Saturday, January 08, 2005

a literary family experience, fate and music, and how a burger remains part of the cornerstone of a dying city experience

So Saturday, 08 January 2005 dawns on the family, and we're all ready and out at the bus stop. It's a holiday for all, and we've decided to take a trip to the Deccan Gymkhana side of town. First miracle: Bus #96 shows up, albeit at the next terminal in the bus stand. Second miracle: we get to Deccan Corner in reasonable time. First stop: The International Book Service, one of a very small dying breed of bookstores in this "cultural" city. There aren't too many changes inside, although a familiar mix of feelings hits me: the place seems to have more room (which means that there are fewer books), and there aren't as many people as I'd like to see. That the place is celebrating 75 years deserves more than a few articles in local dailies. On the plus side, it's a pleasure to see a wider variety of books on the shelves. And Mr Dixit recognises Dad, and even recognises me. As I make my selections from the shelf, I think of my favourite quip about the rash of Crosswords across the city -- a quip that (apparently) was used by the owner of The Strand in Bombay when asked about the first Crossword set up there ("I have heard that they also sell books"). Unfortunately, at the end of the shopping session, there are still a few books unaccounted for. But the responses to my queries were more educated -- they had heard of the books, and even told if the books could be expected in a later import of stock. Places like this deserve more from all the Puneites who are patrons of good reading. And raddi stores, of course (given that the lack of taste exhibited by the publishing industry has forced so many meritorious works to go out of print and stock). And I hope places like Crossword don't become the first choice when you want to get some books.

A walk through Hong Kong Lane, another aspect of local heritage, rewarded me (via a chance glance) with the sight of a new soundtrack tape. Black jacket. With the words "Black Friday" leaping out at me in white. And I almost slapped myself for forgetting about this ("Indian Ocean performs the soundtrack of Black Friday"). There's a promo running on MTV. And it looks like Anurag Kashyap will *finally* make his directorial début officially (you can't live with the responsibility of having made "the most widely seen unreleased movie in India"!). A visit to Thakkar's Music Bank a block away rewarded me with a twin RD soundtrack release from BMG Crescendo (damn! It's such an effort to get stuff like this), and a note that the CD for Black Friday would be available in the evening.

It was nice to mix my first visit to Kamat's (a place I only knew as one of "Demolition Man" Bhatia's victims) and a desire to have some local paav bhaajii.

Plans to pay a visit to Sambhaji Park went to dust when we discovered that even the city park had begun to enjoy a lunch break ... "ba.ndh aahe" said the watchman complementing a cheap "Park is closed" sign nearby. Great! You would think that the afternoon would be a nice place to sit in the park (if you didn't have anything else to do -- like working a high-stress white-collar job for earning ephemeral rupaiyaa). So much for that.

A short break home, and we were back out at the bus stop. A different bus this time, and the destination was the crowded inaccessible West End bus station (narrow road subjected to divider action, along with illegal rows of rickshaws reducing driving space to a mathematical impossibility). The first destination was Manney's. Another place that hadn't changed (and there were good indications that this place was doing much better than IBS -- and it deserved to do well, IMHO, thanks to its good selection). On a very territorial note, it was nice to see more Malayalis managing the place (even the cashiers are Malayalis and Mr Nair has a new helper, Bhaskar). This doesn't mean that I get special discounts after spouting Malayalam and behaving regionally. It's just a little rarity. The people were helpful (as is the case with good bookstores), and my hit rate was higher too. Walked out with more plastic losses (even with the $-rupee conversion) to pay a short visit to Planet M. First mini-stop: the new releases display. Yippee! Waiting for me was the CD of Black Friday. Did a mental mini-dance, and then proceeded to indulge in another exercise to prove that the floor assistants were just human mannequins and the best way to search for music in the store was shelf-by-shelf-do-it-yourself. No other hits this time. Alas! Damn music companies, and especially damn the ones that had some favourite albums and went out of business (Archies Music, Plus Music, Magnasound -- some of their catalogue has since resurfaced on Bayshore Records).

The final stop: Burger King, the most unchanged place I've seen in Pune this time around. The same ambience, the same 4 Beatles posters, 1 Dylan poster, 1 Elvis poster. The same hubbub. The same prices! And a jumbo chicken burger that still rocks. A burp of satisfaction was followed by excellent timing involving the bus home at the traffic light below. This was one of the newer models that was equipped with a very useful[sic] feature: a radio/speaker system blasting radio mirchi feeds. A few minutes into the Death-Race ride home, the speakers began streaming a band singing a song called "ba.nde". The band was clearly Indian Ocean. And even before the DJ announced it, I was doing another mental jig. Talk about extended perfect timing. I remember the soundtrack, I manage to get it, and then I hear the radio promo for it. That's way I like it. Uh-huh, uh-huh!

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