Monday, October 24, 2005

[P]raise the Bar

There is no dearth of pubs in Bangalore. They can be classified into five stars, four and half stars, four stars etc etc, with a resolution of half stars at least, till zero-stars. Though I myself do not drink, I am curious about these places.

The zero stars kind is unique. Generally this is a big shop : with many empty liquor cartons filling up the show cases for the window shoppers, and then there is a small, scarcely lit passageway that leads (I am not sure, but) to, so to say, heaven. People in interesting attire and faces queue up this door. And then there are people leaving : if you want a picture, I am sure it would need a lot of red-eye reduction done for it to have a decent effect. Any time you pass such a shop, you'll find it is reasonably crowded. Even a Sunday morning is no exception!

When I see such zero-stars kind of places, I remember my Coorg experience. Four of us enthusiasts had been out there on a trek. The plan was to bypass Coorg as such because there was no time. But at the end of this fantastic trek, we were left with quite a bit of time to kill. The leader of our team (an ardent drinker) suggested we visit Coorg and catch a bus back to Bangalore from there. We followed.

The Kodava people from Coorg are famous for their drinking habits. Our Leader happened to know a friend there who directed us to this particular bar or pub whatever you may want to call it. The name of the bar in question was "Charles'", a firang name! We expected to see some sophisticated hall with waiters in their bows and suits etc etc. What we finally ended up in was a kind of negative-stars bar.

There were some seven or eight rooms, lit with zero wattage bulbs. I even imagined seeing a rat scurrying across. No one would believe me, so I let that pass. Then there were those unstable tables and dirty chairs. A few heaven dwellers were rocking in their chairs to some jazz(y) song being played on some locally made radio set. Obviously there was an ash tray, with ash all over the table. We were expecting a waiter to be around to take the orders. There was nobody till our Leader shouted something in Kannada.

The composition of our group was also interesting. The Leader wanted to drink and have pork (specialty of Coorg). I wanted to try pork but would not drink. Fellow C would not have non veg but was eager to have a peg. And poor fellow D, was neither interested in Pork nor the spirit.

Our leader placed orders for Pork and some kind of drink (I fail to recollect, but I guess it was a strong drink). Fellow C would have Vodka (a Russian drink, the only piece of information I had about it). For Fellow D, he ordered some chips and if I am correct, rice or something.

Pork was OK, so were the chips. The Leader and Fellow C were busy having their drink and I was busy noting the details of the room around. As expected the room was not painted. The greyish sand-plaster was the only clothing provided for the wall. The flooring was not used to regular cleaning, and therefore did not bother about the filth spread all over. The rain earlier the day had left a dampness in the air, which was already heavy with cigarette smoke. The long shadows on the dark walls were adding to the effect. Except for the song, the room was quiet : the drinkers were mostly alone. We were the biggest group around. And obviously most outspoken of the crowd.

Wow, exclaimed the Leader when the drink and the pork was over. What a nice place!

I would have never imagined myself in such a place. Why should I? But you never know where you might end up when you go on a trek, and this trek proved no exception. When else could I have got an opportunity to visit such a place anyway! I kind of enjoyed the experience. Besides, I liked the pork, though it wasn't the best of preparation that I could have been served.

Yeah, what a nice place, I had echoed.

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