At 6.00 pm I was out on the streets again. This time I took a detour off Kemps Corner from under the Peddar Road flyover towards right and sauntered along the prestigious N S P Marg, a busy thoroughfare in the shadows of the picturesque Padam Hill and gently snaking around its foothills. I was thrilled to find out that the Kemps Corner flyover was the first flyover to be built in Mumbai, that too way back in 1965. It was a humbling feeling to be standing beneath a few hundred tonnes of steel and 330 metres of proud history.
N S Patkar Marg (earlier Hughes Road) probably symbolises whatever there is to a staggeringly opulent lifestyle. Ironically, it might appear to be in utmost conflict to the very principles which a devoted socialist like Nyaymurti Sitaram Patkar probably stood for all his life! Come to think of wealth, sex and fast cars, NSP Marg has everything. It houses the world famous diamond grading and gem testing laboratories of the Gemmological Institute of India and the office of IASECT (Indian Association of Sex Educators, Counsellors and Therapists with the legendary daddy of all sex gurus Dr. Prakash Kothari at its helm). But the hottest of the addresses is probably the neat little bundle of expensive German steel, the Porsche dealership.
At the Porsche India Centre, across a thick sheet of glass, a dazzling Cayenne Turbo worth nearly $200000 rested proudly with a topless sleek red Boxter lying seductively by its side, each one a breathtaking spectacle by itself. I gawked at the sight for a minute or two, gulped a couple of times, picked up my jaw from the road and moved on in search of Mohammad Bhai Mansion, a place more in line with the immediate goals in my life. I was looking for Crossword, the outlet in Kemps Corner being one of the largest bookstores in India. I soon realised that I had overshot my target, so I had to retrace my steps, allowing myself a lustful second look at the obscenely luxuriant oberklassewagens.
It was almost 6.30 when I entered Crossword. What seemed like a decent looking bookstore from the outside turned out to be a huge cavernous vestibule lined by row upon row of books, with only narrow passages in between where you couldn’t pass without substantial rubbing of assorted body parts (with those of others, of course). There were books everywhere; books on the left and books on the right, books in front and books behind, books on the walls and books on the floor, and some even suspended from the ceiling! Then there was an entire floor (the upper one) dedicated to CDs, VCDs, DVDs, gifts and what not, with a nice little eatery tucked away in the corner selling croissants and doughnuts to fat little kids and their dads. It was my impression that the moms, in general, were watching their weight. Women in Mumbai are pretty health conscious (or pretty and health conscious)…aren’t they? Anyway, after taking a quick look around, I settled among the fiction titles and did not notice how the next one hour flew by.
When I came out of crossword, it was 7.30 pm by my watch. I had purchased Chowringhee by Shankar (on which book Aparna Sen based her movie 36, Chowinghee Lane), The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom (a New York Times bestseller for 95 weeks and, according to Wiki, the bestselling first time novel ever written), Prey by Michael Crichton and Dogs of War by Frederick Forsyth (which he based on his real life experience, having partially financed an unsuccessful coup d’état against Equatorial Guinea on behalf of the Igbo people of Africa). All these books were meant to be little gifts for a few of my old acquaintances in Mumbai and around. The packets were quite a handful, but they never bothered me. I love books and do not mind carrying them for a while.
Kemps Corner was flooded as if it were day, lit up by the incandescence of a thousand neons along the Peddar Road and the August Kranti Marg. I walked back downhill to my hotel, munching the quintessential vada pao bought for Rs. 7/- from a roadside vendor having a sizeable clientele.
The day was far from over.