My love-hate relationship with Mumbai which was bordering on hate a while ago has been changing towards the love side of late. The hate bit had been triggered off by a house hunting spree. Visions of finding a tiny little nook where we could see trees and perhaps a bit of the sea if we looked out and curly-haired kids playing in the park if we looked down was rapidly replaced by the grim reality. If such places indeed existed in Bombay, we would also have to add visions of both of us starving to death and clinging onto our jobs in order to pay the steep EMIs. The only part of that visual that was true was the bit about the ‘tiny nook’. Houses in Mumbai can be so tiny that they end even before you can step into them properly.
Anyway, after coming to terms with the fact that we probably won’t own a house here and that we should be lucky to be able to rent in a decent place, life has been much better. This has also meant that we are free to do non-house-hunting stuff in the weekends.
It started with a trip to Muhammed Ali road during the Ramzan period. I discovered the world’s best Phirni in Suleiman Mithaiwala’s wonderful sweet shop. It had just the right balance of milk and sugar and a gentle sprinkling of dry fruits, all of which made one mouth watering spoon after the next. The festival season ended with a walk among the Chowpatty crowds dipping their Ganeshas into the sea and having a jolly good time of it.
In between this, came the trip to Lakme Fashion Week. Three times now, courtesy a friend who works in the right place, we have been gawking at minor celebrities and well shod and well clothed people. Suddenly you feel like you are in touch, however barely and briefly, with the Page 3 stardust that most of Mumbai breathes every morning, and experience a cheap thrill from knowing that you can never experience this in any other city. After all, spotting a Deepika Padukone is not the same as spotting, say, a Malini Ramani.
The biggest discovery has however been the concerts at NCPA. I have never been a music person and apart from avidly putting together a collection of Kishore Kumar songs over the years, have not developed any kind of taste whatsoever. Yet, having NCPA so handy, it seemed almost a sin not to experiment a bit.
First stop was at a jazz concert by Joshua Redman. Was it mindblowing! It did not matter that the music and tunes were totally unknown. For a good hour and half, I sat engrossed and mentally decided to attend more jazz concerts.
That successful outing lead to grabbing an offer to accompany a friend to the SOI concert of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music. Said friend ditched at the last minute and I found myself seated with D right in the front row. As it turned out, the performance was middling and by half time I was quite fidgety. Which is not a good thing, when you are in the very first row. One feels the pressure to show mild interest, if not rapt attention.
I was quite worried about how the next performance – the Opera – would go.
D and I had attended a free session on ‘discovering the Opera’ at Crosswords. The audience had largely comprised hundred year olds. This was not encouraging. Even worse was the poster of Tosca that showed a sixty year old man with his face buried in the generous bosom of a fifty year old woman. Surely, this could not be the lead pair, which going by the story of Tosca should have been in their early twenties. Despite these misgivings (and the warnings of the above friend that opera is just people wailing iiiiiiiiiiii and eeeeeeeeee all the time), I was still keen to go. After all, it is a word you have heard so often and associated with elegance and grace and fluttering fans and so on. If it was going to be played in the neighbourhood, I was definitely not going to miss it.
As it turned out, I quite enjoyed myself. Firstly, there were sub titles running on top of the stage. So one could catch the witty dialogues and the light jokes. Secondly, the performers were pretty good. They were clearly forty year olds (thank god, not sixty year olds) playing twenty year olds. But for someone used to pretending that the likes of Sivaji Ganesan, Rajini, Kamal, Dilip Kumar and Sanjay Dutt are twenty-year olds, this leap of imagination was not too tough. And finally the music was very very good. There is a good reason for these compositions to have been popular and the occasional goose pimples explained why.
In the midst of the culture overload, we watched the Marx Brother’s completely irreverent Duck Soup. I totally love that Shemaroo stocks all these movies and delivers them at my doorstep.
And, so I am beginning to see that the glass is half full and contains quite a heady cocktail.
Now if only there was a roof under which to down the cocktail…