Skip to main content

The hitchhiker's guide to my apartment






Located in the west precincts of Andheri, J-504 is best described as laidback. Not the quaint sort of laidback, but the rugged unkempt kind. Nestled between two impoverished settlements at the fringe of what might be called civilised society, J-504 nevertheless enjoys a magnanimous view of Gilbert Hill. What makes it cool is that, it’s the only monolith column of black basalt rock squeezed out of Earth 66 million years ago.

The customs check happens on the fifth floor of a rundown building, through a door that has a portal-like opening at its centre. The locals are likely to peer at you annoyed in case of a surprise visit. Trespassers like salesmen and anyone in want of money are received with caution and are most likely to have their visa shortly rejected.

Lay of the land

As you enter the 800 sq ft republic, you will first be greeted with a sprawling sofa set with a bright red coverlet that hides the decade old upholstery underneath. While the establishment of the sofa set belongs to a distant lord to whom monthly compensation is paid by the locals, the owner is not incumbent to provide for maintenance of the boxy piece of shit, if I may. However, travellers to our apartment can find themselves a cushiony spot at one of the corners and entertainment can be made to order through a 30 inch plasma screen. Though what that entertainment may be will remain at the locals’ discretion.

The living room district gives way to the food district which is usually devoid of much food. The refrigerator is its highlight. However a trip to its doors will leave your appetite unsatiated.

Languages spoken

The three occupants are proficient in English and Hindi. While from time to time certain locals may also be persuaded to speak in Bengali and Punjabi. Communication is not particularly difficult but there have been cases when dumbfounded tourists grapple at the versatile meaning of the word ‘thingy/thing’ that the inhabitants refer to.

When to come and how to greet

The best time to travel to J-504 is past the twelfth hour when the sun is nigh in the sky and residents can no longer escape its brutal glare through the curtains. Visits on weekends before 2.00pm are highly discouraged and tourists and travellers alike may experience long delays at the customs check.

If you’ve paid a visit before, you shall be received with a hand-shake or a hug or the occasional Namaste, depending on the locals’ opinion of you from your previous visit(s). In this case, let the locals take the lead. However, first-timers can enjoy the benefit of doubt and may proceed to pick a gesture of their choice. We suggest that you have a concrete gesture in mind to avoid the socially awkward half-hug-half-shake. Warning. You shall be judged.

BYOB: Bring your own baggage

The rule of thumb when packing is, “anything that you need, bring it yourself”. This applies to booze, snacks, toilet paper and personal butlers. If you forget something, it can be ordered at the venue, as long as you pass the buck around. More specifically, your buck.

Culture and beliefs

If there’s one thing that the residents of J-504 hold dearer than their primary needs of food, water and shelter, it is their slumber. Quite contrary to the old adage, two-thirds of the population are early to bed but always late to rise. Despite the occasional stink eye from their bosses, the residents have staunchly held onto their principles - man was not born to work. Here’s the thing – if man was created in the image of God, well, we don’t exactly see God running to catch the 8:15 local, do we? Or charging down the corridors of heaven, to sign the Great Big Muster in the sky, before he’s marked absent for half the cosmic calendar?

After all, is there anything superior to lazing on a Sunday afternoon (or better still, a Monday morning) flat on, contemplating the mysteries of the universe, such as the mating ritual of a rhinoceros beetle?

Living with the locals

There’s always a sort of inane charm in diving into the local life. Daily activities such as tending to the wildlife (check ‘wildlife’ section), collecting water from the watering hole, minor plumbing and laundry, can help you see life from the local’s perspective. For a change of scenery we recommend a walk to the quaint tin-roofed grocer round the corner for a pint of milk. Children playing with marbles, chicken chasing goats, cows and dogs lounging next to wooden carts selling fresh spinach and tomatoes; such is the rustic quality of the environs of Gilbert Hill.

Recreation

The government of J-504 offers some seriously combative recreation opportunities. Two-thirds of the population are known to spend hours if not sometime days in the strategic art of Warcraft. Stray cursing and childish fits of banging fists and stomping feet are encouraged to give the sport a ‘hell-may-care’ attitude. But when it comes to proving your mettle, the locals accept nothing short of Global Domination or like they say, “How Risky do you feel today?” For the next eight odd hours you could be Sun Tzu, Alexander, Kublai Khan, Hitler or the United States of America; crushing those who oppose you under your war-mongering boot heel. And since everything is fair in war, a game of Risk is a socially acceptable form of ruining love, friendship and kinship.

