Monday, May 02, 2005
Actually, you have to feel it..(pic: author)
Groups of young, well heeled boys and girls in their trendiest walk along animatedly, almost purposefully, as they dodge and wing past saree-clad ladies, impatient toddlers tugging at their bags, haggling with the vendors standing behind their vegetable carts.
A white Maruti Zen slows down, music pounds from within, the teenage driver and his three companions appear suitably nonchalant, like they couldn't have guessed they are the cause of the distraction that's caused pedestrians and passers-by on both sides of the street to inspect them, albeit momentarily.
The Zen moves on, the throbbing beats fade out, other sounds take over, a stationary bus shifts gears noisily as it takes on the last passenger from the bus stop, right behind the carts. The honking resumes with gusto as the bus moves out onto the road and a small traffic jam develops. A delivery boy on a cycle dashes madly past, the wooden box affixed on the back sports the name of a tandoori joint a furlong away. A group of scooters wait expectantly outside a pizza joint, ready to tear off into inner lanes with fresh orders.
This is 7 Bungalows in the north-western suburb of Andheri in Mumbai, one of Bombay's many `golden quarter miles', Over a dozen restaurants of various sizes and hues can be found on this strip and on a normal day at around this time, 8.00 pm on a weekday, they are mostly or close to full. On Sundays, scores of patrons hover on the pavements outside, in eager anticipation.
Walk around 7 Bungalows on such a day and you are enveloped with an all pervading sense of excitement, of heightened activity, purpose and near carmaderie with the dozens of folks milling around or passing through. You not only want to spend time and possibly money but also come back, if nothing else, to hang out. A first-time visitor might use the term `buzz' to describe his or her emotions.
Is 7 Bungalows unique in imparting a buzz when you arrive there ? Well, not quite, hundreds of spots in the teeming metropolis of Bombay give you a similar feeling, with varying degrees - a lady visitor from Delhi, returning to the city a few weeks ago, after almost a year, remarked she felt the buzz the moment she emerged from the airport terminal.
To feel a buzz at Mumbai's airport, when the first and present reaction ought to be a combination of frustration and disgust at the mess created by the reckless construction and the pile-up of arriving and departing passengers, luggage and vehicles that drop them off and constantly whistling guards shooing away parked cars is interesting to say the least.
I Love NY, now you know why
Yet, Bombay does that to you. On every other parameter of liveability, it would score between 0 and - 10 except buzz. Most visitors over the years say they like Bombay because it has a buzz, they stay on because it does so. I would confess that I can feel the lack of it more strongly than I feel its presence, try going to Delhi, Calcutta, Madras and Hyderabad. Once again, Bangalore, I can grandly pronounce, is beginning to display the first strains of a city that has `buzz', albeit in some parts.
Is Bombay alone ? Well, no. Emerging into the bright sunlight from the underground New York Penn Station on to Manhattan's 33rd street, between 7th and 8th Avenues, you get hit with a buzz blast that, in my mind, is tough to replicate anywhere else in the world. Walk down further, on New York City's famed sidewalks and you can feel the electricity surging, traveling up your feet and into your senses.
NY street energy is of course, well documented - You feel elated, with it, removed, happy and just kicked to be there. Keep walking and you are almost one with everything around, the traffic, the fast walking commuters. Leicester Square in London comes close, on ocassion. Morning or evening, high powered waves of energy, rather than mere air seem to be coursing through this Square, which if you were to analyse clinically, is a small piece of real estate with nothing more than a few movie halls and a restaurants located around a garden.
There are of course many buzz zones, small and big, in and around where you live and of course all over the world. Bombay by night, Madrid by midnight, London by day, New York anytime !
People of the world unite
So, what constitutes buzz ? If, in most cases, it is nothing but an aggregation of hang-outs, like 7 Bungalows in Andheri, Bombay or to stretch the analogy, Leicester Square, then what really injects that form of energy into any location ?
People could be one, obvious, answer, often young people, but it does not seem to be as simple as that. Lots of young people congregations do not necessarily create a buzz, whether its a permanent location or a semi-permanent, temporary hang-out.
A Greater Kailash II hang-out in New Delhi is similarly populated at a given time, socially, demographically but buzz levels (if any !) may not be as strong as the Andheri (W) scenario described earlier.
Cities themselves create a buzz, Bombay is an example back home. Many people can relate to the lady who stepped off the plane from Delhi and felt the city's buzz touch her. Similar experiences can be had in the great Asian cities of Hong Kong, Singapore and, more recently, Shanghai.
A COO of a large Silicon Valley firm told me late last year in Shanghai that he could feel the electricity on the streets. He was comparing this visit to a previous one which obviously did not leave such a lasting impression. And Shanghai does leave you somewhat overwhelmed with its energy; manifested in the young couples on the streets quite visibly in love, the tall buildings, the cars, roads, the lights - encompassing in one city, everything about the new China that you hear so
Vast congregations of excited people are high energy and buzz centres. Watching a cricket match in a Wankhade in Bombay or an Edgebaston in England can be an exhilarating experience, to say the least. After a recent India-Pakistan match in Edgebaston where this writer was present, several desi spectators were heard remarking about the `amazing atmosphere' despite the severe drubbing the home team got. Translate that into buzz !
If its not just about congregations, what is it then ? Could it be weather ? Does moisture or humidity play a role ? Bombay is more humid so you feel the energy prickling you and Delhi, you are most probably reeling from a heat wave. Sounds a bit bizarre, doesn't it ? Guess it is, what then are the other variables ?
What according to you generates the BUZZ ?
Write in..as the discussion continues..the writer confesses a disinct, even unfair Bombay bias versus other Indian cities !