Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Mumbai Press Club

Despite being a journalist for many years, for reasons I have not yet been able to ascertain, I have stayed away from the press club. I never applied for a membership nor did I show the slightest inclination to pay it a visit. From whatever I have read in Busybee books (a compilation of the legendary 'Round and About' columns written by one of the best writers / journalists / editors in the world, Mr (late) Behram Contractor), I have always perceived the press club to be this dingy place where all people go there to do is drink, drink and drink. Though reading about it in the Contractor's columns has been fun. I finally broke my forced abstinence when a few days back I paid it a visit. My friend, Prashant from ET has been proudly speaking of his press club membership (with much pomposity if I may add, much like I guess any Bennett & Coleman group reporter since, you know, the club is like their second home due to proximity ;) ) and so we met up at the press club over lunch. I must say I was quite impressed with the press club.

But first things first. I boarded the double-decker bus from Nariman Point and went to VT station. There are many pleasures to be had in Mumbai but few that match the adrenalin pump we get by sitting on the top deck of the double decker bus. That too, when it is empty or almost empty. Empty spaces, either on roads or in public trasnport is a rarity these days in Mumbai so one savours every bit of it when one finds one. And even a 10-minute ride for as small a distance as Nariman Point to Mumbai makes it a joy ride. You pass by three sprawling grounds- of the very few open spaces left in Mumbai- marvel at the magnificent British architecture and heritage precincts of Fountain, pass by the Bhikha Behram well and the neighbouring Fashion Street and land up in the narrow bylane that leads up to VT station. They say double-decker buses are not as profitable as the single decker buses and that is mainly why the fleet of such double-decker buses have been reduced; that's quite sad. There was a time when one of the items on a Mumbai tourist's map was to take a ride on the top deck of a double-decker bus on route#123 from Tardeo to RC Church and back, enjoying the cool breeze and soothing ocean sights along Marine Drive and queen's necklace. I took this route for 3-4 years in high school as my school was on Marine Drive and the ride of pure joy. The double-decker buses are gone, except for a few token routes such as the shuttles between VT and Nariman Point and a few other routes in Mumbai. I wish these icons would be somehow brought back on Mumbai roads.

Anyways, I was soon at the press club. Before there wasn't a board of the press club outside the press club so for a person who had never been there- such as me- it was difficult to make out the entrance. Now there is a board, so it wasn't difficult for me to spot it. But Prashant had already joined me by then so I couldn't have missed it. There is a small press conference room for smaller firms and establishments to brief the media, as soon as we enter the facility. The main club area is quite impressive and very spacious and airy. The restaurant doesn't look like anything what I had imagined; it's quite clean, neat and plush. The bar is well laid out and looks very professional. Expectedly though, there were other ET / TOI journalists around. We chose to have the buffet. The food was well-cooked and I took two helpings. You get a good view of the Azad maidan from the restaurant, so I guess it looks very good in the evenings and also in winter or in rains. I am told you could also sit outside in the open arena and order your food and drinks and enjoy fresh air. Very nice!

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