If the Machiavellian pursuit of warfare is not up your alley, you could always put your money on Monopoly. Or take your chances with Scotland Yard, Scrabble, Spook Story or Mad.

Nightlife

Most of the music tends to be from pre-90s recordings with a fair mix of impromptu live performances. The more-the-merrier philosophy is rooted into our nightlife. What may start off as a friendly gathering of few has the potential of quickly turning into a dozen. In any case, if you think you might go overboard, buddy up with a local you get on well with and look out for each other during the night. That way they can stop you making a beeline for unsuitable partners you won’t fancy without your beer goggles on, and send you safely to bed if you look worse for wear. We won’t tell.

Social faux pas such as switching on the white tube-light, playing Honey Singh numbers and singing through the nose; are grudgingly tolerated.

Food and beverages

“Refer to section BYOB”

Visa extension

If you wish to extend your stay, an extension to your visa should be applied. Extension may or may not be granted depending upon the reason for the extension, and whether the Department of Immigration is convinced that the applicant does intend to return to his/her country after the stay. In other words, the extent of your stay is contingent to the locals’ sense of humour.

Wildlife

We have a cat. His name is Maximus Wolfgang Targaryen. He bites.

Popular posts from this blog

Project Other Names: A Collection of Fictional Characters

An exercise to explore the different vibes of names used in a story and their relationship with the plot. Captured in a fleeting undefined moment. Here's a cute picture of my cat in case you reached here by accident.  The task of assigning names to characters in stories has always been a bit confusing for me. Either they are too eccentric or misplaced, misdirected or just feel like a mouthful.  Other Names is an exploration of what makes a character a character. Is it possible to bring them alive purely through their internal worlds. Or inversely through just one defining physical trait. What would that world even look like, is it real or fantastical, or can it be both?  I guess, we'll see :) Amuse yourself. #1 Ajay “Mutuality isn’t the least bit important in marriage, Ajay. It counts only in romance.” Ajay gave his pretty paramour a long look. Did she believe this stuff? Or was she playing some deep female game? He knew he would not marry her. He was proud

Beachbumming in Deobag

Every year the Indian Konkan Coast swells with tourists and travellers looking for fun in the sun and sand. In laidback Tarkarli and Deobag, however, it’s as much about what to do as it’s about who’s next door. Chances are that you’ll be by yourself, despite the peak seasons (fingers crossed).

A road-tripper’s recipe to beach-hopping: Sri Lanka south coast

Nay-sayers said it couldn’t be done. Well-wishers said it probably shouldn’t be done. The fact that the mercury would rise to its zenith high in the peak summer didn’t stop us from travelling to the southern coast of Sri Lanka last month. After a rickety eight hour bus-ride that saw us descending into the plains from the hill country, we reached the bustling sea-board town of Weligama. If you are travelling along the same route, keeping a day in hand for the Yala National Park would seem like the most obvious choice. However, short of money and time – my fiancé and I headed straight for the holy trinity of sun, sea and sand. It would be safe to say that any road trip involves the road (duh!), a pair of trusty-ish wheels and at least one companion (who you will most likely fall out with at least once a day. But regardless the offense these silly skirmishes that start with ‘let’s stop for a cola’ have a knack to smooth itself out soon enough). Like life, which’s about the journey and n

Other Names #6: Kaai

Unrelated picture from Berlin. #6 Kaai and I had been driving for ten hours straight from Udupi, threading our way through the NH66 which ran all along the western coast. It was a last minute plan put together in all of twenty minutes by Kaai during the tea break. We would drive 700km to the Osho Ashram in Pune to get our hands on the hip new Osho sandals before anyone else in class. It was a bit much but this was 2006 and Osho was all the rage. ‘A little adventure won’t hurt’, he said. Little did we imagine that for one of us, this trip would last a lifetime. I learned that Kaai was a very spiritual person. He hid that side of himself under rock band t-shirts, ripped jeans and the old bubblegum beret that he refused to part with even while he slept. It took me by surprise when he brought up ‘god’ literally in the middle of nowhere. We passed a little kid who was throwing stones at the cars on the road. “Think of it”, Kaai said. “One day he’s going to throw a stone that wi

