Marine Drive: Revolving Memories


AmbassadorHotel_1_ORIG
The Ambassador Hotel (with the Revolving Restaurant) … Pic Source

Sitting on the parapet on Marine Drive, staring into Veer Nariman Road, with the iconic The Ambassador Hotel [1] [2] [3] in plain sight (the same lane contains such classic gems as Pizza By The Bay [1] [2] [3], Salt Water Cafe [1] [2] [3], Gaylord Restaurant [1] [2] [3], K Rustoms Ice-Cream [1] [2] [3], and much more). I remember going to the revolving restaurant on-top of the Ambassador Hotel as a teen – with family (Mom, Dad & Sister). I must’ve been around 14/15 at the time, so this must’ve been around 2002/03. Dad, in his usual debonair & foodie experimental spirit, decided to take us for an outing, for Lunch. It was a nice sunny bright hot day. The Ambassador was a rather exclusive elite place at that time: one of the crowning jewels of Mumbai city, where the crème de la crème mingled with each other in exclusivity (the restaurant featured in Dil Chahta Hai [1] [2], in a scene involving a birthday celebration for Dimple Kapadia’s character).

The entry was 500 bucks – which at that time was a steep expensive price to pay, but now it’s par for the course. Today, at 500 bucks, you would be lucky to get entry at a small-time local place in the suburbs. The revolving restaurant had an oriental theme & cuisine: Indo-Chinese food. Suffice it to say, it was delicious, and the presentation was classy … I remember us entering an elevator along a central vertical shaft. Then it went up & opened to a tiny disembarking lobby area at the top, and then we had to step into the revolving floor of the restaurant. That was a jarring experience. We had to keep one foot onto the moving floor, and follow it quickly with the other one, lest we lose balance or do the split in an awkward way. But for anyone who’s had some experience of catching a moving Mumbai local (or getting out of a moving local train), it would’ve been just another day; a piece of cake … The views from the revolving restaurant was something to behold: a panoramic sweeping 360° view of the core of South Bombay: you could see the Honorable Bombay High Court & Azad Maidan on one side, Queen’s Necklace on the other end. You could see the famous Air India building & Nariman Point in the distance. And right up close, you could practically peer into Brabourne Stadium right next door. The revolving restaurant would’ve been a perfect place to catch a fantastic bird’s eye-view of any match going on inside the stadium.

As a middle-class family from the quaint hamlets of the peripheral suburbs, I remember we felt a bit out-of-place. We weren’t used to such opulence or exclusivity. Dad was used to it, being the big corporate Type-A personality that he was. He was a big man with a big commanding personality. And quite a foodie. So he felt natural & at ease. In complete command of the situation – whether in a factory, or in an exclusive SoBo restaurant. But Me/Sister & Mom were distinctly new to the whole scene. I remember Dad taking us to ITC Maratha [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] (a 5-star Hotel near the Kalina/Airport area), and once again, he acted completely natural, like a pro. While the three of us were under-dressed & under-confident & self-conscious & flummoxed by the luxurious extravagance. But that was him, bless his heart. Now that he’s gone, these are the memories I’ve left … I remember us having a wonderful lunch. I remember me & my sister couldn’t take our eyes off (with a sense of wonder) from watching the landscape slowly change as the restaurant revolved at a glacial relaxed pace. I remember us being happy & together as a family. Good/Fun times … I remember Dad had driven us all the way from the Suburbs to Marine Drive (since this was 2002/03, my best guess is that at that time, we had a Maruti Esteem, or a Honda Civic; can’t remember exactly). And he drove us all the way back. The food was awesome, the views were magnificent, and the drive was long & pleasant.

