As a powerful man and a respected member of the Indian media, I must admit, I’ve made some mistakes. In our unending quest for views, we’ve done things that are shameful, regrettable, and that have dire consequences; not as bad as the time Zee News almost started a civil war because they deliberately doctored JNU protest footage, but bad nevertheless. I’m talking of course about this websites indirect involvement in the gentrification of Bandra’s sidey bars. Gentrification is a nasty thing. It squeezes standup, genuine people out of establishments they love and have been visiting for years, to make way for the young hip, middle class who only go there at all to ‘pregame’ before a night of EDM, grinding, fist pumping, and yelling “let’s do shots bro”, or worse, “dilli se hoon bhenchod”. I get it. Most of Bandra is an expensive, awfully pretentious place. We’re all tired of being expected to pay five hundred bucks for a salad we don’t really like, or gluten free Kale chips or whatever the hell a froyo is on salaries so meagre half our income comes from making fake taxi bills to scam our employers about our travelling expenses. What man in their right mind wouldn’t want to go a place where the beer’s cheap and the lights are low, after a hard day of working at a chikki delivery service or whatever the new hot start-up trend is this week? Who isn’t sick of trying to call in favours every Friday night just to get into shitty clubs that smell of Set Wet deodorant and fake leather?
Dive bars are the only places in Bandra that make sense anymore, not just philosophically but economically too. It’s easy to understand why people, including myself have been forced by circumstance to visit them. You think we like eating delicious, cheap crab? Okay maybe a little, but that’s not the point. Some of Bandra’s sidey bars have already fallen to the gentry, although bars like Yacht on Hill Road and Janata at Pali Naka have handled their fame and fortune in very different ways. The truth is while middle class pricks like us like calling them sidey and shady while still going to there, we’re inadvertently pricing out their original clientele, people who’ve been regulars since before most of us were born. We’ve met surgeons, politicians, chefs, fashion designers and even the occasional underworld ‘fixer’. Most of them are warm, friendly and courteous, eager to share stories and invite strangers into what is, to them, something that they hold very dear. They’re always there, always waiting in the shadows, and they always have a quarter on their table. They’re the guys that give you silent looks when the girl you brought is pulling her dress down and yelling about how dirty the bathroom was. They aren’t judging you, they just wish you weren’t there.
Getting a drink and quietly escaping the women in your life isn’t a privilege reserved for the upper class. It is, as it should be, every man’s birthright. I was at a small bar in Bandra the other day, and I couldn’t help but notice how happy everyone was, there’s something almost poetic about a group of bros getting drunk before they go home to their wives. Just dudes in their little refuge from the world, their tiny pocket of happiness; surrounded by an evil capitalist suburb that wants to price them out, then tear down everything they love and turn it into an Irish House for rich kids from Delhi or a club for B list celebrities. Once I met them, I could never knowingly take away something so precious to them by leading hordes of rich people right to their doorstep. Every time you squeeze a man out of his bar, he goes home and takes it out on his wife*. Chew on that. Dive bars belong to the drinkers and the poets, the writers and the hopelessly despondent. They always have, and they always will. Taking girls to their loved establishments and displacing them is just like when those large dams displaced all those villagers in our EVS textbooks, turning them into alcoholic refugees, wandering in search of shelter and masala papad. Let’s leave the sidey bars of Bandra to the people of Bandra. You could always go the ones in Khar or Santacruz, those places aren’t getting gentrified any time soon, believe me.