The Ringside View

My attempts at writing have always been stacked up in old diaries and scraps of yellowing paper.Time,neglect and phylum insecta however, always ensured that the gibberish i scrawled, never would see the prying gaze of an alien eye.Years later, i still scribble once in a while - this time in word documents stored in some obscure folder somewhere in the innards of my C drive.I am unearthing some of them and opening them up for the interested.To get what i call - The Ringside view.

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Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India

Sunday, September 17, 2006

City Lights.

We were heading to Bombay and we were god damn excited. The romanticism of getting down at Victoria terminus, amidst all the Gothic style architecture, the dust and the squalor sure did make tinsel town stuff. In fact, we were born and brought up watching Hindi movies, where people board off Bombay headed trains, with a ‘thou(the city) art greater than all’ expression. So much so, we even practiced those expressions back in our bathroom mirror (why be frugal on the dramatics, I say). But the romanticism was not to be. Train tickets were at a premium and we found ourselves, stacked up on a 24 hour bus ride to the city of a thousand dreams.

But we were obstinate about not wasting the expression. Dry, arid shanty towns of Northern Karnataka were followed by the dry, arid shanty towns of Southern Maharashtra. We waited like a debutante actor for Bombay to appear in all glitz and glamour so that we can react like we so desperately wanted to react. It did not take us long though, to realize that there did not really exist any line of demarcation to separate Bombay from non Bombay. It merely looked like an extension of all those shanty towns we went past and to our disbelief they even called it Bombay. (these bastards would have brought us through the back door of the city for sure, Paaps told me. Whatever!!!).

But this is no travelogue this, so let me come to our story. We (we by the way is Paaps and me) caught up with a few friends of mine – a certain Matt and Bals (no pun intended) at the latter’s place. He was a tough man, this Bals. Had seen brawls and bloodshed he told us once. And considering our quiet, bloodless backgrounds we looked up at him with due reverence.

For Bals, manliness was in the swig of his whisky (no soda, three ice cubes please); in the number of rings that his cigarette smoke trailed (for others to count and keep records); in answering the calls of his testosterone surges (love is for the movies and the boys). For us, he was nothing short of a Hollywood star on vacation.

Pleasantries exchanged, drinks offered and Bals gets dressed in a jiffy. We were wondering what that meant, when he suddenly looked up at us and asked – ‘seen the nightlife yet?’

‘Er…Nope’ we replied in unison.

Twenty minutes down the line we were headed to a place Bals called ‘Chuck Naka’. And as though that didn’t sound mysterious enough he also added the ‘Don’t keep shouting out that word too often’ warning. Chuck Naka. Sounded like some magic word from Aladdin’s time. (repeat the magic word three times….genie appears….three wishes……I wonder what I’ll ask for……live happily ever after routine. Did not happen. We even tried).

We had traveled a fair distance by now and the auto finally stopped at a check post. It seemed to be the end of town for all practical reasons and it seemed like the forbidden land that lay yonder. Bals and Paaps were already waiting for us. ‘What took you guys this long’, he asked us and without waiting for a reply led us past the check post into forbidden land.


There was one thing that struck me immediately, once we were on the other side of the check post. The dust and grime on the roads seemed to have doubled, the meanness on people’s faces - tripled and our very own heart beats…….. had quadrupled. We were on another auto pretty soon and the ride was hardly a minute. We got off and stared at the hotel with a unicorn’s insignia. Chains of chrysanthemums adorned the entrance. The sentry promptly saluted and opened the door. Blink. Smoke on the dance floor. Blink. Girls on the dance floor. Blink. We were at the infamous Bombay dance bars.

There must have been about fifty girls on the floor. We weaved past them amidst glares that could easily have frozen any of us (bar Bals). Girls in skimpy clothes. Girls with mascara and red lip stick. Girls with small brothers back home, who do not know what they do for a living. Girls who remind me of similar faces back at up-town coffee shops. Girls who would end up in bed today with some cheap bloke with a big libido and a few extra rupees to spare.

We sat there transfixed for God knows how long. I would be lying if I say that I did not enjoy it one bit. Some of them looked gorgeous. And it felt good when they gave you more attention than you gave them. But I knew it was not because I looked like Brad Pitt. It was vulnerability, the desire to live life well at least in broad daylight.

I looked at the others. No one spoke. Not even Bals. It was about to strike twelve. Some good looking girls had disappeared. Others waited. We got up and weaved our way out to the door. We heard someone remark aloud – ‘It’s not even twelve and they’re leaving the old bastards’. I did not bother looking. The door adorned with chrysanthemums opened and we stepped back into the (un)real world.


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