Special issue with the Sunday Magazine
TIME OUT : May 2, 1999
A few moments of leisure
Aswarming city, full of magical dreams and unbridled ambitions. A city that rarely sleeps - Mumbai. A meeting point for highly charged individuals from every walk of life. Firing away on all cylinders, all the time.
How does such a city relax? How do its people put up their feet after a hard day's night? There are, of course, the clubs, pubs, discos and theatres galore, dotting every by-lane of its busy fabric. But do these really provide Time Out?
"No," says Sonali Bendre. And she seems to echo the sentiments of the entire glamour industry of Mumbai. Which involves so much toil and grime behind the glitter that leisure becomes more a means of recharging those tired batteries than looking for more action.
"I switch off completely from the real world in any free time that I get," says Sonali. "In fact, my family and friends have even teasingly nicknamed me 'space cadet'. There are times when, when I'm relaxing, my mind switched off, my mother has to repeat herself a hundred times and physically shake me in order to get me to hear her. I call this relaxed state of mind 'floating' - which is a scattered state between waking and sleeping. A sort of day dreaming. And this is the best way that I can think of spending my leisure time."
For stars, being anywhere within public gaze means not enjoying perfect leisure. Where the constraints of their "image" rarely lets them put their feet up and relax, regardless of whether they are eating out or partying or chatting. "I think I stop being Jackie Shroff the hero only when I close my bedroom door and hit the pillow," shrugs Jackie. "Another time that I can let myself relax completely is when I drive home from a night shift. That's when I send my driver home, take the wheel and drive at a maniacal speed on the empty roads. Feeling the wind in my hair and the power of the car makes me feel great. That is one time when I really let myself go and it refreshes me immediately."
Of course, there are a few, more energetic party animals for whom dancing away all the tiredness in hours of leisure provides as much rest. Like Shahrukh Khan. His ideal way of spending his free time is to be with his wife, Gauri. And since Gauri loves partying, so does he. This energy driven star comes home from work at eleven in the night, has a shower and then heads out to parties, dancing away the night with his wife. And going by the contentment on his face, nothing could make him happier.
One star who is organised enough to have a planned leisure itinerary, is Aamir Khan. He doesn't shoot more than two films in a year, never ventures out of his house on Sundays. "Ideally, I'd love to do one film a year," he says. "So I could shoot for four months, plan and do the paperwork of the next film in the next four months and enjoy leisure for the last four months. I haven't managed to achieve this yet, but I'm trying."
It is not only the film industry that works overtime in Mumbai. Professionals, politicians and even sportsmen find themselves fighting against time to snatch a few moments of leisure. Ask Michael Ferreira, India's pride in billiards, for ten minutes to discuss his favourite leisure activities, and he laughs, "It had better be a very quick ten minutes, for I'm in a rush." Ironical, isn't it?
"My leisure time only happens late in the night," says Ferreira. "And that's when I try to pack in all my favourite pursuits of leisure. Sometimes I read a bestseller. Sometimes I just lock myself in and play my favourite western classical or jazz tapes. And sometimes I catch the late night movies on Star Movies or TNT or AXN. There was a time when I used to like serials like The Bold and the Beautiful or Santa Barbara too, but I found that continuing series are a nuisance. They're difficult to follow if you miss one. So I dropped them."
He travels a lot, mainly for his game or on business. And cannot even remember having a restful holiday for years. "The last time I got some real rest was when I went to meet my son in Hong Kong when it was being handed over to the Chinese," he recalls. "There, I could do nothing but sit at home for three weeks, before things settled down. I think that's the only time in my adult life that I actually got to eat, drink and sleep, again and again, in cycles over so many days. What wouldn't I do to earn so much leisure again?"
Subhash Chandra, CEO, Zee TV, finds himself swimming in deeper waters. His day begins at 10 a.m. and he is usually spotted leaving his office at 4 a.m. He collects all the latest books and music in the hope of catching up, but hasn't yet managed to do so. His only real leisure is a ten-day holiday in a year. But his staff know for a fact that he never really puts his feet up.
There are those too, who argue that work is more fun than fun. And that it provides the best leisure. Meet Pramod Navalkar, Maharashtra's controversial Minister for Culture, who feels that it all depends on how you define "leisure". "I put in 16 to 18 hours of activity in a day and the entire time is leisure time for me," he says. "I begin early morning with meetings with the public, which I enjoy hugely. Then I go to my office in Mantralaya. I also love writing. I have been writing at the rate of four articles a week for the past so many years. I usually do this in the afternoon. In the evening, I travel to a different part of the city to meet the public again. And then go on my official rounds of functions. This is my day and I love every bit of activity that goes on in it. So I would say I have 18 hours of leisure in a day!"
When it comes to conventional leisure activities, Navalkar seems to draw a blank. He admits that he does carry books which are talked about, but never has the opportunity to turn a single page. "I went to see a play once and ended up seeing it over one-and-a-half months," he laughs. As for television, he claims that he doesn't even know how to switch one on, changing channels by himself is a far cry.
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