Is there more to nightlife in Mumbai than Delhi?

You wake up with empty pockets and an empty soul filled with regret. That's the best one can hope for.

 |  5-minute read |   22-04-2016
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Is it ever OK to reach a cool-hip-happening-trendy club in an auto (yuck, so tacky) and not an Audi Q-something? Do you prefer walking in in flip-flops or is the sight of feet disgusting and open footwear a glaring faux pas? Can you wear a T-shirt and shorts (until they get banned) or must you be always impeccably dressed - clothes carefully selected, sent for ironing, laid out neatly on the bed, shoes obsessed over? What about transport? Do you make elaborate plans and prepare a full itinerary and then circulate it via mass WhatsApp messages, or do these things just sort of happen? What's the protocol on carrying guns and maybe firing a stray bullet inside a club to assert your manhood?

There's no correct answer of course (except for guns, which are always the answer), but the preferences are pretty much always dictated by whether the individual is in Delhi or Mumbai.

bar-stock-exchange_042216081747.jpg  At Bar Stock Exchange in Bombay.

kitty-su,-delhi_042216081807.jpg At Kitty-Su, Delhi.

The best way to start a riot - aside from the obvious ways, ahem - is to tell someone from Mumbai that Delhi is better. Or the other way around. It's a real adrenaline rush. Having lived in both cities, this writer has experienced it up close, yet lives to tell the tale. It's a not-friendly-at-all rivalry/dick-waving contest, lacking in all nuance and balance. It always descends into: Safety! But butter chicken! But sea! But wider roads! But Natural's Ice Cream! But Khan Chacha! But auto-rickshaws that ply by metre! But Delhi Metro! But Bombay Bhel Puri! But momos! But Gateway of India! But India Gate! But Shah Rukh Khan's house! But Arvind *cough* Kejriwal's WagonR! But Bollywood! But Chandni Chowk! But Dalal Street! But butter chicken!

It's easy to fall into that fun (also tedious) endless loop when discussing the respective nightlife of the two cities as well. The subject, flippant as it seems on the surface, is worth talking about because we're slowly - very slowly - limping toward some sense of a modern identity in India, despite the best efforts of politicians and radical nutjobs around.

But I'll try to be more balanced while looking at the cultural contrasts and differences in the way of life, without resorting to fifth-grader ad hominem attacks. It's because I'm a bit of an authority on the subject, having been successfully denied entry into or kicked out of multiple places in both Delhi and Mumbai.

Crusaders on both sides claim to have it better. But fundamentally, it's pretty much the same - how different can the experience of going to a pub in two different Metro cities in the country be, realistically? You know, closing time comes - it's roughly the same in both cities - and no one wants to leave. Everyone's slurring, pretending to be best friends with everyone around. Everyone smells nice, depending on humidity and humility. Everyone looks nice, depending on taste and quantity of liquor consumed. The waiters show up and hand you this plastic cup and tell you to take it outside. You even have like some 20 different popular franchises that are now open in both cities, with identical décor and food. No one's wearing mini-skirts because, you know - except for a couple of untoward elements.

Skeptics may point toward Bandra, where supposedly the rich South Bombay brats, the hipsters, the out-of-towner professionals, the Andheri strugglers, even the yuppies can all convene and co-exist. That's always sort of been the calling card of the city in terms of harmony and emotional and financial equality, and how Delhi seems to live in aprivileged sort of bubble. But then there's Hauz Khas Village in Delhi too, a Little Bandra if you will.

Aiming-to-be-hep venues, people wearing outrageous clothes, speaking in manufactured accents, pretending to fight the good fight but basically just fighting early-onset alcoholism and ennui. Ironically, the sense of privilege screams itself hoarse in both Bandra and poor old Hauz Khas Village.

What's the difference?

Dig deeper though, and you'll find enough distinctions that sort of define the two cities, at least for the urban youth. Kejriwal may pretend to try, but public transport in the capital is the pits. Autos have graduated from being individuals to being part of a union to being part of the mafia; the friendly local neighbourhood taxi stand overcharges and is too fussy; the Metro shuts down early; DTC buses have a huge "ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK" sign scribbled across the front and sides. So driving the car your parents gifted on your 21st birthday or paying 5X on Ola or Uber (no, wait) becomes the most reasonable option.

It's not like that in Mumbai, the smellier, less entitled Yang to Delhi's "my daddy strongest" Yin. With the luxury of auto-drivers and cabs who don't ask for Stretch Limo rates after 6pm, people end up stepping out a lot later (added to that the travel time, traffic hours, and the general culture). So people end up getting drunker later. Then there's that godawful thing called Ladies' Night.

Every night in just about every pub in Delhi is Ladies' Night (ironic given the contempt with which women are treated in the country). The concept functions on the slightly greasy assumption that the women will show up for free drinks, and the men will follow and pay for their own. Thankfully, it's a trend that's not widespread in Mumbai. Same with Happy Hours (1+1), which are far more common in Delhi. In fact, one of the rare times I've even seen Happy Hours at all at a pub in Mumbai, they only began after 11.30 PM.

Ultimately, though, there's a realisation that it's all the same. You can expect to have a reasonably good time when you go out at night. Have a drink (or 20), have a nice meal, meet friends, maybe strike up a nice conversation with a stranger. You dance, you frolic and make merry, get into a fight or two; then you go home and sleep.

Either to your parents' home (far more likely in Delhi, but - contrary to popular perception - you have enough out-of-town professionals moving into the city, making single life something that can be tackled independently - sort of). You wake up with empty pockets and an empty soul filled with regret. And that's the best one can hope for.


Akhil Sood Akhil Sood @akhilsoodsood

Akhil Sood is a freelance writer used to setting six to eight alarms a day.

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