You think Chinchpokli in the same breath as Timbuktu (if you’re all well-read and know it all) or Jhumreetalaiyya (for the desis-at-heart or those who’ve read Kipling). Some strange place with a stranger name so far away you doubt its existence- ha ha, you take it for granted, it doesn’t. But, ladies and gentlemen, it is very much for real.

Yeah yeah, this is probably no revelation to those of you who’ve lived in Bombay forever, but us गओंठीs who got here by the last train from Baroda, साला ये तो कमाल हो गया! It’s like discovering snow in Hyderabad (Snow World- don’t make the mistake of eating it, you’ll hate your tongue for life :D).

When Allan - my jazz teacher, a PR professional and friend - was moving office to the 90 year-old-Velji-Lakhamshi-Napoo-High-School-इलाका, I laughed! And laughed and laughed and laughed. I wanted to say, You’re gonna be so far from every place else! when in fact, he was going to be closer to Town, and it meant we’d be able to meet for practice with more ease and more often.

Even before that great event occurred, the picture etched in my mind was by my hostel mate, Bindi,the Naagar-desperately-looking -for-a-groom. She made Chinchpokli sound like it was Bermuda Triangle! Untraceable on the map and no vehicle went there, or one that did, never returned. I thought, Askilant this place must be, no?

And then I took a cab from hostel to Neena’s place one evening. From memory of the couple of times that Neena had escorted me, I blurted, “Dada, सात रास्ता से ले लेना,” and then every signboard address of all the tiny shops that lined the stretch read Chinchpokli. Such was my shock- I sat agape with my mouth wide open (to let in god knows what sizes of insects and what quantities of dust) and eyes popping out. I bought a Crocin and a Fa roll-on deodorant to make it all a real experience. It was my way of jerking myself out of disbelief (heights of self preservation, pinch, but don’t hurt).

Long after the fact was ingrained in my existence, I met another (Allan being the first guy I knew at) Hansa Communications designer (whose name I cannot recall for no fault of his) recently at the Bandra Poetry Slam. Post-fun-mingling revealed the fact. I blurted out, “Oh that’s the office at… erm… screwing my nose - crinkling my eyes CHINCH-POK-LEE?” The guy and his girlfriend practically screamed with laughter. I mean, plenty of case-taking had happened through the evening thanks to my “Townie” status –stepping onto foreign territory and all the fuss that surrounds it. But the fascination for one more strange land has been conquered.

Chinchpokli tee hee is no more some remote place where you head to never return, but more real. I now know it is home to the Kasturba Gandhi Municipal Hospital run by BMC, “reputed for the treatment of contagious diseases.” [Wikipedia] I strongly suggest we should add Patratu to that lexicon of faraway lands, though ;P.

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