The next day we woke up a little late, as in 6.30 am because we were feeling the holiday mood too! We would be meeting Pankaj at Priyadarshini Park that was at Napean sea road and then head to his home for breakfast after the walk.
We got ready and set off on the bike. South Bombay is so beautiful in every way. Yes I know a lot of skeptics will argue saying it is elitist, with people from old money, richie rich so on and so forth but here is what I believe, money doesn’t bring you class and I have seen enough of that proof in my own city Hyderabad and the posh areas of Jubilee and Banjara hills. The less said the better about them!
But in South Bombay as we entered into Napean sea road area, one could see wealth AND class. No showing off, no ostentatious behaviour, the way they carried themselves was so casual and cool.
We could feel the sea breeze hitting us as we parked the bike opposite the park. This was different from Mahalaxmi Race course, one could sense it. The park was small but so beautiful. Coconut trees swaying, a slight cliff edge where one would have a vantage view of the sea, walking along and watching the waves..
We started walking towards Pankaj who had already finished his rounds. We walked along as he showed us the views, the park and he told us that he used to coach the kids in football along with another friend many years ago.
Most of the South bombay kids hung out here and even now all South Bombay schools held sports tournaments here. There was a lovely running track and at one point it reminded me of Central park in NYC.. The vast trees and buildings looming behind them as a reminder to us all.
Pankaj showed us the yoga space and we crossed a Reebok Cross Fit area where we saw good looking and I mean really good looking super fit men and women working out. I mean how could one not look at them?? The elitist of the elite and yet quite unassuming and minding their own business. We teased Pankaj saying we were in elite company too hanging out with him 🙂 Bhim was mesmerized just like me, so many good looking people!
It actually reminded me of a holiday I had in South Beach Florida in 2004 when I used to live in US and I clearly remember at that time South Beach was rated as the no 1 place in the world for good looking men and women and boy they were so right! A world filled with fit great looking men and women and no scope for any average ones. It seemed so unreal then too and it got me back those memories.
From the park, we walked towards Pankaj’s house which was just a furlong away and settled down for breakfast. Pankaj’s mom was having a discussion with Bhim on Advaita philosophy and Adi Shankaracharya as she was studying for one of her classes.
I had met her before last year and was still amazed at her energy, curiosity, decisiveness and clarity. The yearning to keep learning, keep exploring and to keep that going on at that age, WOW! I kinda figured out now as to where Pankaj gets his wittiness and intelligence from. When I told him that, he smiled and said, but my sense of humor comes from my father!
After a hearty breakfast of Roastie Toastie (it has to be eaten to believe it, its yum!) and cups of strong ginger Chai and Chaas(spiced buttermilk)- yes we were getting spoilt properly, we waited for Pankaj to get dressed as he got ready for work. We bid him goodbye and rode our way back home. It had been so relaxing so far on this trip. It was a vacation in every sense.
There was no hurry, no agenda and no goals. It really helps a lot, actually it’s an asset when two people are in sync with each other. Our plans were sporadic, on the spot and we had no problem with a sudden change in anything.
I wanted to take Bhim to my favourite hang out in the other side of the city, towards West Bombay. Until I met Pankaj and a few other friends who lived in South Bombay, I always stayed in Juhu whenever I visited the city.
Bandra, Juhu, Khar, Pali Hill, these were my kind of places and there were certain things I always did that side. Hang out at Candy’s, watch a play at Prithvi theatre, walk along the old bakeries in Bandra, walk along side Bandra Bandstand and have a cocktail at Taj Land’s end, the works.
So this time for lunch I took Bhim to Pali Village Cafe. I discovered this place in 2011 when I was walking around Bandra west and I got in to get a respite from the noise. The signage is so small one could miss it, but not Bombayites! You walk in and it has the look of an old vintage bungalow (one of my fetishes!) wrought iron chairs and a cool place to chill. After that, every time I was in Bombay I would chill here at least 3-4 hours on my own.
We relaxed and I saw Bhim totally feeling at home here. Usually a fast eater who just swallows food, he sat back and ate slowly taking in everything. We had one of the best conversations there. It was a no alcohol day and it didn’t matter, we had the right company and ambiance. We came back towards South Bombay in a daze. We had an important evening to look forward to!
An awesome play by Atul Kumar from Company theatre, ‘Nau Do Gyarah’ at Prithvi theatre was on. It was a 9 pm show and we decided to start early so I could meet a buddy Saish at Prithvi cafe.
Saish needs no introduction if you read my Har ki Dun trek diaries. An intelligent 22 year old young man whose intellect was way beyond his age. I can go on and on about this chap. I was very clear about whom all I must meet when I am there and Saish was one of them, come what may. We decided to meet at 7.30 pm in the cafe so I would have a good one and half hour time with him.
And here is where the typical Bollywood drama started! No taxis were available, pre booked cabs were taking time and by the time we got into one, we got one of the worst drivers ever. He was so slow and scared that he kept two cars distance!
I was fretting, fuming and we were nowhere close to Prithvi! I was getting distressed thinking Shit! I will have only a few moments with Saish. Prithvi theatre is very particular about timings and to go there and meet him for such a short time was killing me. Bhim was trying to ease me up, making me laugh and making me understand that its ok, it happens what can one do? Now that I think of it, am glad it happened the way it did.
Finally at 8 pm we reached Prithvi and there he was with a big smile! He had booked a table at the cafe, on a waiting list and we caught up in the meanwhile. Saish was busy preparing for CAT exams besides having his day job.
Juggling work and studies he seemed to have no pressure about it, the cool dude that he is. We spoke about the millennials and Saish was so accurate about his generation! From social media to being self centered to being seen, he told it not as a criticism but it was the way it is. This man didn’t belong to the current generation at all, way wiser than even some 50 year olds I know!
