July 08, 2005

Bombay

I do not know if it is the rain that kept running away from us when we chased hard to get some of it or if it is the pain of having to return to and wake up in the noisy hyper-aggressive home city that has had me reeling like how someone at the wrong end of an incessant barrage of upper cuts would reel. It could also be nether and just be all personal, maybe I was just not prepared for the life waiting for me back here. In a lot of ways I want the train of life to stop so that I could get off and get back in when I am up to it. Sadly, things do not quite work that way though.

The three days we had in the very humid city near the sea was spent rushing from the guest house at Bandra to the office at Lower Parel and a whole lot of eating in between, which were reminiscent of quite a few gastronomic escapades from the Asterix franchise. From crabs to bombil, we feasted at a range of places across town like Gajali at Phoenix Mills, Jai Hind at Lower Parel, Out of the Blue, Cafe Moshe at Crossword, Bademiya, the exquisitely shady Gokul Permit House and we also did not forget to have the obligatory beer pitcher over chilli beef at Leopold.

In a weird way, the trip was also something of a sort of a 'state of the Indian media' trip. We had gone to the offices of CNBC TV18, DNA and Yahoo! India. As our former editor, the very interesting Vinay Kamat, had commented, Lower Parel has indeed become the Fleet Street of India. And it was such a yucky feeling to be sure of meeting someone you know from Delhi at every other building in that area. If I move to a new city, I want new people there and not the same old crowd. Thanks, but no thanks, I'll settle for the sad, familiar faces in Delhi.

Even though it was hard to convince the Mumbaikaars who were with us, the city itself was so sedate and hell, I could find my way after the Scholarly meeting at Kemp's Corner back to Bandra. Even if it was in a cab, for a directionally challenged person like me, that is some achievement. And yes, the city indeed does not sleep. There were people everywhere and at every time. Even after the very late night stop over at Yahoo! India, we still saw couples, groups of boys, families on the street. While, yesterday, at 11:30 PM, on our way back from the Delhi airport, there was not a single soul in sight.

Of all the places we had been to, DNA was the most disappointing. For all the money they hand out to the staff, the workstations and laptops they were using were el cheapo Zenith machines and the office itself was sadly done up (or should I say half done?), while Yahoo! India was the best without any doubt. Of course, it also helped that they had some of the best office stationery and the little I had heard of our friend there trying his best to deal with a not-so-happy employee added to the positive impression. They really do take care of their people and I guess it shows in the end results too.

In retrospect, the trip did serve to take away a lot of my Bombay phobia and I am now not averse to the idea of moving there someday, but I still like Delhi for its brashness and the aggression. In fact, I can't quite make up mind about which city do I like more, but yeah, the prohibitive cost of having a roof over your head is a total downer. I am still reeling from thinking about the sixty lakh rupee our friend had shelled our for his newly-acquired one BHK digs at Mount Mary. At least in the real estate contest Delhi wins, not just hands, but all limbs down at that too.