Zach met this guy in Prague named Anirudh. He had been staying in London, but was traveling around a bit before going back home to Mumbai. Zach mentioned that we were going to be in Mumbai and Anirudh said to hit him up and he’d show us around.
Fast forward a couple of months and here we are in Mumbai. I’m sitting in a Starbucks with Zach drinking Frappucinos (don’t judge me, it’s delicious, but very sweet). We’re killing time before we leave for sandy beautiful Goa on a very cramped train. That’s another conversation though.
We went out with Anirudh to this bar he liked. We also found out that all of the “good” bars pretty much require you to wear pants. Zach and I were not amused, but there it was. We went out to some rooftop bar, that overlooked the city. We talked with Anirudh about him coming back to India after a year in England to start his own business after working in investment banking for a few years, and we drank big Strong Kingfishers while Anirudh drank whiskey and coke. The local beer here is called Kingfisher, and the Kingfisher strong is 8% abv, which is pretty freaking strong for a beer, and they sell them in regular bottles, or 650ml bottles, which is what we were drinking.
So we were kicking it and chatting, enjoying the view and decided after our drinks that we would go to another bar. we went to what seemed like the Indian equivalent of a sports bar, the kind that would have bowls of peanuts in the states. Anirudh said that it was more of a go and drink place and less of a lounge. It was more my kind of bar. We had more beers, but they didn’t have kingfisher strong (small tear), so I switched to double old monks and coke. Old monk is a local Indian dark rum that is cheap and delicious. The next day I realized that what was happening was that I was really thirsty and I was drinking alcohol instead of getting a bottle of water because I didn’t realize it. I wouldn’t recommend it. We hung out for a while then headed home. Anirudh said that we should hit him up on Friday (the next day) because he was going to take us out on Saturday, but Zach, smartly, told him that he wanted to have a relaxed evening on Saturday because we checked out of the hostel on Sunday. We said that we would talk to him tomorrow.
Friday came and we hung out, went for a walk and had some good food. Anirudh hit up Zach and invited us over to his families house for dinner. We headed out around 7, but we found out that getting a cab on a Friday took some work. The streets were fuller than I’d seen them since we were leaving the airport. There were the same number of cabs out as usual, and normally we couldn’t walk down the road without a cabby trying to sell us a ride or a sightseeing tour, but they were all full on Friday. We had checked out how much a cab should cost to where we were going. It was around 100rp, maybe a little more since it was rush hour. Everybody quoted us 200rp and they refused to turn on their meters. Zach finally found a guy that would use his meter. Our cabby was awesome and worked with us on our hand-drawn map and directions to get us to our destination. It ended up costing about 85rp.
Anirudh worked in an office building on this street we were on, but we had some trouble locating it, fortunately people on the street were super helpful and when Zach asked if we were going the right way they sent us back towards the building. We met up with Anirudh, he closed up shop and we went to his house. He lives in a condo with his family. He told us that is the traditional way that families live in India. The whole family lives together their whole lives unless specific needs like work changed the situation. We went up the elevator to his home and I was very impressed with his home. It was beautiful and very tastefully decorated, but still looked lived in. Also AC which was nice in the Bombay heat. It was probably the cleanest home I’ve seen besides a couple of friends of mine in Portland that are obsessive about cleaning before dinner parties (you know who you are).
The way that the food was brought out was quite different than what I was used to. The women cooked and brought out all of the food. I’m used to that being a kind of communal thing, but we were also their guests. I suppose that I’m not used to being a “guest” in the formal sense, but everyone in Anirudh’s family and Anirudh himself were all consumant hosts.
We met Anirudh’s father, mother and grandmother. They all seemed very nice, and we had some really good salty lemonade while we waited. They said that since we weren’t going to hit Northern India they made us some dishes that you wouldn’t find anywhere in Mumbai. Their family was originally from the Rajistani region and they made us a bunch of Rajistani dishes. There was a very good wheat flower based spicy curry like thing, rice flour tortillas almost that were steamed in banana leaves, sweet paneer (cottage cheese), crisps that were crisped dough with sweet milk curd, chutney, and other spices. You took those and put them in your mouth whole. Also there was a kind of stew type thing that you mixed with milk curd and you had the savory sweet tastiness. Also there was a puffed rice dish with spices and other things. I think I’m forgettinga couple of dishes, but it was delicious.