We had just 45 minutes so we ordered our dinner fast and chatted as much as we could. It was such a pleasure seeing him and meeting him briefly though and as he rightly said, we met right? That’s important, knowing that there are people who care for you. He had come all the way from Mulund and for me that is very precious.
Bhim finished his dinner fast and went to stand in line as the first bell rang, there was already a huge line already on a Tuesday night. At the second bell I said a warm goodbye and hug to Saish with a promise to meet up again and joined Bhim in line and here is where I stop, pause and take a deep breath.. Because.. from here what happened next and next and next was freakingly unbelieveable!
As I joined Bhim, he said that two obnoxious women made their way in front of him with their big ass husbands saying he wasn’t in line, so being the gentleman he is, he shrugged and gave them the way. We didn’t care, all that mattered was we were going to see this awesome play.
I saw a familiar looking man talking to someone next to me in line and giving a ticket, it was Vinay Pathak! The awesomely talented Vinay Pathak! I suddenly said a loud HEY HI! to him as if he was a friend, and he smiled big and said HI! and if that was not enough we saw the elegant and so beautiful Ratna Pathak Shah standing close by! Bhim and I were smiling, this made our evening already! I mean they were icons and here they were in flesh and blood.
Wait Wait if you think this is it, then.. well read on!
As everybody was pushing their way as close to the stage as possible, Bhim went to the topmost space and as I followed him, I saw a woman holding space on either side of her. I requested her that I just need one space to sit next to my friend, she obliged and we saw she was struggling to hold spaces and telling people some friends were joining her. Then Bhim suggested it’s best if she moves to a corner and hold space till the end till where we sat so she didn’t have to struggle so much. She was happy for the suggestion and so we saw her keeping her mobile phone, a ticket, a handkerchief next to me.
And then it happens.. Believe me even as I am writing this, I can recollect that moment and I get goose bumps.. Who do we see but this woman calling Ratna Pathak Shah up towards our side and she comes and sits right next to me,yup and before Bhim and I can recoil from our shock comes THE MAN himself, Mr. Naseruddin Shah! THAT MAN, YES! slowly walks up and sits next to his wife!
At this point I can only tell you one thing, cold sweaty hands, our eyes frozen in shock and a smile and a freaking surreal moment for me and Bhim! We were just looking at each other in near faint happy shock!
But the crazy me couldn’t stop myself so I touched Ratna Pathak on her arm and told her outright how much I loved her and Naseer Saheb’s work and it’s such an honour to sit next to them. Immediately their lady friend who kept the seats for them told me loud enough, Thank me first! with a big laugh 🙂
And the man, that man smiled a big smile at us and nodded. OMG!!! People, there will be few such moments in our lives when we experience something like this and Bhim and I felt so lucky, so effing lucky! It was meant to be wasn’t it? If the taxi guy wasn’t such a bad driver, if Bhim hadn’t allowed those obnoxious women to move in front of him, if we had decided not to sit on top.. The list is endless..
To meet these people and their movies we grew up on, we idiolised them, they were true actors, legends, honest to their art and were so unassuming, wouldn’t you feel the same way?
But be in Bombay or any other city in India, assholes will be assholes. And we saw some people in the audience actually walking across the stage to grab a seat in the front! Right then Ratna Pathak shouted at them saying ‘You must not walk on stage’ and Mr. Naseer with that deep baritone voice yells, ‘You guys are educated?? AMAZING’ and just like that the whole audience went into a pin drop silence and Bhim and me immediately took our phones out which was on airplane mode and switched it off totally! One didn’t want to ever get yelled at by Mr. Naseeruddin Shah I tell you!
We also saw something very interesting 🙂 So Kalki Koechlin was also present in the audience and sitting in front and Ratna casually asked her hubby, how old is she? He said maybe 34? She said no way she doesn’t look like that and immediately used Wikipedia to check her out 🙂 The whole thing was so normal, so casual, they were like any husband and wife, they were themselves and this charmed us totally!
It took us some time to get used to the reality of sitting next to them but slowly we went into the play. ‘Nau Do Gyarah’ starts off as a detective story but Atul Kumar has a way of putting forward the cliches, the current social and political trends, the social media disease that exists seamlessly into it and it was an amazing production. It was hilarious, cheeky, hitting all the right notes with original music played live.
I could see Mr.Naseer not enjoying it that much and constantly badgering Ratna saying I am leaving, I am leaving. Finally his wife gave up and said ‘Jao!(go!)’ and so he did and when her friend immediately asked hey where is he going? Ratna heaved a sigh of relief and said Let him go!! It’s better! I wanted to laugh out loud. Celebrities or legends, it was the same everywhere in relationships and marriage 🙂
We came out after the play on a super high and I mean super high! It felt like we had some drug, the intoxication of it was awesome! The play, them sitting next to us, what an evening and we suddenly felt very hungry, so we walked to a cafe nearby and sat there and chatted.
After sometime, we felt drained, the energy every bit of it. It was an adrenaline rush alright and once it came down, we felt very tired. This was an evening we would remember to our deathbed!
And as I write this, I get that same feeling, that same adrenaline rush reliving that moment and now am just plain tired finishing it.
It might seem quite inane and ordinary to some of you regarding our experience. What’s the big deal in seeing them right? Yeah maybe I wouldn’t have even mentioned it in a blog if I had seen someone mainstream or ‘pop culture popular’, but these people, this couple are the stuff legends are made of. They have always shown what it is to create quality work, art for art’s sake and still live their lives unassumingly and for us they are the true icons.
So I end today’s blog with hope, with aspirations, with renewed energy. We got a once in a lifetime opportunity to sit next to these legends, to feel their energy and aura knowing they were as simple as we are..