They're dark and typically characterised by questionable hygiene. Why do we, then, frequent dive bars?
Depending on who you ask, a dive bar is either a comfortable-but-basic pub (courtesy, Urban Dictionary), a 'shady' bar (courtesy, Mumbai-kid slang), or just the worst, most dangerous type of establishment (courtesy of mothers everywhere). But if you're the type to imbibe, and you've lived in Bombay, you must have at some point found yourself at a dive bar. And while the city is the commercial hub, it's also a college town - which means a thriving culture of under-25's learning how to handle their alcohol at places that charge Rs 20 for Schezwan-Chakli. It's no surprise, for Mumbai is a city that lives out of its means, pretending to be richer than it is.
As students, and even as working professionals, we have to pay rent and utilities first and drink second. In that situation, after giving up funds to our overlords at Adani Electricity, most of us aren't left with too much money. Where do you go next? Dives, of course, because it's the only place you can get to act like Guru Dutt from Pyasa without burning a hole in your pocket.
That's what makes a dive special, while letting you sit around a table, playing ill-advised games of Never Have I Ever. The waiters don't like you, but they also don't judge your college friends for their love triangles and silly bravado.
And if 2020 robbed us of freedom, it also robbed us of the sticky tabletops, unfortunate bathrooms and brusque waiters that make for a solid dive bar. Naturally, we're missing our shady outings a bit too much. So here's a list of places for you to return to when things are normal again. We're sure there will be a place for dive bars in the 'new normal', whatever it may be.
Gokul, Apollo Bunder
Gokul's management must have heard words like, shady and dark and decided to see how far they could push the envelope. But as dark as Gokul is, it's also the one place that's got the best food on offer - what other dive in Bombay is opposite a revered kebab-wala (Bademiya), while offering fabulous rolls (check out Gokul Bites and you'll see what we mean)?
Sunlight OR Lalit's, Dhobi Talao
Opposite the road from each other, these two aren't just classic dives, but a part of the quintessential South Bombay college experience. If you ask a Xavier's student, you'll probably hear votes going for either of these (this writer chooses to ignore KitKat, the younger cousin of the OG Talao Dives). Sunlight has a jukebox, so it wins points - but also loses them because Lalit's is bigger, brighter, and doesn't have middle-aged "uncles" lining up bhajans from the prehistoric times on the jukebox.
Madira, Lower Parel
You can't have a truly classic dive bar experience without sharing space with tired media professionals talking about terrible client briefs. If it's good enough for the copywriters of Parel, it's good enough for you.
Janata, Bandra West
Go to Janata if you want to share tables with strangers who will likely end up being college students. It sounds horrible, but before sub-tweets on Twitter, sharing tables at Janata Bar was the way to hear gossip about practically everybody in Mumbai.
Road House Bluez, Andheri
This one's not as shady, but great on the pocket, and good for a date, too. Bonus points for having karaoke nights, and being located at a spot where you can get rickshaws with relative ease.
Sroojana is an award-winning creator of fandoms. Her first love is her mother's rum cake, and her second love is baking cakes just like it. Controversial opinions range from liking citrus flavours more than chocolate, and pineapple on pizza - she WILL fight you on this, as long as you're not asking during a binge-session of Korean shows or food.