Though I no longer reside at Churchgate, some sentimental part of my life is still centred around it.
Like yesterday, after work, late in the evening, I went to Air-Cool for a haircut. The years has not changed it much, though it charges Rs. 8 for a simple haircut, extras for everything extra, only women have them or men who like to smell like women.
The shop has also got this number system now, they give you a little disc with your number in the queue, then you wait your turn, sitting on the sofa and reading Illustrated Weeklies dating back to Khushwant Singh. I personally prefer the new Illustrated Weeklies with all those bits about who went to London, who went to America, who went to U. P. and exposed its chief minister, etc.
But most of the barbers are the same. In the old days, we used to say. After the Times of India, where can a journalist go, and so stay in the Times till we retired. Similarly, barbers may be saying: After Air-Cool, where else may they go.
So, yesterday, I went to Air-Cool, and I went to Satkar for an idi, burying my nose in the sambar, whose aroma used to wake me up every morning in my house next door. Satkar is more crowded than ever, and what it serves and the speed at which it serves is what is meant by fast food, not all this elaborate procedure of buy coupons at one counter, pay for the coupons at another counter order your pizza at a third counter, collect the pizza at another counter, then repeat the procedure for ice-cream. But that is another matter.
I roamed about Churchgate; I know every news-vendor there, the bhaiya on the steps of the Industrial Assurance building on the opposite side of the station, who is as well-known a figure in the newspaper business as Seth Ramnath Goenka. And I know all the ball-pen sellers, the man who sells Swissair spoons and knives and those soft in-flight shoes that Lufthansa gives its first and senator class passengers.
And, further along the road, towards Marine Drive, I know all the flower-sellers, people from whom I used to buy flowers nightly after coming out of the Society bar, though I had nobody to give them to.
And I know the watchman at Gaylords and the stewards at Kamling, and the man who is always standing outside Swapna, and though I do not know him and he does not know me, we both always stare at each other.
And later, last night, as I used to do so-often in the past, I went and had my dinner at the Stadium Restaurant. They have renovated the place, made it nice and modern, and ruined the food. Still, it is better than most other restaurants I know, and it is at Churchgate.
Each man leaves a part of his heart in some corner of Bombay. I have left mine in Churchgate.