Thursday, December 15, 2005

Anywhere Else in Kolkata

A night to remember. My brother, his wife (SIL) and yours truly trooped off one fine October evening to paint the town vermillion. The first stop was at the imaginatively named Big Ben at the Kenilworth. It was the weekend. It was nine. We were alone. Not entirely true. Half a dozen liveried gents pushing all kinds of nuts were there to keep us company. And, of course, our own personal DJ.

When we left, which was about one small rum and coke and two draughts later, no one had disturbed us. Except, of course, the above-mentioned world musician. Who played for us every kind of mix he could concoct. All this while the lights over the empty dance floor discoed. A polite request for the Beatles, who we assured him, had seen more of the Big Ben than DJ Suketu was met with a bhangra rap that sounded like, if you can only imagine, Bishen Singh Bedi singing along to Brett Lee. My brother, who had picked the joint (and I suspect that decison had something to do with his seven odd years of wandering in Bolton), was getting very belligerent. We decided to give peace a chance and left.

We exhaled and directed our man for the evening to make haste to the Park. We stepped on to the lobby and like rats followed our ears to the bars of Wish You Were Here wafting out of Someplace Else. Why we even bother to experiment in Calcutta I don’t know. A totally unknown group held us enthralled through a baker’s dozen of Pink Floyd’s best. A performance I am sure even Roger and David may have nodded at.

My SIL, who has converted my brother from a Jimi Hendrix worshipper into a rabid Bong music freak (he buys modern bong group music and distributes to his pals), had had enough. So we experimented more. Landed up at Sheesha Bar. Seemed like a place out of Mumbai or Delhi. I was comfortable amongst the miniskirts, long bar, and continuous jostling.

This is where I proceeded to make a total fool of myself. I asked my SIL if she had tried a hookah before. No one had. We bravely ordered a double apple (or was it a tangerine twist) hookah, which arrived some two rums later. After taking care to meet my brother (the doc)’s hygiene standards of having fresh “suckers” (what on earth are they called), we proceeded to smoke.

After lots of bubbling water and strained lungs, smoke filled our mouth. Joy on our faces. SIL and mine ie. We puffed and huffed for 30 minutes. Then my SIL, decided to understand the technology and asked the bartender, where the stuff was stuffed. Aghast the man replied, “Madam, this is entirely tobacco free”.

We had been sucking on charcoal smoke.

Time had come to go home and start some serious drinking.