Saturday, October 20, 2007

Scenes and The City, Episode 1

Midnight coffee

If you're driving around late at night, especially if you're dog-tired, sleep-deprived, drunk, depressed, nicotine-starved, and/or all of the above, look out for these bikes close to the junctions in the suburbs - a late-night pick-me-up system that's so Mumbai. A cycle, with a steel canister of hot milk strapped to it, a packet of plastic cups, a bag of assorted cigarettes, and one enterprising enterpreneur.

It's quiet, apart from the occasional post-party car roaring past in high spirits; everything's the black and orange of the sodium lights, except for the blues and greens of backlit signboards standing out in stark relief from this silent, sepia world; and a small group of people, usually lone bikers, auto drivers on their last ride home for the night, and sometimes post-party teens crammed into an Alto like Fryums.

The whisk of Nescafe & sugar into the cup, milk bubbling into another, and the quick cup-to-cup pour that's a cooler, mixer, and foamer all rolled into one... then lean back against your vehicle, and have that first taste of a piping hot coffee or Boost, take a cig from this one source when all the paanwaalas are closed, light, drag, savour.

Watch out for cost cuts, though. This guy tonight flicked out a Milds from the pack with awesome elan, spun it over his fingers with a flourish, and promptly dropped it into the muck at his feet. Not missing a beat, with complete customer-centric focused businessman repeated the gesture with a fresh cig; and immediately after the dropped cig was retrieved and shoved right back into the pack in front of your horrified eyes, without as much as a wipe or dust-off.

Caveat emptor.
Let the buyer beware.

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