A wholesome family outing. All in all, it was a wonderful memorable day. One for the history books. When the final chapter of my Life is written, and I breathe my last, that day will be right up there, alongside a handful of other such magical moments interspersed here & there … These moments: they’re fucking rare. That’s both the beauty & tragedy of Life. Anything that has value & distinct memory recall is by definition rare & hard to come by … 365 days makes a year. 3650 days = 10 years. 10,950 days = 30 years … I’m almost 32. That’s about 11,680 days. How many of these days are truly memorable? Not many. I’d say the ratio is for every 100 days, there’s probably one reasonably memorable/eventful day. And for every 1000 days, there’s probably one really significant or memorable or paradigm shifting day. If you do the math, that adds to barely 100 moderately memorable days. And 10 truly life-changing paradigm-shifting days/moments. That’s not much. And often, these moments don’t really reveal themselves as truly memorable or eventful or paradigm-shifting in *THAT* moment. It’s only months or years later that you look back, and it becomes clear post-priori (after the fact) … And therein lies both the beauty & the tragedy of Life. Such moments are exceedingly rare. And it’s difficult to sense the true impact of these moments as they’re happening. It’s only with subsequent triumphs & tribulations, and the narrative story-arc that unfolds over many months, years & decades – that’s when the pattern becomes clear. That’s when it clicks. That’s when the importance & memorable-recall-value becomes evident with crystal clear clarity … It’s almost as if Life is playing like a grand jigsaw puzzle, with the pieces being assembled over a temporal-spatial dimension. Falling into place bit by bit, as Time moves its sweeping hand forwards. Relentlessly. And you look back across the grand tapestry of randomness that’s your small little Life, and notice the special moments gone by. It’s with the benefit of hindsight and with historical context that you come to appreciate where you were born (which family & country you were born into)who you were as a child or a teen or a young adult, how you gradually came to be where you are through a meandering up-down journey, and how your Life unfolded in such an utterly arbitrary way, but with so much splendor & vibrancy nevertheless.

What is Life but such a collection of moments. To paraphrase from an episode of House (TV series), Eve (a female patient & abuse survivor) tells House [1] [2] [3]:

“I’m going to base this moment on who I’m stuck in a room with. It’s what life is. It’s a series of rooms and who we get stuck in those rooms with adds up to what our lives are”

At that moment 17 years ago, I was stuck in a revolving restaurant on top of the Ambassador Hotel in the heart of SoBo. I was stuck with Family: Kinship. Bonding. A sense of togetherness & belonging. Spontaneous vibes. Fluid Chemistry. And I’m glad I was stuck in that room. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I belonged there. In that moment, I blended. I was one with the Universe. At peace. Complete/Whole … Another good quote from “The Perks of being a Wallflower comes to mind” [1] [2] [3]:

“I know these will all be stories someday. And our pictures will become old photographs. We’ll all become somebody’s mom or dad. But right now these moments are not stories. This is happening. I am here … I can see it. This one moment when you know you’re not a sad story. You are alive, and you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you’re listening to that song and that drive with the people you love most in this world. And in this moment I swear, we are infinite.”

Dad’s now left the room in 2015. And then there were three (Agatha Christie novel reference [1] [2] [3]). But I hope wherever he is, he’s at peace. Thanks to him for that day at the revolving restaurant … Only time will tell how my Life turns out further. But if history is any indication, it’s going to be a wild memorable bittersweet ride. This is a good checkpoint to take stock. I wonder what I’m going to write 8 years from now, as I turn 40, and sit on Marine Drive, and write another soliloquy on Facebook. Time will tell what those reflections will be: based on further Life experiences, and another set of memories, as I trudge & stumble my way through this absurd byzantine maze of randomness (but nevertheless spectacularly visceral) that’s the Game of Life.

Sadly, the revolving restaurant has been closed for many years now. I’ve called up the Ambassador several times over the past 5 years, and there’s the standard response: it’s closed for renovations. Perhaps they’re having funding issues, or maybe there’s simply no demand anymore. The Ambassador has long ago lost its luster. Its moment to shine has come & gone. Mumbai now has 1000 other options to choose from: many of them surpassing the luxury & grandeur of the Ambassador. Its 15 minutes of fame & splendor has elapsed. It’s time is up. It’s a washed-up has-been, like a once famous actor of yesteryear, now way past his prime: made obsolete & irrelevant, cast away into the shadows, forlorn & forgotten. It’s sad. But that’s the case with everything in Life. The cycle of Birth, Growth, Stagnation & Demise. All good things must come to an end. Everything that has a beginning, has an end. On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everything drops to zero. Entropy rules. Chaos reigns. Everything crumbles away into oblivion. Fade To Black … The Ambassador had its time. And it was grand … It was certainly beyond grand in the Life & Minds of a middle-class family from the suburbs. Thanks to the Ambassador for the memories. Cheers!

#MarineDrive #MarineDriveChronicles
#Nostalgia #ThankYouForTheMemories

[Originally written on Facebook, while sitting on Marine Drive, on 23-October-2018, around 10:30pm IST … Adapted here (with substantial modifications/refinements, with quotes & links) for a wider audience. Mirror-published on Medium HERE]

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