It takes forever to get from Trivandrum to Bangalore. The flight is delayed and There. Are. NO. LOOS in the security lounge at Trivandrum airport. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! I considered going over to a potted palm and letting fly, then discretion prevailed. Statistical outlier – there were at least 4 pregnant women flying out of Trivandrum. Am I missing something here? I need more data to do a Levitt on this.
Bangalore traffic sucks. In comparison even Delhi is orderly, Bombay serene and Cal sheer heaven. Seriously. Objective opinion. An hour and a quarter from the airport to Lavelle Road. (On the way out at 5 a.m. today, it took 11 minutes.) As a result, I’m already in a bad mood by the time I check in. Further downer – after Chennai, this hotel seems a bit of a dump. I’m biased, it’s actually clean and adequate, but they can’t give me an ironing board (I cannot stand wearing un-ironed clothes. Some kink. Ask a shrink) and there’s no shoe mitt in the wardrobe. I call around to see whether I can move out in the morning. Nope. The entire damn city is full up. Mem: business ops – public loos in Chennai, hotels in Bangalore.
The natives were friendly, so we decided to stay the night. I needed to get out of that depressing room for a while. Koshy’s? Shoot me for sacrilege, but I find it too hot, too noisy and too predictable. The evening was salvaged by texted advice from a friendly Blooru. I ended up walking down past Koshy’s to The Tavern, a nice pub paradoxically located in what must be one of the worst hotels around.
I looked around and there was only one other person who looked over 30. Ugly old sod, too. Then I realised it was the mirror behind the bar. Two techies perched on their stools beside me, talking shop with heart-wrenching sincerity until Techie #3 walked over, draped an arm over each shoulder and turned the conversation to the staple of men in bars. I checked her out (the girl he was talking about) in the mirror. Yes, very attractive. A gora in jeans bellied up on my other side. That accent? Northern Ireland, it turned out. Didn’t like to call himself a Brit, but definitely more stiff uppah lip than Irish blarney. He was too propah to share my munchies, finished one mug of beer and vanished. No Guinness. Can one get Guinness on tap in any bar in India? I’d make a pilgrimage.
A couple two stools away had an animated conversation. The guy was big and flashy, the kind who takes the mufflers off his bike exhaust. The girl looked altogether smarter. Plump. Nice hands. At one point she put two books back in her tote. Sensible enough to stay away from low-rises and navel show. Strictly no touching, I noticed. Till another girl in a tight T and tighter jeans wandered up, exchanged greetings, hugged the guy a little longer than seemed warranted, wandered away. Wandered back twice more, major PDA each time. Girl #1 looked at her watch, lit a cigarette. Till that point she had been sharing cigarettes with Mr. Flash. In a few minutes she was gone. Flash drifted desolately after her till the door, came back, brushed off Ms. Tight T, extracted a helmet from under the stool, walked out. Tsk. Lack of focus, son. Elvis had a whole lot of songs about it. The least he could have done was see she got home safe.
Santosh behind the bar mixed me a nice vodka with lime and bitters, stopped by once in a while to talk. About soccer and why he supports Italy (Oh, so you’re from CALcutta, sir? THAT explains why you support Brazil!), about the long hours and clients and about weight training. Santosh, you’re a nice guy but I don’t take your b.s. Bicep-curling as much as you can bench-press? Nobody can do that. Nobody. Unless they have severe pectoral atrophy. And I wish you’d let me take your picture.
I perched there for a while, nursing my drink, looking around without making eye contact. The sound was excellent, balanced, the music good but not great. Till a certain guitar phrase dropped into the evening. Contemplative. Almost tentative … think you can tell / heaven from hell / blue skies from rain … That did it. I took over the playlist. My second drink (Smirnoff have an Orange Twist, it’s good) went with Shine on and Walk of Life. They even threw in some Santana. I felt good, even though they started switching off and shutting down at half eleven.
The night air was pleasant. Cars fretted at the crossing outside the Empire Hotel. As I reached K.C. Das, two girls were parking a scooter opposite. I thought Bangalore shuts down before midnight? Maybe they were only looking for some dinner.
St. Mark’s Cathedral was right opposite my hotel. As I passed the wrought-iron gate I could see the portico, the watchman an ominous shadow crouching from the neon glare. And so to bed … If I’d known what Tuesday held in store I might not have bothered to get out of bed. But that’s another day, maybe even another story.