Hotel Vaibhav, then and now

Then 

Vaibhav used to be a chai place near the Mulund Police Station. It was never about the food – for that people visited its rich cousin, Hotel Vandana, just down the road. 

Vaibhav became the go-to place before/after visiting the police station. Everything about the place was designed so. There were few tables l, with lots of space and time for people to discuss things. Even the food you had depended on your situation at the police station. If things went to plan, it was vada sambar and filter coffee/Thumbs Up, if not then its Usal and cutting chai. 

The only person who would make you order otherwise was the mediator/tout/good samaritan. 

For the tout ordered vada sambar even if your wife had run away with your neighbour. The mediator would still crave a Tomato Uttapa even if your stomach was full with angry cop rants. And they would wash the food down with a coffee even as they accepted the envelopes to be passed on under the table. 

Then there were the characters who stood outside the hotel. 

First off were the college kids/young men who came on their Kinetics/Yamaha’s to enjoy a ghodam-garam/Gold Flake and stood close to the pan shop. Then, on the scooters/bikes parked along the stretch sat small-fry criminals exchanging kasa-kai’s with beat cops and khabris being inconspicuous — thus very conspicuous — on the lookout for anybody/thing who didn’t belong there. And last would be the ‘waiter-s’. Nope, not the ones working in the hotel, but the ones who waited for people. It could be a relative/lover/friend, anybody who had paichaan/vashila/knew the cop’s third aunt or just someone who could speak for them or just be there. 

And all this wouldn’t faze the Anna — owner/manager — one bit. Because life outside meant that at some time it would spill in. The college kids would split their chai, the khabris would be treated to a rice-plate and the waiter-s would be at the mercy of the so-called good samaritans.

A hotel next to the police station was never about the food – it was always about the station. 

Now

Vaibhav is still about the Police Station. 

But it has also had an upgrade. Ever since Vandana shut down, a section started shifting here for the food. Now they also do lunches/thalis and their dal tadka is pretty decent. And post Covid, they even sell their own bottled water. Sheesh! The place is almost always full and buzzing. Sure you get the police station visiting crowd, but the deal has been cracked over whatsapp and G-pay. People meet mostly for the food. That’s it. 

Also missing are the college kids and the other riff-raff. Now it’s the odd bank exec with a Marlboro strung on his lips and a diet coke in his hand. A handful of out-of-towners still wait around the premise, but they are too intimidated to get into the crowded hotel. And Anna is too busy running the hotel to worry about a few bystanders. For human beings will always be complaining and eating. For the complains, they have the police station. And for the latter, Vaibhav is always an option. 

Published by appamprawns

soni writes about children and people in controlled spaces, in his quest for appam stew. homi writes in the hope of being able to buy prawns to make patiyo.

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