Ten years ago, when I started my career, Kamala Mills (Lower Parel, Mumbai) was the haven of the office goer. Because, that’s where you landed up if you wanted a paycheck. It had two gates, one front and one back, with a long line of taxis at both, none of them willing to go anywhere. There was a JaiHind restaurant (Udipi? Café?) outside one of the gates, and that’s all the food we could get, if we wanted to avoid the unpalatable food at the teeny tiny office cafeteria. Those days, Kamala Mills also had a large tract of wasteland within, withering away in the Mumbai sun and floating away in the excessive rains, that transformed into a dusty parking lot for the brave that drove to work. In that era, I knew no one who drove to work in Bombay. Except two. Who we would hound on bad monsoon days to drop us wherever we could be dropped, gearing up to swim the rest of the distance homewards.
Anyway, all this preamble is for naught, only to serve as a reminiscence of the struggles of a newbie in Bombay. But, that parking lot at Kamala Mills? That one has significance. That’s where the land owner’s son or daughter got married one fine weekend. In an age devoid of Instagram and instant rumors, we made do with hearsay, tabloid stories, and our own curiosity to come up with what was cookin’ at the wedding. SRK danced, said someone. Katrina did too, piqued another. The wedding cost 25 crores, exclaimed a third. We spoke about those unknown people for at least 2-3 lunches and tea breaks at work.
What will we do for small talk if not for ostentatious weddings, I thought.
Cut to 2018. Kamala Mills no longer has that decrepit parking lot; neither does it have those sad cafeterias. Not too many people walk in there to draw paychecks any longer, for it has transformed into the safe haven of pubs and bars and discs, all highly flammable, that people walk into, to see their paychecks go up in smoke (literally, sometimes). The action has all shifted. To other office buildings in Lower Parel, but much to the concrete jungle of BKC (in Bandra and somewhat in Kurla).
I need to go back a bit again, you know. When you have spent a good 10+ years criss-crossing a city, especially as a consultant with clients all the way from Nariman Point to Ghansoli (which is technically not even in Bombay), there is a lot of reminiscence that is (un)avoidable. BKC used to be a place perennially under construction. Buildings were coming up everywhere, but there was only concrete waste to see, no food to eat, and general desert-land around. The only good thing was, no traffic from home, so I didn’t complain. BKC today has developed by leaps and bounds, if lot of buildings means lot of development. However, it still seems to be perennially under construction (of the metro rail variety), also full of traffic. Only silver lining – endless, copious amounts of food everywhere.
What is the point, you may ask. The Kamala Mills of 10 years ago and the BKC of today meet at an interesting junction, quite counter-intuitive to the commercial connection they have. Weddings. The grandiose variant nonetheless. Come to think of it, it’s quite poetic setting wedding ceremonies in the middle of commercial establishments. There is nothing more commercial than a well-spent-upon wedding after all.
I had the good fortune of witnessing the Isha Ambani reception prep from my BKC office, atop a multi-storey building. It looked garish even from afar, but that’s only the jealous woman in me talking. Also, this time, unlike 10 years back, we were able to track to the “tiniest diamond stone in the bride’s Sangeet lehenga” level of detail on the wedding prep, thanks to Instagram and the ever dependable ToI. It made for small talk for a month before and a month after, and may do for several months beyond too. SRK served food, so did Big B. Salman Khan was the side dancer to Anant Ambani’s main dance. Beyonce performed at the pre-wedding ceremony, while ARR at the reception.
I can go on and on. But, really, let me save that for the small talk if and when you, the reader and I, the writer, get to meet each other. For now, I hope they have finally been able to clear the debris from the reception venue. I want to take my kid to that ‘public garden’* for once before she grows up and wants to go instead to the pubs of Kamala Mills.
* Is that even a public garden or have I got it wrong? The public are forever barred from going inside because of some event prep or another.