Bombay Chronicles – The Yezdani experience, the heat and Leopold

It was another day, a Monday to be precise and we were in no hurry to get anywhere.. The early riser in me woke up Bhim and we set off on the bike to Mahalaxmi Race Course at 6 am for a run.

It was beautiful running there I tell you.. The people had a vibe of their own, the energy, with all walks of life.. From the seasoned runners to fit runners over 55+, to the young couple to the older couples and an entire batch of people taking their yoga mats to the open grass for a class.

The sun was slowly showing itself and we could feel the breeze, the air as we crossed people. The race course route was a nice 2 km course so one could do a good number of rounds.

Once we were done with our stretches post run we decided to check out the foot masseuse there. Yup for 20 minutes and 100 Rs you could get foot massages and it was offered by visually challenged people.

It was early morning and there was only one guy at that time, ‘Khan’ and I immediately felt like calling him Khansaab!  A young chap with a perpetual smile, he commented on Bhim’s foot saying Aap to bade lambe honge(You must be very tall) and Bhim smiled and said only 6’3 🙂

In between our turns we saw a loud Martial Art instructor gabbing about random things to the masseuse and I saw that a lot of regulars already telling Khansaab about them wanting the massage in 20 minutes or half an hour. I wondered as to how much Khaansaab knew about their lives.. From stockbrokers to industrialists, from show offs to the quiet ones, he observed life and seemed happy at what he got, as it is..

Then Khaansaab egged the Martial Art instructor to show his ‘walking on hands’ stunt, and he was more than happy to oblige as he walked on hands like a performance and we all clapped! He later said out loud as to how most of them were running wrong, there was a technique to it. We quietly nodded, thanked Khansaab and went back home.

It was a good start  to the day and we were wondering what to do because we would be meeting Pankaj for lunch so we decided to check out some Irani joints for a veg puff or biscuits. We were not in the mood for a heavy breakfast and it would be better to hang around Kala Ghoda area till we met Pankaj. I also wanted to explore Colaba Causeway for good bargain hunting and shopping.

To be honest, am not a retail shopper but once in a while the woman in me wants to look out for good eclectic stuff and Seema a dear friend who is from Bombay and moved to Hyderabad recently suggested this place and believe me if a mumbaikar suggests something you listen!

Now one IMPORTANT thing here, we completely underestimated the humidity and heat of Bombay! Totally! Until then we didn’t realize that October is the hottest month in the city and it didn’t matter whether Pankaj told it or anyone else, we chose to believe like Naaa, how hot can it be?? Especially where I come from where temperatures touch 40+ degrees during summer, I was like well this will be a piece of cake!

So off we went to Yazdani bakery and cafe in Fort Area. A derelict old cafe, like an institution where you could see only people working in that area hanging out. So old that I felt the walls are gonna come right off!

It was an awesome old place alright but the heat was killing us and the man not switching on the only freaking fan there! We ordered an egg puff and Bun Maska. And something hilarious happened. We were still hungry so Bhim saw something on the chalk board, ‘Olive bread with butter’ that looked kinda different so right away he got one and I ordered a veg puff.

The shocker was when that chap brought the so called Olive Bread it happened to be nothing but another Bun Maska! We were like why call it Olive Bread with butter man?? I guffawed loud with laughter at Bhim’s faux pas and right then came Karma to bite my ass! A gigantic Vegetable Puff! It was monstrous!! I remember Bhim laughing out loud at that. It was so huge that any thoughts of eating a bit of it scared me!

Added to that was the eccentric Parsi Bawa Owner who was screaming really loud at some people and we actually got scared to go to his counter and pay the bill! Right as we went towards the counter, Bhim got a call and he answered with his usual long drawl, ‘Yeeah’? and immediately the old man’s frown changed to a laugh and he said out loud, ‘I like how you said yeeeeah!! Bombay I tell ya!

Finally we got out, browsed and shopped at Colaba Causeway and were almost at near collapse with the heat and this is the thing, I couldn’t see one person sweating, not one while we were dying from it! What the hell??!

Bhim wisely ran and got water before we fainted and immediately called Pankaj asking if we could meet earlier. Luckily Pankaj’s office was right above Fab India where we stormed in to take in the air conditioned space(yup you would too if you were us!!) Pankaj came and took us to his office. It was a beautiful old building, 100 years old and declared heritage.

With old chemical companies names, boards and mostly much older people, it made me think as how buzzing it might have been those days. So much history there, I always felt whenever I looked at these spaces as how wonderful it would be to take a time machine and go back to that era and just observe.

We sat, relaxed for sometime at his office and finally went to Radio Club for lunch with Vodka and Beer. Time just paused being with Pankaj, it always felt like that whenever I met him. Connection, that’s it, nothing else can explain it really..

We walked back to his office as he showed us the famed BSE(Bombay Stock Exchange) the places where the bomb blasts of 1993  happened and where he was at that time.. It was poignant and so relevant at the same time.. When I saw the hordes of people living their daily lives, carrying on their livelihood and then this happens.. How can any human being think of doing that to another fellow being.. How..

Post lunch we started our way back home. We would meet Pankaj for an early morning walk the next day.

We relaxed, chatted up and spoke about what all happened and we still couldn’t get over the Yazdani experience and Bombay heat! I wanted to spend time at Leopold cafe and Bhim had to experience it. Our buddy Kashif would join us right after work so we headed our way out there in the later part of the evening.

We didn’t bargain for the Bombay traffic and we felt it full on on our way to Colaba. Kashif finishing up his work reached there earlier and we were slowly trudging our way to Leopold in the taxi. Kashif was like where are you guys ya?? we kinda told him to keep chatting on the phone with his special one till we get there 🙂

Finally we got to the cafe and were so glad to see Kashif again. Now he was looking like a proper Corporate Vice President with his ‘Chikna’ face and formals! And what happened after that was an awesome 3+ hours till midnight as we chatted,prodded, debated on religion and the concept of patriotism!

It was an awesome mish mash of everything thrown in between as we spoke and spoke like one of those activists at those coffee houses discussing it over beer, Chilli Paneer, Ginger Chicken, Pizza and Chocolate Lava Overload! What?? You think we would have the energy to speak so much without food??

And coming to food, the great debate on what is actually a Biryani kicked off again! This argument started first in Chandigarh with Vegetarian Bhim making his point while Kashif and I rolled our eyes and confirmed that a ‘Veg Biryani’ is not a freaking Biryani btw! It went on and on and on!

This is the thing I realized with true friends, you can talk shit and not blink at all, and we spoke all kinds of shit mind you and with Kashif it felt so comfortable, like home.

It was past midnight as we said  good night to Kashif. Time just flew by being with him. Here was one soul I would never lose in touch with, people like him are rare and precious.

It was a long day with the whacky Yazdani experience to the cool comfort and warmth of Pankaj to being oneself with Kashif.

Tomorrow would be Oct 2nd, Gandhi’s birthday or as Circuit from the Indian movie ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’ would say, ‘Dry day hai Bhai'( No alcohol day in translation!) for the whole country, who knew what tomorrow would bring in this City of Dreams?


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