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It was 10 mins past mid night.

“Why’s your glass empty?” This wasn’t a question, just a precursor to pour a drink from his black label bottle. He hugs him and moves to check if more people needed a refill. It was his Dad’s 62nd birthday party, but the way music and booze flowed, it suggested otherwise.

His new neighbour was standing alone, already three drinks down, holding an almost empty glass. He pours a drink, new neighbour reluctantly lets him pour a small one. This neighbour was new to this party, and was uncomfortable with the all attention and love, just as anyone could be, in a party full of strangers. 

Soon after this first party, the new neighbour got progressively accustomed and comfortable with the gang. These parties were fun, including the bunch of people who got together. There were a few people in their twenties and thirties, along with few older people, in their late fifties-sixties even seventies, some of them were related, but most of them were not. But all of them shared the same zest for life, good music, a bit of jive, jokes at someones expense and most importantly they all had a common friend called Broski. No one ever felt uncomfortable or alone after their first party with Broski.

These get-togethers were not in some swanky bandra pub or bars, but just around the corner of Broski’s apartment, sometimes on his apartment terrace and occasionally in his house specially during birthdays. Most of the people hanging around were the same, with an except of one or two new faces, who was either someone who had been missing for a while, moved out from the neighbourhood, or someone totally new. In all they were the most unlikely people one would imagine to party together.

Broski’s parties would continue well into dawn, while most of the older uncles and aunties would leave past midnight, remaining youngsters would retreat as soon as the first rays peeped up the night sky. Broski and a couple of friends, would continue to hang out till 6am, waiting for A1 bakery on Hill road to open up, just to eat some freshly baked chicken puff before they could finally retired for the night. Such was the life in one of the quite bylanes of Bandra on at least one of the week day, however the weekends were a different kind madness.

Broski, was a thorough Bandra boy with a stereo typical bandra accent, born and raised in the same lane. His old house was taken over by a builder and in its place a new spacious flat. Bandra lanes saw many changes over the years, old sleepy, easy going neighbourhood was changing every day. Quiet old lanes with villas and bungalows, were now replaced with multi-storey apartments, Broski’s lane changed too, few newer buildings had cropped up on this narrow lane, in between the decades old small houses near Chuim village,  this only meant more friends for Broski. Most new comers enjoyed the bandra vibe, while some found this lifestyle fiend.

Broski was a torch bearer of the old bandra lifestyle, he however had 2 distinct personalities, one was the anxious guy who live in the worries of tomorrow while the other the care free soul who enjoyed the romantic bandra delight. He never backed off from showing either of his sides to people, it just depended on what time of the day or night, one met him. Broski worried for his future and for his family, he would have stories of regrets and misgivings. But he would party at least one day of a week and that evening he would be another person, trusting, giving, large hearted with not a care for tomorrow. It wouldn’t matter if he had met the person for the first time or was an old mate, he would entertain and spend his hard earned money with aplomb. He was honest in both his avatars the anxious man and soul of the party both were played with eminence. 

Once in a while in a random party Broski would throw up some unique words, part of his own made up vocabulary, like “dichkyoon” (Sound of a gun shot in 90s Bollywood movies), used it for some who looked great or was wearing something that was cool. For Broski, well, it wasn’t his real name. This Russian angle came in some party were “ski was added to a lot of words during the revelry but “bro-ski” stood out and since then he was Broski.

Every party ended with some drama, once, he started chatting up with the elder gentlemen going to the mosque, Broski had some serious conversation with them, then he hugged them, wishing them well. It wasn’t any altercation, he never had one with any, he just discussed life with them without losing composure. Even though, these early raisers were pretty serious believers and would have to re-do their wazoo, but they never complained. Soon, they too looked forward to meet him post his parties, even spend time with him, mostly to request him to slow down with his life.

One night, Broski was walking down the street at 4 am singing, the street dog was his friend too and followed him. Broski turned around and out of no where caught the forelimbs of the dog and  tried to jive with the dog while singing Jonny be good. He realised, though bandra born, the dog couldn’t jive, so he hugged him and left. song fading as he reached home, walking straight without a misstep.

He was an unusual soul, one had to just meet him once and Broski would make lifelong impression.

His new neighbour, who had been to many of Broski’s gathering came again that afternoon. This gathering was different, Broski hadn't partied for a couple of years now, the soul of the party had gone, leaving a hollow worried man. Not only this once upon a time new neighbour, but everyone of the unusual gang got together, even the ones who had moved far to some distant corners of Mumbai. Everyone who knew him showed up for this gathering. The muslim uncles were arranging the orange flowers, tying the bamboo bed. The catholic aunties were singing hymns, the Hindu aunties were praying too. A huge crowd, the most unlikely you would see together. Hindus, muslims, catholics, atheists, the young, the old, both men and woman all were there for him, for the last time.  

Broski who always walked home straight without fuss, never needing any assistance or support to reach home, today was carried by many.  These were the bunch of people who he loved and they loved him back. They were assisting Broski on his final journey, away from the place he loved and had made his own, a quiet nondescript bandra lane. Today, there wasn’t party,  just the old fools, the usual group, hanging together for the final time.

Today there was no loud laughter, just silent tears.

In the memory of my old friend and neighbour, one of my first friends in Bandra. RIP Broski, you will be missed, every Diwali, Holi, Christmas and Eid. We will miss you on new years and birthdays. see you on the otherside.

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