I heard the phrase "on the guest list" for the first time a decade ago. Phoenix Mills wasn't an overgrown supermarket then. It was a nightclub hub. Among others, it was known for this place called Provogue Lounge. Perennially-broke college students frequented it on weekends; mainly because it had a get-there-at-8 pm-and-don't-pay-entry clause.
But these were times when Mumbai partied till 5 am, so reaching there that early was pushing it a bit. The most common get-in-for-free trick was to call that friend who knew someone, who had the power of controlling the guest list.
So on weekends, at five minutes to 11 pm, a big group would descend on the club. That friend, who years later becomes the one who always checks bills on drunken nights, is sent to the counter to confidently say, "We're on Bobby's list?" Meanwhile, the boys anxiously wait as their names are located on the flimsy A4 print out. Being turned away from here can mean social suicide; not as much for women though. Nine out of 10 times, the manager would always just happen to spot their names on the list.
There were many such lists, and many still exist. There was a very exclusive list to get into Athena - one of the first members-only clubs. Then there were the lists for the afternoon socials, for kids who weren't allowed out after hours. "It's always night in there anyway, right?" they believed. True.
As the years passed, Bobby stopped mattering as much. The list began to take the form of a look - a nod even, of acknowledgement from a gate man or a bartender who'd find you a table at your regular pub or reach out to shake your hand in a crowd when you entered.
Last Saturday, however, I found myself thinking of Bobby again. I was in queue at the entrance of a nightclub, waiting to enter Grime Riot Disco. There was no smooth talking and no anxiety, but there was that A4 print out - the list. Funnily enough, there was even a token girl trying to convince the bouncers that she's of legal drinking age. He gave in, of course. Not much has changed.
It wasn't about getting in for free this time. Getting on the list at this place just meant having knowledge of its existence. All that the list was doing was making sure a bunch of people who love dancing, have a good time among like-minded folk. So I walked up, located my name, paid up, held out my wrist, got the stamp, felt like I was 17 again, and entered, having made my peace with the list. Until next time.