Midnight revelry will be dearly missed in Maximum city
- Venkatesh Raghavan
- Dec 30, 2020
MUMBAI: This New Year night will be an altogether different experience for the Maximum city with all citizens including the traditional new year revelers forced to sit at home and watch the idiot box welcome the birth of 2021. This follows as the city cops in Mumbai are strictly implementing the night curfew orders issued by the state government and people will not be able to hang out on the streets or even establishments like pubs and bars post 11 p.m. Still worse, there is no chance for any big groups or get-togethers as it is stipulated that only groups fewer than four in number will be allowed to move about in public places.
Compare this with an usual New year night that goes on in Mumbai. Every New year night the local trains will be permitted to ply much beyond the midnight hours and people would get to see a huge crowd of revelers in the trains wearing colored paper caps and some blowing bugles to welcome the new year. By 11 p.m. the crowd would build up and there used to be a huge assembly near the Gateway of India, in the Colaba south Mumbai region where loud bursting of crackers used to greet the New Year. Around the mid-nineties, there was also a strong police presence in such places of crowded revely, after instances of misbehavior and molestation were reported on such occasions.
The traditional places of hangout used to be beaches like Chowpatty, Juhu and Mudh Island in Malad besides pubs like Temptation in Bandra, the Queen of the Mumbai suburbs. People preferring to celebrate in privacy of their local friends used to gather at their building terraces after stockpiling huge supplies of beer bottles, and other alcoholic brews in addition to soft drinks and snacks besides food supplies. There used to be noisy revelry with loud music of different genres. The upmarket crowd used to swing to the likes of Summer of '69 and "I saw her standing there'. Those accustomed mostly to Bollywood would echo and dance to tunes like "Ole Ole, Ole" or "I am a disco dancer."
For those hanging in doors too, there was no dearth of entertainment as the TV programs including Doordarshan that is rarely tuned to these days, giving comedy shows besides music with dance sequences. Even people who had retired to bed could sense the new year creeping in when they heard the loud bursting of crackers from around the surrounding buildings and streets. The television shows used to be a big hit with old couples watching a sudden interruption in the entertainment program with a countdown of 10 seconds to welcome the new year. In addition, there were also house parties in bachelor homes, where a private group used to assemble, play music and enjoy the brews.
This year however, there is a total killjoy attitude adopted by the state government. People of Mumbai will not be allowed terrace parties nor will they be allowed to hang out at pubs or bars. Their presence in beaches too will be monitored and won't be allowed to proceed beyond the 11 pm mark. The only source of relief will be homes that are big enough to accomodate an assembly of people and also have the liberal culture of participating in drinking sprees. Everywhere else the police teams that include SRPF companies and Quick Response Team in addition to the local police platoons, will be keeping every nook and corner under the scanner. They will be ably assisted by the presence of drones that will be able to gather or spot revelers flouting rules from a top view of the city.
Needless to say, there is an additional dampener as the local trains in the city will not be catering to revelers and only the road route is available for travel to spots in South Mumbai that are much sought after on such occasions. The only people who will be spared are the ones who are allowed to enjoy their spirits in the privacy of their homes. Even the church services will have to wind up early and the restaurants that cater to the church-goers post their midnight mass event too will be forced to shut shop at the stroke of 11 pm.
For example, in Central Mumbai's Matunga area, the Don Bosco church used to attract a huge gathering for the midnight mass and the nearby Irani restaurant used to be overcrowded post 12 am with people ordering cakes and Kheema pav to satiate their palate. The restaurant used to manage to stay open till 4 am with support from the local police station. In fact, the servants used to look sleepy when anyone drops in at the morning hours of the New Year. This year however, there is no chance of such a spectacle being re-enacted.
Youth across the city sounded a mixed response. Amit, who is a vendor of morning breakfast snacks in the Prabha Devi office locality of Mumbai said, "We friends used to have a great time in our nearby building terrace. This year will be different as we and most of our middle class homes are not allowed to drink at home. Maybe, we manage to find an empty room or say a single bachelor apartment where we can pool up and enjoy ourselves in privacy. The issue is yet to be sorted out."
A middle-aged person, hailing from the western suburbs of Bandra, said, "Though booze will not be a problem as we are allowed to drink at home, this year it will be a family affair, with I and my sons putting up in our living room sipping the scotch and soda from our glasses. I don't think there will be any noise of firecrackers as assembly on the roads is not permitted beyond 11 pm. I feel once normalcy is completely restored to our city, we all should get together and celebrate to compensate for missing out on this occasion." Asked as to when, he said, "I hope it happens in God's good time."