What would make the area around Rajiv Gandhi Engineering Institute in Four Bungalows, Andheri, so damn popular one would think. Rajiv, for short, this is just a desolate stretch by a swamp, and is a local hub for young people looking for a quiet smoke.
Unlike Bandstand, Rajiv is not beautiful. It is eerily quiet, the haunt of strays and a jogging track for middle-aged people. Yet, young people turn up evening after evening to smoke their cares away.
As is obvious, it all started with engineering students looking for a corner to call their own. Its charm is that it’s easily forgotten, and where, if you are lucky, you can catch the sun setting on an orange-pink sky. There’s no hurry, no cigarettewala butting into your solitude. There’s no noise. In a city of crowds, this is a rare place to hide.
Except, all is not well in paradise. The residents don’t like company and the police goes on the rounds every evening to scare away ‘potential miscreants’.
“It’s soothing. There is something just peaceful about coming here, as if to hide from the noise and smoke,” says a regular who does not wish to be named because he knows the residents have nothing but contempt and complaints for the regulars.
They constantly crib about young people smoking outside their buildings and creating a ‘wrong impression’ on their children. “So, someone’s son sees me smoking from his window and he becomes a smoker? What about someone on the road? On TV?” argues a regular. “We don’t trouble anyone, we don’t play loud music, we don’t tease girls and we never smoke in front of children,” says a 22-year-old. His friends nod in approval.
The residents, on the other hand, wage daily battles against scores of young people smoking morning and evening opposite their house. They leave no stone unturned to make sure the youngsters find another place to call their own.
Either the residents ask the police to patrol the place in the evenings or is it the police’s obsession with finding couples canoodling, which is highly unlikely, because no romance can survive the stench of the swamp and stray dogs.
Between the tug of war, one knows this for sure — Rajiv is a refuge from the chatter.