Wednesday, November 10, 2004
What sort of a person would poke her head out of a cab window at 3 am in the morning, and yell out, her voice throaty with exasperation: GO TO SLEEP, BOMBAY!!!???
The answer comes pat from a Bombayite: a crazy person, of course. I happen to know the same crazy person, and at the risk of sounding like a total and complete nerd, would venture to say that I have, on occassion, felt like doing much the same. My friend is from sleepy, sleepy Chennai, and though she happens to be quite the hip-swinger in every disc you may while your way in, she prefers a city to go to sleep after it is 2 am.
And of course, Bombay is the city which never sleeps. Where vampire-bats cartwheel in mad exhilaration through its highways and alleyways, adding to traffic and chaos, while the rest of the country sleeps.
That is a common enough complaint that most high-flying Bombayites have against India's other metros. The lack of a night-life. Not that they mean the discos and pubs and what-nots that drum alive in energy every night - every metro has its share of those, even sleepy, sleepy Chennai - but rather, the absence of the bustling cab or the hustling streetwalker or the whistling train. Walk down posh Park Street in Calcutta at 1 am, and you are sure to be approached by a pimp if you're a guy (actually, that happens at 1 pm in the afternoon here, too!), and propositioned in quite colourful terms if you're a girl.
In Chennai, the only option for transport past 1 am is in fact walking. Rickshaws are an endangered species at that time of night/day, except in front of movie halls. And there, they charge exorbitant rates that will make your bank balance an endangered species of its own.
But, all the same, there is something extremely annoying about a city that never sleeps. Where do you get that anonymity you crave sometimes, then? Like the way you can walk down deserted South Delhi, after it has just rained, the road still gleaming wet in the glimmer of cracked streetlights, and you're quite glad to be the only one in the neighbourhood, alive and crackling, awake and forsaken. Makes you wish, sometimes, that Bombay really would go to sleep - if only for a few winks.
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