I always consider myself a less of a reader. Because I don’t read as much as I would want to. However, whatever little I read, it leaves an impact on me. I can’t keep a book down unless I have read it. I don’t leave books mid-way & I certainly don’t skim or scan. I think that’s a massive show of lack of manners. Yeah, I know what you are thinking. You don’t have to say it.
Last week, I had to travel to Mumbai for some office work & Shantaram was on my mind since a night before. I have been dreaming of Dharavi, the pair of bears, the streets of Colaba, Marine Drive, Bandra, Sea link and what not – none of which I had seen earlier. With a tight-schedule, I was sure I won’t be able to make it to either of these & thus retired to the idea of spending an evening at Nariman Point & the rest of the three days would invariably be occupied with the dear office.
Life had different plans for me though.
As the flight geared up to land, I looked to my left and saw many huts stacked next to each other with no leg space in between – much like the seats of the Indigo aircraft. I rarely choose window seats because of the small bladder I have.
However, I chose one that day and looked to my right just before landing to a 2 minute long aerial view of Dharavi – the place where Shantaram played a doctor, learnt to live with rats, committed his feelings to Karla, safeguarded himself from an attack of dogs & found a place for himself in the huge hearts of people living in the most cramped places of the world.
By the time, I reached my hotel, I had made peace with spending the evening in Marine Drive or Gateway of India with no special dinner plans. As luck would have it, my colleague (and friend) turned out to be more adventurous and expressed interest to make dinner plans.
With a stroke of luck that works for book lovers, I asked her to have dinner in Colaba (since we were headed there) instead of Sakinaka (where we were staying).
And with just plain luck, I landed in Leopold’s that my colleague picked out.
If you ask me, what’s so special about the restaurant-cum-cafe, I would say – food, ambience, gentry – all of it. But that’s just I would tell you. For me, it’s special in ways that can’t be limited to good food, hip ambience or uppity gentry. For me, it was more.
For me, it was a story coming live. It was three months of my life that I spent knowing Shantaram in 2017 & then re-living it with all my senses again in May 2018. And that’s just my kind of special.