Mumbai is a city of karaoke. In Delhi, at least, back when I was still living there, there was one karaoke night, every alternate Monday if I’m not mistaken. Being Delhi and being Monday, hardly anyone went, and usually the organizers brought a huge crew with them and they sat on several different tables, occupying space.
But in Mumbai, I notice more and more, going out at night is not just about going out at night. Drinking must be accompanied by an activity. On any given day of the week you can find loads of things to amuse you while you drink your
beer--several karaoke nights for instance. A pub quiz night, set up recently. Theme evenings, where you dress the part. Bars that serve only one kind of alcohol. I recall reading recently about a bar made entirely out of ice that might come up in Gurgaon. People will have to wear special outfits to drink in the sub-zero temperature.
Which brings me to a discussion I was having with a friend last night. We were catching up after many years and the conversation turned to what’s so-and-so doing now. A large number of the people I remember hanging out with when I was younger had at some point or the other in their 20s gone into rehab. "I don’t know why," my friend said.
I think the answer is quite simple. We’re bored. My generation is bored. Everything new came in too fast and we quickly lost the wonder of it all. Cable TV followed by the internet followed by massive globalization of our markets. It used to be cool to walk around and around a market place, drinking Thums Up. Now, hardly anyone goes anywhere without a purpose, a plan, something to do.
But of course we’re bored. We had cushy childhoods. We went to good schools and colleges. Some of us went abroad, but their lifestyles weren’t very different from the ones who stayed behind. Travelling, when I was in college, was defined by the Body Shop lip balm you bought, or the bars you visited with your cousins. And with this need for more and more entertainment, naturally a lot of people turned to drugs as the best form to alleviate boredom. In fact, a poem I have up on my bulletin board by John Berryman defines it:
Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) "Ever to confess you're bored
means you have no
Inner Resources." I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
So in Bombay, we go to karaoke night. We cheer and boo the singers. We get drunk ourselves and sing. We go to pub quiz night and clap loudly when we get the answers right. We are filled with a sense of achievement after these evenings because our boredom has been pushed to the background by
something--let’s face it--designed by the clubs to make us spend more money.
"Is there anything to do in this city besides go out to eat or drink or watch a movie?" I asked a friend once. He thought for a long while and shook his head.
I suppose there are things we could do. Have a hobby for instance. Volunteer work somewhere. But again, these are external activities. I should like to revert to my childhood where all I had were "inner resources", where I cycled for the joy of cycling, or spent the day curled up in bed just thinking. Have we lost that? I think so.