Yesterday, after a long time, I visited the press club. The whisky costs a little more, but it is still the cheapest whisky in town. Also, all the other liquor. And the drinking members drink as much as they always did.
There are a lot of advertising and PR people at the Club. Jimmy Bardoliwalla does not come to the club any more, and Sundar Rajan was not ther, but that would be because he is in Sharjah. Hire late-night round at the club and I understand that he club and I understand that he has given up drinking on medical advice. Instead, he gets up early in the morning, puts on a track suit and walks to the other end or Marine Drive, occasinally in the company of Raj Singh of Dungarpur.
The club itself has changed a lot. It is looking less and less like the Marathi Patrakar Sangh and more and more like the Press club of accountant Mohanmmad to sit in, and special tables for the card players with slots for them to put their whisky glasses in, like in old Hollywood and present Hindi movies. And the rear side of the club which is its best part, has been expanded and enlarged. If not half of Azad Maidan, a quarter of it has been occupied.”
The card players are still there. The same players playing the same game (rummy), and winning and losing the same amount of money. For them no life exists beyond the card tables. Still I suppose, it is better to gamble every night and not go home to Mulund and Bhandup and Kandivli, than to drink and not go home to Andhiri and Vassi Road and Chembur.
And the drinkers are all there. The service is faster, but the ice is brought in a separate glass and not in the ice-bucket as it used to be. Not that it matters, in either case members used their fingers to put the ice in your drinks and their drinks. And the canteen serves the same exotic “mix”, made up of sev, gathia, chevda, with onions, chillis and nimbu. In the of evening of steady drinking, you may have several plates of it and forget your dinner.
The conversation at the club, now as then, is shop. Last night, several members were preparing to leave for Aurangabad for the Sharad Pawar-Rajiv Gandhi show. They were being taken there by buses and cars (a few of the more important editors are being taken later by air) and arrangements, have been made to put them up over there. The expenses for the press, I was told, were being borne by Mr. Pawar’s party and not the Congress-I. He has got a lot of money, I was further told.
The press club also suddenly seems to have got a lot of money. Though it is not surprising, considering the vast sums members spend on drinks Everything at the club is new, tidy, fancy, if they are not careful, the press club will soon start looking like the Bombay Gym.
And I am happy that the club has done all the renovations and improvements with its own money. Mr. Antulay, when he was the chief minister, had promised the club a lot of government (or pretisthan) money. I am glad he left before he could meet his promise. Otherwise, the press club would have been like going to Aurangabad at Mr. Sharad Pawar;s expense.