The closest that Bombay came to resembling a ghost town was on January 2 this year.
Three friends and I had decided to meet. B and A were on vacation from their universities abroad. So, it fell upon P and me - the locals - to show the out-of-towners just what they’d been missing.
Our first halt was Hawaiian Shack, an unpretentious, inexpensive nightspot tucked away in a bylane in Bandra. Also one of the few places which played undiluted, ear-numbing Rock, minus the annoying remixes. Naturally, people swarmed the place until there was no room to stand. Why, on a Saturday night, you could pass out cold and still not hit the floor!
‘It’s going to get real crowded’, I warned A and B with the air of a regular.
‘I LIKE THIS PLACE!’, hollered B over Bon Jovi. I gave him a pitying smile and looked at my watch. It was 11 pm. The hour when all differences between the Shack and a peak-hour Virar local cease to exist. But hang on! The floor was uncharacteristically empty. There were empty tables. And the usually harassed looking waitress was actually humming along with Bon Jovi. I hoped A and B were wasted enough to not notice the absence of the promised hordes.
‘Let’s check out this other place,’ P piped up. ‘My company is allowed free entry there.’ We were taking turns to show off. The ‘other place’ was a celebrity hangout with the extremely hep, extremely phoren name, Tres Botas Tapas Y Musica!
‘Is it pronounced Tres Botas or Thray Bota?,’ asked A, not wanting to make a gaffe. But she needn’t have bothered. The place was Tres Empty! Except for two sots at the bar and one bored female dj.
‘Either this place is usually like this or we’re missing one heck of a party somewhere else,’ murmured B. He was less wasted than I expected.
We decided on one last halt before calling it a night. At 80s - The nostalgia bar. Just the setting for old friends. By now, we’d gotten used to walking into near empty watering holes. The manager looked almost grateful when we entered. His smile faltered a little though when P suddenly announced, ‘Soup! I want soup.’ His face fell further when she added, ‘Make it one-by-two.’ But the poor fellow hadn’t a choice. We could have asked the waiters to tap dance on the table and gotten away with it that day.
As we tittered, B pointed out that we’d all met first at a college festival in Madras, exactly 10 years ago! We marvelled at the discovery. There was no ‘how time has flown’, no ‘gosh, we’re getting old’…. Just a thrilling sense of timelessness.
So while Bombay’s die hard party animals recovered from the excesses of year-end jamborees, 4 old friends lived it up that night.