By WL Hangshing
No! I didn’t go to Chinagate, the Chinese restaurant at Bandra, as it brings eye-welling memories of the table where we sat, Randhir, Navin, Geeta, Rani and I. I had come to Mumbai in response to a court summon in a CBI prosecution case in which I was the sanctioning authority, as the Commissioner of Service tax, almost a decade ago.
I remember the fine-dine table that was Randhir Kapoor’s favourite. The waiter had knowingly ushered us there. Around the table was Randhir’s best buddy, Navin Nischol and his wife Geeta. Geeta and my wife Rani had become the closest of friends. They confided with each other even in their most personal of matters.
Randhir, whom I never felt close enough to till then, to call him by his pet name of Daboo, took regular swigs of his pet bottle. Ninny (Navin) was on his usual Greygoose, the ladies on wine and I was on rum, being a rum bum whenever the choice was available.
As we got a little tipsy and on to table drumming mood, we began attracting glances from the other tables in the restaurant. By and by, the rum must have taken hold and I began humming… Ae Dil Hai Mushkil Jeena Yahan… and in the same beat the rest of us at the table followed in with… Zara Hat Ke, Zara Bach Ke, Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan. By the next verse, the whole restaurant had joined in and at the end of the song, there was high-spirited applause all around.
There were a few more rendezvous at that table. It never fails to evoke fond memories of happy carefree times together, days gone by, days that won’t come back.
Geeta was the first to go. We had just landed from Delhi and she had called for Rani to come over the same night. Since she was tired, having just landed, she promised to visit her the next day. It was not to be, as early the next morning, Navin called up to say that Geeta was no more. We, and now I, still rue the night before when we didn’t respond to her call to visit her. Navin was the next to close his eyes a couple of years later. Now, from that table of five, there remains only Daboo and I, trodding our separate ways, I on a lonely one, on this planet called Earth.
I don’t like to go to Chinagate because it has eye-welling memories of happy days that won’t come back.
(The author is retired Chief Commissioner, GST&Customs, NE Region)