The Hottest Tickets in Bombay

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There was only one way to ease our sorrows last Wednesday night after we realized the inevitable, and that was to drink. And eat.

Luckily for us, the reopening of the club Enigma came on a night when we needed to forget about the day’s news. The reopening had been much talked about since I arrived a few months ago. So when we were able to get an invitation to the party, we took it.

Like almost all decent (or is that decadent?) clubs in Bombay, Enigma is located in a hotel. A lot of the good, high quality restaurants are also in hotels, so of course there’s this similarly dull, manufactured air to all of them. Nevertheless, the clubs are a good bet if you just want to go somewhere, have a drink, and do a little dancing. I regret that there really aren’t any good rock clubs or simple pubs in the city. The only exception to the latter is Geoffrey’s, located in the beautiful Art Deco Hotel Marine Plaza. It’s got English pub style to the hilt; sadly, only Kingfisher beer is on draft (but the Pet Shop Boys are on the jukebox!).

Enigma is located in the JW Marriott, which is located in the northern suburb of Juhu. The hotel is the epitome of excess, with at least four restaurants, a lavish buffet brunch, a market, some stores. Essentially, if you stay there during your trip to Mumbai, then you never have to leave. I think for some people that is the point.

It takes a long time to get to Juhu from south Mumbai. Only one road leads there, so can sometimes take 1-2 hours to get there if your timing is off. Fortunately, if you stay up there until the wee hours of the morning, the drive back takes all of 10 minutes. There’s talk of building another causeway.

Because we didn’t want to arrive at the club too early (even 11 is too early on a Wednesday), we decided to pair our trip to Enigma with a visit to a restaurant we’d been dying to go to: Don Giovanni’s. Yes, yes. It’s an Italian restaurant, and one of the only authentic ones here. We went there with our Italian friends and a friend visiting from Italy, so Don Giovanni himself treated us quite well. We had crostini, salata caprese, several assaggi of pasta (including gnocchi with gorgonzola!), and a few other recommended dishes. All was washed down with glasses of Valpolicella. Perfect!

After a meal like that, the club could only be a letdown. Of course, it was hard to really enjoy ourselves because 1) our stomachs were very full and 2) it was Wednesday night. They say Wednesday is the new Saturday here, but I don’t buy it.

When we arrived at Enigma, there were at least four film crews (including Indian CNBC – why, I don’t know). The bright lights from the cameras made it hard to slink away in the shadows of the club and the music, mostly Bollywood hits and remixed bhangra played at too fast a speed, was not something you could really dance to. I found the whole vibe very plastic, and my intuition was confirmed when I turned around to see people lining up to do shots poured through rubber hoses. It seemed very much like a glitzy frat party attended by people who were old enough to know better.

But hey…Sophie was supposed to perform. Sophie’s hit Hindi/English hit “Baby Love” is huge on MTV Asia right now. It’s the kind of pop song that could easily end up being the soundtrack for a car commercial or an ad for an all-inclusive resort. Of course, it’s also one of those songs that sticks in your head FORever. Of course, like all Hindi songs I’ve heard, “Baby Love” is essentially about getting married. Sexy video, stuffy message.

Also, some of the Australian cricket team were there. I haven’t quite become accustomed to all of their faces, but I did recognize Shane Warne, who was stinking up the place with his cigar. By the way, India narrowly ended up beating Australia the following match. Blame it on your cigar-chomping captain, Roos!

We left by 1:30 (had to work the next day, after all). Unfortunately, the clubbing didn’t do much to dull the pain. In fact, some of the excesses of the night made me feel more uneasy about the prospect of another four years of corporate scandals, rising unemployment, and my place as an American in the world.

Nevertheless, there was another party to help us cope. Saturday night saw French DJ Laurent Garnier come to town. (How’s that for distancing myself from 57 million+ people in my country? I go hang out with the French!)

The chance to see a “Western” act is relatively rare in Mumbai, so you go when you can. The Laurent Garnier event was sponsored by Bombay’s branch of Alliance Francaise and Bacardi, so it was a pretty big deal. The party was at Kamala Mills, one of dozens of city textile and grain mills that have been converted into office space, malls, or clubs. This particularly space was quite nice: a large warehouse with room for dancing and an enclosed grassy area for schmoozing. It’s so unusual to hang out outdoors for any length of time here (heat, pollution, lack of grass, etc.), so this was a real treat. Large bats were swirling overhead (near light projected images of the Bacardi bat logo, no less) and you could see the stars. The night was also on the cool side, maybe 75 degrees. Some people were wearing sweaters. Then there were other people, young girls in particular, who were wearing hardly anything at all. It’s so rare to see much visible flesh on women from day-to-day, that a tank top and miniskirt sometimes seem scandalous.

Saturday night was much better and much livelier than Wednesday, as hundreds of people (Indian and expat) turned up. The music was typical, beat-heavy club music (except for a lovely New Order track thrown in the mix), so it wasn’t anything to get excited over. But, in the four or five hours we spent surrounded by our American, English, French, Italian, Brazilian, and Indian friends, we practically forgot about the election. Maybe it was the camaraderie. On second thought, maybe it was the Bacardi.