The ideal night out in Mumbai….
Soon after landing in Mumbai a year and a half ago I went to one of the city’s premium bars on a Thursday . I was wearing ripped jeans. ( I mean deliberately ripped, to be fashionable.)
Luckily I got past the bouncers, but inside, surrounded by women in black sequin dresses and rich men in striped shirts, I felt rather stupid. In fact, not a single man looked at me.
On another occasion I lit up a beedi while at a classy garden dinner party. The other guests who had until then been engaging in small talk with me, stopped, watched and turned white.
I’m sure Rollies were in ‘in’ the UK then.
Anyway these were some of my many initiations into the Mumbai partying scene.
I realised the backpacker look of flip flops and combat trousers was ‘out’, as were beedis and that looking loaded was ‘in’.
So following the proverb ‘When in Rome do as the Romans do’, I invested in several dresses, bought various brands of designer jeans and lots of sequin tops.
I then went to X on a Thursday, Y on a Friday and Z on a Saturday – the ‘in’ places for each night of the week, then.
But after several months I got bored.
Bored of meeting strugglers, models and bimbo actresses in Bandra; bored of getting chatted up by male models who never pulled their wallets out when the drinks bill arrived; and bored of meeting friends in high-end bars that despite the calibre of clients they attracted, still got flooded in the monsoon.
In south Mumbai too I had had my fill of being getting chatted up by real estate agents and diamond dealers, who still had their wedding rings on. I was also uncomfortable in the rich expat scene where peoples used rupees like it was monopoly money and made me feel like a struggler.
I also disliked standing in posh clubs with noone speaking to me and noone to pull. And I was fed up of being introduced to women in bars wearing mini dresses and bare legs, showing their cleavage hanging out who just smiled but who had no interesting conversation.
I was also fed up with spending on two drinks what I pay my maid each month and consequently reaching the end of my salary by week two in every month.
So, that explains why I spent last Saturday night ducking every time a tree branch hit me.
Sounds odd? Well, it was.
I was on an ‘organised bar crawl’ – Yes - that took me on an open air blue bus with 100 other drunk Indians and expats bar hopping around bars in Bandra. And we discovered there were lots of trees in Bandra, despite environmentalists claiming otherwise. But they had not been planted to handle open-air bar crawls via bus, it seemed.
Every so often the Best bus would screech to a halt and we would all cling to our seats.
We went to lots of bars people don’t usually frequent and ended up in Bollywood Mischief in Bandra, hanging out on the roof playing pool, chilling and laughing. It was my best night out this year.
And so I reached the decision the way to have a cool time in Mumbai is not to blindly follow the crowd and go to X,Y or Z, but to do different things all the time. So, I’ve started compiling a list of cool and cheap things to do in this diverse city. Here is my first draft:
1) Smoke a Cohiba (Rs150) at the Mumbai cigar club in south Mumbai or puff a hookah pipe on the roof of Mumbai Times Café, Bandra
2) Eat fish at Jai Hind on Hill Road, Bandra; devour chicken on top of your car bonnet at Bade Miyan behind the Taj Mahal Palace, Colaba; savour Afghani chicken at Khanekas opposite Mini Punjab in Banrdra or have a candlelit dinner at the Tasting Room, Lower Parel
3) Go and see a foreign film at either the Blue Frog (nominal charge) or Bootleggers (free)
4) Meet a friend at the Sun N Sand bar in Juhu. Sit there and have endless snacks served to you just for the price of your drinks then wander outside and sit next to the pool as the sun sets.
5) Go to the Mumbai Times Café on a Monday night to either watch Mumbaikers perform stand-up poetry or see short films (free)
I was all ready to try out my new-found social diary on a friend who turned up a yesterday from Old Blighty.
She suggested meeting up so, dead excited, I suggested one of my new cool alternative ideas.
But ‘I’ve heard X, Y, and Z” are really good,” she said, as though I hadn’t heard of them. It’s the same when foreigners suggest going on the slum tour or eating at Leopold Café, they act as though they are the first to have come up with the idea.
I asked a friend what to do. “You have to take her there. She is a foreigner and that is what they want,” he said.
So, back I was in X dressed in sequins, surrounded by strugglers and women in skimpy dresses, spending my maid’s wages in two drinks, pretending to enjoy myself.
Anyway that was the start of my list. What is yours? What is your ideal night out in your city?