Not far from where we live in Ahmedabad is a vast mall. At least every other evening, I go there and park on one of the benches in the cavernous atrium. An 'Australian Cookies' shop serves up a package of a cup of pretty good 'machine coffee' + a couple of cookies, at a price that I can still afford ...
Yesterday seemed no different from any other day. I had had my cup and was watching the crowd and thinking some vague thoughts when someone came and sat on the same bench. I did not pay any attention for a while; then I heard the question: "Are you a local guy?" in English. I looked up and saw a thin speckie, somewhere in his early twenties.
Self: Well, I live here ...
Speckie: But ... are you Gujju?
Self: No, I have been here just a few months...
Speckie: Okay, I came here just the other day. So you must know this place better... So, tell me, is there some nice place to visit out here?...
Self: Hmm, there are some interesting spots around the city. Depends on your taste...
Speckie: Oh, you can be sure, I have pretty good tastes; I am from Bombay, you know!
Self: Well, one nice place not too far is a bird sanctuary. But you may need to...
Speckie: Birds? Oh, no. Not my kind of thing. You mean, they have a whole lot of cages and birds are kept...
Self: No, it is an open area, a lake...
Speckie: You mean, a National Park sort of thing?
Speckie: And what kind of birds do you see there?
Self: Those migratory birds; like even in Bombay, you have flamingoes coming for a visit...
Speckie: Oh yeah, all those creeks and stuff, yucky-mucky places, so much filth, man, nobody goes there!
Self: Well... this place is not that type....
Speckie: Oh, but, that sounds too dull anyways! Anything closer?
Self: Within the city,... well, it depends; there are some old monuments, bazars and stuff... Then..
Speckie (interrupting): But you know what, this whole place is real boring. Not like Bombay, well, ever been there?
Self: Yeah, rather often.
Speckie: Cool, been to Lokhandwala? Some of those malls there...
Speckie: Well, Bandra Bandstand...
Self: Not really.
Speckie: Hey, you simply don't know Bombay then!... you know, my problem is ... this crowd. These girls (sweeps his hand around) are no good. They dunno what it is like. Ever seen Bombay girls?
Self: Yes. they are smart, more trendy.
Speckie: That is an understatement, man! You go to Lokhandwala and just see those malls. Yeah, and phenomenal maals
. Well, you get what I mean right?
Self: Guess so!
Speckie: Any place in this city where you get a better crowd than this? You know, I am bloody stuck here for another couple of days. And I just want some cool place to hang out for something like a day! Any really nice mall?
Self: There are some malls in the Satellite area. That is a bit more hifi place, you know, richer people...
Speckie: But I bet it wont be like Bombay.
Self: It may not be. You might just find the crowd there more to your liking. But, well, I am not sure. Whenever I went there, things looked just like this!
Speckie: Boring place, this Ahmedabad! and on top of it, no booze! (pauses a while) Well, you are South Indian?
Self: Basically, yes.
Speckie: Where, Bangalore, Mangalore...
Speckie: Kerala, people there are called Mallus, Malabaris, right?
Speckie: Kerala, yes, the place that is number one in suicides, number one in literacy and .. yes, number one in rapes!
Speckie: And man, I hear, Mallus drink like hell too, right?
Self: They do.
Speckie: But you know, you guys can never beat the Goans. No way! Ever been to Goa, Folks just drink all the time. Papa, Mama, Brother, Sister, ... all sit and booze and booze ... well, they have a ...
(pauses in some thought)
Speckie: Now, how do I go to Usmanpura?
Self: It is about 10 km from here. You could take a bus to Ashram Road and go from there perhaps. Otherwise, take a rick.
Speckie: How much will the rick guy charge?
Self: About 50 bucks.
Speckie: Cool, man! Just 50 bucks for 10 kilometers?
Self: Yes. they are much cheaper here than in Bombay.
Speckie: So, here you at least have better ricks; but make no mistake, we have much better chicks. And no points for guessing which of the two I would prefer to...well, haha!
Speckie: Anyways, got to move now. Okay, have a good time here, well manage with what you have! It was nice talking to you, man!
(raises a clenched fist; I raise an open palm anticipating a high-five)
Speckie: Hey, not that way, close your fist!... Ah that is better, that is the way we do it in Bombay...
(he punches my fist with surprising gentleness and walks out).