A Toast to Toto’s


A Toast to Toto’s

Illustration: Sushant Ahire / Arré


It was there before Bandra became hipster. It was there before Bandra became expensive. It was the first of its kind and until the end, it stayed one of its kind. It smelt of smoke before it was banned indoors, it smelt of sweat of the people streaming in, but it never stank of insecurity that millennials wear as a badge of honour. It wasn’t all swank and white and didn’t have stupid board games to keep you entertained. It didn’t offer you Wi-Fi. It didn’t care to be what you wanted it to be. It didn’t want to evolve, because it helped an entire generation to. It never let you dance. It was strict about the age limit. It was stricter about the loos and who used them.

It never needed happy hours to entice you. It was always happy in there. It didn’t need gimmicks to sell us drinks. It didn’t need bands to sell us nostalgia. It never had any karaoke because humming along to familiarity is better. It had the same playlist for 25 years. It started Thursdays with “Desperado”. It always started at 6 pm. It allowed you to drink to Michael Learns to Rock without irony. It never had any time for irony. It had the same menu for 25 years. It served pork with fried onions in mushroom sauce with aalo paratha and didn’t call it “fusion food”.

It was the only place where you always met someone you know – someone you had been avoiding or someone you secretly hoped to bump into.

It was more than a bar. You could go there when you were hungry, thirsty, angry, vulnerable, confident, or cocky. You went there to raise a toast; you went there to drown your sorrows. Sometimes you went there for a shot of courage. You went there when you didn’t know what you needed and hoped someone might tell you – even if it was Aerosmith crooning about how “Amazing” someone else is. You went there looking for love, sex, trouble, jobs, comfort, nostalgia, and for rum. You went there to meet a long-lost friend, because sooner or later, everyone turned up there. You went there to marinate in regret, you went there to plan your future. To forget your past.


Toto’s was more than a bar. You went there to raise a toast; you went there to drown your sorrows.

It was home to the homeless, a refuge to the homed. And homes aren’t meant to be broken. Because hearts live there. In this case, livers did. We went to Janata the other day, while our livers gently wept, so did our hearts. It may be back in a week. It may be back in two. It may come back smelling better. Looking shinier. But what was there for 25 years, is no more, and when they broke it down, they took down an institution. One that made men out of us, and on some tender nights, made us a child.

Toto’s, come back.