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  • Writer's pictureAbhishek Anicca

Once upon a Raspberry Soda

I want to go to Marine Drive.

A part of me that lives in the past spoke out aloud as I left an event in South Bombay. Why? Didn't you want to get away from nostalgia? Away from the experiences that you will never experience in the same way? But you want to go because you need to go. Kuch Kuch hota hai Anicca, tum nahin samjhoge.

As I took the Kaali Peeli and told him to take me to Marine Drive, I assumed this was another exercise in romanticising a younger version of myself, immersing my disabled body in a more able bodied experience of the past. The late night train to VT. Drinks at a bar. And sitting on the marine drive. Alone or with someone, always in conversation with the self. With the sea listening to me, and with every tide that came in, asking quietly - Really? Again?

There are so many reasons to be in love with nostalgia. One of its primary purposes is to help you perform your lived experiences. Yes, I have lived a life. Don't judge the cripple. It's almost a rebuke of the able bodied gaze constantly judging you. Bitter almost. The other reason is to relive experiences for social media. Ten years ago I was here, now I am here again but so much has changed. Perhaps show off to the world that you had once loved. FYI, I have loved before, and I am an experienced lover. Feel free to love me. Love me now. Please love me. Perform this on social media. Get some attention.

I think I am past the second reason but who knows, I might do it if life becomes unbearable.

What you are not prepared for is that these days, Bombay has little nostalgia to offer. You look outside and there is construction going on everywhere. Haji Ali is invisible. Parts of marine drive have new walkways with lamps that don’t make sense to me. Wasn't the whole point of the place was that you could sit in the dark, hold hands, kiss someone or just cry quietly without getting noticed? Maybe lights will make for better drone shots. Perhaps that's how cities will be designed in the future. The department of Drone shot planning. I don't know. It definitely ruins my nostalgia. But I am sure that's not a big deal for people who easily accept change, and bad architecture.

By the time I reached Marine Drive, I was pissed at myself and Bombay. So I told the kaali peeli to take me to Gateway. I once had the fortune of attending a Wadali Brothers concert at the Gateway of India. I was just roaming after a meal at Bagdadi and chanced upon a concert that was happening. You needed a pass to get in. A person who stood near the parking lot stopped me and just offered one. I looked at him, not sure what he wanted in return. Two hundred rupees. A VIP pass. I saw the entire concert from the third row seat with Pankaj Udhas sitting in front of me. The setting sun. The wadali brothers. The Gateway of India. I remember the feeling. Or at least I pretend I do.

That was almost fifteen years ago. The gateway is cordoned off now. You can’t cross it in a taxi. There was a crowd gathered at the entrance. Getting there involves walking and my legs are never prepared for that. I have to cajole them in advance and prepare my body to not act up in these situations. At this point in time, the driver understood that I really had nowhere to go. Sir, kahan jaana hai?

Kahan jaana hai? I don't know. I opened my phone and started googling. Good coffee shops near Gateway. Good coffee shops near marine drive. Good coffee shops with comfortable seating. Good coffee shops that are also cheap. Best coffee shops in Mumbai. I was panicking. And so was the driver. So I told him to take me to an old joint that would make me nostalgic. Kyani chalo sir. Kyani was fifty meters away from where the cab ride had originally started. The driver looked at me with some amusement but the meter was rolling and I had said some flattering things about Kaali Peelis being better than these modern app based services, so everything was fine. Sir Kaali Peeli to jaan hai mumbai ki, said a very filmy voice inside me. Not a lie. But nostalgia is never a lie. It's just a reconstruction of the truth.

Minutes later, as I sat on that old chair and table at Kyani, uncomfortable yet trying to absorb the history of the place, remembering old visits with a muse, aggregating articles and listicles on best Irani cafes of Bombay, I felt cheated. Not because the bottle of Raspberry Soda had changed from glass to plastic. Not even because the cutlet was not even a shadow of the past cutlets I had eaten at the place. I felt cheated by my own expectations. The expectation that nostalgia would make me happy. That it will help me to construct an idea of the city and the self which would heal me. It was not that I hadn't been here before. This place, where I felt small. Small in front of changing cities and fading memories. Small in front of my lonely heart. Just small. And yet, here I was, again.

It took me a while to open my phone and google for the best modern cafes near Marine lines. I chose the swankiest one with the most comfortable looking chair and called an uber. I told myself I was ready to move on from the past. Truth be told, I was just preparing myself for another disappointment.

Kyani & Co Since 1904

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