During the whole meal Anirudh’s mother kept serving up more and more food to us. It was very nice, but I haven’t been really eating a ton since we have been in India, and I’m not used to eating that quantity of food anymore. Anirudh was my hero though and said that I didn’t have to keep eating food if I was full. He read the situation perfectly; I was worried that I would offend them if I didn’t finish my plate, but I wasn’t sure and everytime I finised out my food more came right after it.
After dinner we were ready to go out. Zach and I had grabbed a couple of little bottles of old monk a piece earlier to reduce costs of going out (can’t beat 100rp for a little bottle 187ml). We filled up a couple of coke bottles and got to going. Anirudh drove us over to pick up his girlfriend. We kept chatting and then his girlfriend found out that we would be traveling for a couple of years and was blown away. She kept asking about where we were going, and what our itinerary was in India. She also had some suggestions about places to go and stay in Goa. No one we have talked to thus far has known where Benaulim is in Goa, but that makes me even more interested in it.
Anirudh was on the phone while he was driving with some friends of his. This is super impressive in and of itself. The streets in Mumbai are really crazy. The laws and lanes are just suggestions and no one really pays them much heed. Anirudh had told us earlier that he never got a license in England because he would have had to unlearn all of his Indian driving habits. He told his friends that we were going to the food court. I thought this was odd, but I took a drink and figured we’d get to wherever whenever we did, and that Anirudh hadn’t steered us wrong before.
We got to a restaurant called the Food Court, but not before some guy backed into Anirudh’s car while he was stopped. It turns out that the food court was the name of a restauraunt/bar that was cheap and quite good. A rum and coke worked out to be about 70-80rp, because the rum was 60rp and the coke was some small amount. That means that the rum and cokes were about $1.20. Yes that is correct, and I fell in love with this bar. We had some drinks and more of Anirudh and his girlfriend’s friends showed up. There was Anandia who was a lawyer, and their other friend who was a woman that used to be a dentist and was going back to grad school to switch to public health.
We were all chatting and having a great time. It was awesome to see these people that were so put-together let their hair down, and they were a ton of fun. They were friendly, and funny, and also they wouldn’t let Zach or I pay for our drinks. They were super awesome, and the night was just getting started.
We went to this club just a little ways away. We walked up to the car park where Anirudh had parked his car and then took an elevator up, and there was a club up there. I didn’t see a sign, but the girls and Anirudh apparently knew some of the people there and they let us in and hugs went all around. They also introduced us to another couple of people, Winny and another guy whose name I didn’t catch. I feel less bad about that because the music was quite loud.
Anandia got us beers and we started dancing. Zach procured us another Coke, which was harder than you would think just because aparrently the bar was unused to selling whole bottles of coke. We poured the last of our rums into it and then started passing it around. This would mark the way the rest of the night went. Everyone shared everything. From beers, to these awesome chilli’d martini type things that Anirudh kept getting, to more mixed drinks. The DJ was excellent, and while Zach was a little disappointed that it was all American music, the mix was excellent and he got in the groove pretty quick.
We danced and drank for hours, then the music changed. They started putting on Bollywood hits, and the dancing hit a new higher tempo. It started building as a crescendo with spontaneous dance circles in the middle of the dance floor. Anirudh started dancing with such fervor that he was almost hopping up and down with wild call-response hand motions. Zach and I tried to keep up with everyone, and I think we did OK, but this was not really our forte.
After a few songs the lights came on, and that seemed to be the sign for last call. I thought that meant that we were done, it was around 1:30AM. However we were dragged out the door to waiting taxis to go to an after-hours club. It was in the basement of a hotel and I’m not sure how it happened, but one of the guys we were with got us all in. It was dark, and the music was thumping. We hung out there for a bit and then decided to go get some breakfast. We went to one restauraunt very briefly, but left after picking up another friend of theirs.
We ended up in front of a train station next to a small trash fire, and we were brought jam and cheese sandwiches. I had never had this, but it was quite good. After that Zach and I took a cab with some of the guys that were heading our ways. We got back to the hostel and slept the blessed sleep of the exhausted, but awoke to the terrible hangover of people who were out til 4 something in the morning. I have not done that in years, but it was worth it.