To understand this piece, you need to be clued into what is happening these days in Mumbai. In case you are unaware, please read these 3 newspaper reports online from India Today, NDTV and Mumbai Mirror.
Last Thursday, needing to unwind after a busy day, I went to Upper Parel, to the new buzzing Mahavir Bar.
It was “Men’s Day” – women have to pay and men are allowed free entry provided they are with one or more women. My wife and two of her girlfriends joined me.
It was fun. The drinks were not too expensive and though the place was packed and standing room only, we managed to get a table later for dinner. A couple of Lagavulin’s down, I was warm and mellow and the conversation turned gossipy interesting as we started trashing old batch mates from college.
Around midnight, my wife, who is a doctor, had an emergency call. Being my designated driver, she had abstained from drinking and was able to leave by herself. One of her friends promised to drop me home.
About 15 minutes after she left, the air changed palpably. People started getting up and leaving, the music was turned down and I could see some men taking pictures. Words like, “cops”, “D’Souza”, “raid” could be heard. Suddenly, two men came up to me, taking positions on either side and asked, “dhandha karta hai kya”. I thought they were addressing my friends and I was all ready to start exhibiting my mardangi, when they looked at me and asked again “bolo, dhanda karta hai kya. Kitna milta hai.” I was stunned. I looked around and found similar things happening at other tables.
I quickly realized what was going on, but couldn’t control myself and started laughing. The men, who I assumed were plain clothes-men, didn’t seem amused, so I told them, “rate secret hai”. The guys said, “kitna, teen hazaar?” I said, “main itna sasta lagta hoon? Ek lakh minimum”. Now it was their turn to be stunned. They looked at each other and in sync lifted me by my arms and took me to a van parked outside.
I was now a bit worried. The looks of incredulousness on my friends’ faces had given way to alarm as I was led away. They ran after me, but they couldn’t get near. In the meantime, a journalist from the Mirror managed to take a picture of me in the van.
I started chatting with the men who had “captured” me. They were part of a new social wing and their job was to go into lounge bars and monitor them from a moral perspective – “theirs” and “D’Souza’s”. I tried to tell them that I had been kidding, but they were convinced that if there was no cover charge for men and if there were many women and a few men, it had to be that the men were soliciting.
I told them who I was, that I was married, that I had a child and a corporate job. It didn’t cut any ice. I had to spend the night at the “Nehru Home for Wayward Men” in the company of some equally bemused and upset men who had been similarly picked up. The next morning, my wife and friends found me, did the necessary paperwork and got me home.
Unfortunately, the story made the front-page with my photograph. Who knew that my 15-seconds of fame would be as the “Upper Parel Gigolo”. A part of me keeps grinning at the irony but another part is aghast…and my wife is clearly not amused. I have already moved the High Court to get my name cleared.
Aah…the price we pay when morality is interpreted and perceived differently by different people!