Other Names #4 and #5: Ahana and Asha

Other Names #4 Ahana belonged to an aristocratic family. But as a rule, Bengalis think more of influential friends, than birth. Ahana was lucky to be esteemed and even loved by people of consequence in society, whose example was followed by others of lesser means. It seem hardly necessary to remark that her family worries and anxiety had little or no foundation, or that her imagination increased them to an absurd degree. But if you had a wart on your nose or forehead, you imagine the whole world is looking at it, sniggering behind your back. Because you can’t see past the puss-filled elephant sitting on your face. Doubtless, Ahana was considered ‘eccentric’ in society, but she was nonetheless esteemed; the pity was that she was ceasing to believe in that esteem. Other Names #5 “I’m going through a phase. And I’m awfully glad it’ll all be over in a couple of days”, Asha whispered to herself. For a fleeting moment the weight slid off her shoulders and she felt a breath of fresh

Other Names #8 and #9: Sahil and Mira

  It had been three years since Sahil had last seen Mira. A lot had changed (physically) for Sahil in that time. His jaw had hardened to an angular shape, he had lost that baby beard that everyone made fun of and the unruly curls had been tamed to a neat close crop. He had returned to civilisation - unrecognisable beyond repair, as his friends often remarked. So, it came as a surprise when Sahil found himself looking at Mira, untouched by the passage of time. She still had the look of an alert school girl. Head held high, a neat round chin, wide thin-lipped mouth, snub nose, bright eyes and a forehead that was often flushed with effort or appreciation. She was finishing her thesis in Sanskrit from Xavier’s when they were together. Sahil always marvelled at how much the professors delighted in her – as though they were grateful for anybody who still took up ancient languages, especially for someone so gifted – but they were always worried as well. The problem Mira used to say, was becau

Three salad dressings with a side of honesty

Salads. The healthy-and-mighty of all meals. The snooty accompaniment to a glass of rosé. The veritable rainbow on your plate. In Fran Lebowitz’s words, a salad is not a meal – it is a style. Well, as long as ‘style’ includes a fair amount of mud under one’s fingernails – I couldn’t agree more with Fran. Sure, it’s fashionable to eat a salad – but there’s a certain panache to going down on all fours in wet mud, rummaging through fresh lettuce pods every morning and wondering what you’re going to dress them in. While it’s far from the fashion statement that salad has come to symbolise, growing your own food definitely is a style of its own. There are many categories of salad snobs – the ingredient minimalist, the chop-it-right evangelists and the brigade of dressing-goes-first, but the only consensus between the salad factions is that you don’t actually need packaged dressing. A homemade vinaigrette made from basic ingredients lives just as happily on your refrigerator door, not to ment

Project Other Names #7: Dr. Prarthamesh Potty

  Professor Potty scratched these words on the blackboard, punching the period at the end for dramatic effect. He turned to face his class of forty. Forty miserable, clueless schmucks, most of whom didn’t know the difference between a period and an ellipsis. And yet they thought a minor in Creative Writing would be a piece of cake. An easy grade to brighten up their mark sheet. He had overheard on his way to class, some of the students casually joke, “Next class…” proceeding to clutch their tummy and ejecting a fart-like sound from their mouth. The joke lacked half-a-decent punchline but regardless, the junior year would pick it up from their seniors, giving new life to a lame old gag. Professor Potty did not have a sense of humour. At least, none when it came to his name. You would think after years of being tormented by friends, foes, colleagues, relatives, lovers and eventually his own children as well, the professor would at least pretend to smile and take the power out of the old

Windows between waves

Back in 2009, during my last year in college, my friends and I used to take a three-hour train ride to Gokarna over weekends. It was a small seaboard town with a penchant for attracting people who listened to Bob Marley and chain-smoked cheap cigarettes. But what I remember most distinctive of Gokarna was the sea. It was a beautiful sunny morning like any other and we had all woken up late. After a heavy breakfast of Nutella pancakes all of us headed out to the sea. It was calm and we all wore our sun shades into the waters, lying supine on our backs and floating with the sun in our eyes. Unlike other days, we had given up on playing pranks – no one went underwater to imitate a sea creature tickling a feet or neck, there were no sudden shrieks of friends splashing the salty sea water into each other’s eyes and mouth – we were pinpricks in the vast ocean drifting further and further away from the shore, blissfully unaware of how close to danger we lurked. At first, we thought we were be

When Joan Didion said, ‘we tell ourselves stories in order to live’, I think she meant - the stories we delude ourselves with.

I used to think that if I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning, I’d hammer through the noon and end it with a Thud! Whack! Clanggg! before I hit the sack. But once I had a hammer, I realised I wasn’t hammering as much I said I would.