Cities have rhythms. Chennai comes alive at 6am, Bangalore at 11am, Mumbai at 8pm and Delhi at midnight. For a visitor, Mumbai’s vibe is casual. Whether you are quaffing beer at Leopold Café along with a room full of delirious tourists, enjoying the view atop the Dome at the Intercontinental Marine Drive with your sweetheart and a Cosmopolitan, listening to live music at Blue Frog, doing the—what’s it called—dubstep at Bonobo, drinking Suleimani chai with the intellectuals at Prithvi Theatre’s café, or ending the night at Zafran, Mumbaikars have the worldly sophistication of having seen everything and been everywhere. They are glad you are visiting their fair city but you know what, they get immigrants every day, so have a great night, amigo. But get caught without a cab on your way home and the same Mumbaikar who appeared nonchalant, almost offhand, will insist on dropping you home with an equally casual, “Don’t be silly. Get in the car.”
The best of Chennai’s nightlife happens in the farmhouses lining ECR (East Coast Road). The setting is magical—swaying coconut palms, the Arabian Sea, water that has been warmed by the blistering daytime heat to encourage skinny dipping, and lots of hard liquor. Chennai folks hold their drinks either very well or very badly. You sweat out your hangover the next day and build tolerance.
Bangalore has some great places. Take 5 in Indiranagar has live acts by musicians Radha Thomas and Amit Heri, who are very good, perhaps because Take 5 is co-owned by singer Arati Rao. Although I despise franchises, Hard Rock Café in Bangalore is housed in a lovely building. Opus, owned by Carlton and the late, great Gina Braganza, is an old favourite. Newer outlets such as Sky Bar, Bacchus, F Bar and Cloud 9 are popular with college students. But none of them have the sprawling spaces that I saw in Delhi.