I bumped into my childhood friend Rupu when I was at Kolkata this time. We were both visiting the city at the same time. He’d been in San Francisco for a decade and I had been at Mumbai for a little bit longer. We hadn’t met since the end 90s after having grown up together.
We chatted for a short while about our new lives and reminisced about the past including about how we could never stay out late during our college days. There was hardly any transport for middle class Calcutta those days in a city that slept very very early.
Then came Someplace Else the new discotheque at The Park Hotel at Kolkata’s Park Street in the mid 90s. They hit upon the formula of afternoon discs on Sundays. Suddenly the place was packed with sweaty teens and raging hormones, all packed together in a tiny dance floor, impervious to the supersonic sound system…the smoke…the crowds. As one used to jokingly say, you would enter as casual acquaintances and come out as an intimate couple. You were packed tighter than sardines in heat. The famed, bursting at the seam, Virar locals of Mumbai seemed child’s play after that.
It was a very basic disc which was Ibiza for a generation of Calcuttans.
Then I moved out to Mumbai, a city which never slept. I heard that Someplace Else had become a pub and that The Park had a new disc called Tantra.
I was close to the Park the other night at Kolkata when we went to Oly Pub . Oly Pub apparently took its last order at 11 pm. We wanted desserts and went to Flurys early. Turned out that it was shut. It was 9.45 pm. Disappointed we headed to Barista where we were served some very stale desserts. The Kolkata folks in our group disbanded but there were two of us Mumbaikars and one ex Mumbaikar who didn’t want to call it a night so early.
So we headed to Someplace Else. Turned out that The Park was buzzing with life. At night this time. It seemed to have two (!) discs now. Tantra. And Roxy. The crowds poured in well after Someplace Else shut down. In their Saturday shimmery best. Including an elderly sugar daddy with a tall nymph in a skimpy black cocktail dress who was definitely not his granddaughter. Or his nurse. He put his arm around her waist and led her into Roxy.
The three of us from our group were at the tamer Someplace Else. A pub now.
A flood of memories hit me as we walked in. Nothing had changed. The sofas at the corner where you would rest after some fevered jiving were still there. The bar- counter where you would count out precious Rupee notes to buy a beer looked the same. The stained glassed ceilings which now reminded one of Apoorva, the humble Mangalorean joint at Mumbai. The sofas redolent of Geoffrey, the British themed pub of Mumbai. All had a very familiar feel.
The tiny dance floor where the youth of Kolkata once bumped and ground was now the stage for a live band. On asking I was told that the band playing that night was called ‘Saturday Night Blues’. Some powerful rock guitaring and some soulful serenading followed. The sort of music which made two of us in the group happy while the younger one declared the music to be ‘so boring’. But as all good acts do, it ended with a favourite of the Rock Nights at Milieu, the fest of Presidency College Kolkata, Roadhouse Blues.
We got up and I headed out of Someplace Else with my friends from my new life, my new city, walking with memories from across the years that blended into each other in a kaleidoscopic haze.
Pity that they never told us back then that life is not all black and white.
PS: The nostalgia continued as I was close to home at 1 AM in a cab when I got a call from my mom. “Where are you”?
Beats Oil Of Olay