Visions of a waterfalled Lonavala are fast fading as I reach Mt Carmel Church.
Chalo guys, this is not happening. U-turn back to town. I get off the sea link, you save seven minutes, what’s the point. Atria Mall. Bumper to bumper. Sachin Tendulkar has come to check some Canon lenses in the showroom. NDTV, Times Now, ETV Orissa have parked their vans in the middle of the road to get a little view of the Little Master. We make it through, get to Taraporewala Aquarium, I’m home, surely. Surely. No way. Marriage season. Hindu Gymkhana.
Islam Gymkhana. Cricket matches played in the day, match making in the night.
Three-lane traffic reduced to one.
Shaadi.com zindabad, crores spent, the marriage may last one year, who cares, dikhaawa is everything.
Hindu Gymkhana has a Hindi film set, like from a Manmohan Desai film. Huge lotuses on the mandap, large buxom mermaids flanking them. Islam Gymkhana transformed into Atlas Circus meets Apollo 13.
I make it back to Colaba.
Nakabandi outside my home.
I ask the police inspector, “Now who are you trying to catch?”
He says, “Sir, a US diplomat has run away from Delhi. He may be hiding somewhere here.”
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.