In the Bar
I sat by the red dim lights of the bar. Half of my face has gone black by the night outside. And I looked into the cold night outside the window. I could see the chillness stare at me like a lunatic. And the candle lit in front of me like a virgin. Candle was looking outside. She was nervous when she saw chillness outside the window, staring at her. I put my lips close to the window and called him a rapist. He got offended and turned his back towards me.
This bar has been my hide out for years now. I have no clue why I tend to call this a hide out when it was more of a home. I was suddenly alert by the heat of the cigarette that burnt my fingers. Ah…, the fire. I remembered Coonan, the fat doper. 28 years back, when I used to be depressed after counting the number of cigarettes we smoked together, he would lecture the Cave man theory of Cigarettes.
He reasoned that Men were always afraid of fire and hence worshiped it. When reasoning and logic started playing ministry to the King called Ego, men started believing in supremacy. There was no other way to fight the fire, rather than inhaling it and sending black clouds to laugh at it – Laugh at the royal bright sun tint getting fucked up, royally. Smoking was more of an ego. And the ego headed people we are, we go on enjoying it.
That day is still young though Coonan had left to join the ultimate ego, a year back. And I could see sometimes smoke leaking through the clouds. I would look at the skies and smile at him. Coonan was all about ego. And he persuaded me to believe that I was all about it too. A confused person that I was, I have grown frustrated on thinking about the confusion developed over the years thinking whether I am all about ego or not.
I saw a lean white guy standing in front of me. He had long hairs and resembled the Jesus Christ I have seen in photos. He was looking closely. Was he the same waiter I asked to get some cigarettes? Or was he the bartender? When did the bartender start roaming around with out a uniform? I grinned.
“Yes…” I scratched my face. It was neither bartender nor that stupid waiter who had gone to get cigarettes. This was some other guy, may be the watch man or may be the owner. Is it time for the bar to close? Well, this was a 24 hour holy place of addiction. No closing. I am not going to leave.
“Aren’t you Mat-row-bottom, the writer?”
Oh. Shit. Here’s some stupid who does not know how to spell my name and has come to discuss the shit I write – Those things which I myself don’t remember.
“No. I am Jesus - Relaxing after the resurrection“
He looked confused. Jesus can’t be in a Bar. I called for the waiter. I thought my new acquaintance would be offended. Well, it worked out the other way. He instead looked at me admiringly. I guess some one had told him that Geniuses do have the right to offend and they don’t give a damn to the holy shit called politeness.
The waiter came over and handed me the cigarettes. It’s been an hour that I have ordered it. And I wanted to catch him by his collar and throw him out.
He smiled at me. Don’t do that. I smiled back. I won’t.
I saw the new acquaintance a little hesitant on what he should do next. I waved my hands to him and asked him to come over and sit. He pounced on the couch like a crouching tiger. I looked at him bewildered.
“Hi. I am Leo. And my girl over there… (He pointed his fingers to the right most corner and I saw an Asian girl smiling at me and raising her glass.) …is a big fan of yours. She wanted to ask if you would like company.”
“Call her over.”
He waived hands at her and asked her to come. When she was coming over, I could feel that she was hesitant and eager simultaneously; she looked like the new bride waiting for her man on their bed. When she came over and was standing right under the red light, she looked like Kaali, the death goddess, ready to fight the evil in me. I felt a little weak. But I decided to give a look loaded with ego. Coonan, you were right. I am egoistic.
I shook hands with her. She called herself Vani. Vani – the lotus goddess. When I told her my name, she smiled. Oh, the stupid institutionalism!
She started speaking volumes of the books, I wrote. Leo wagged his head and approved every single thing she spoke and often got amazed at how right she is. He would often touch my hand and press it when I dozed of in between. Vani was fully immersed in her lecture that she was not seeing me or Leo, but was living with the characters she thought I created. She behaved and acted like many of them. At times I could not relate to what she was speaking. Did I write all this?
I saw Leo taking out something from his pocket. It was like old packets of money that Maharajahs used for paying salary to their men of court. But the money looked white, more like sugar. No – Like salt. Money has changed into Salt. This might be one reason why Mahatma Gandhi headed the famous Salt Satyagraha. He produced salt from sea and knew it was money. Now here, sitting somewhere in Glasgow, I was watching the Maharajah Leo create salt from Money. Was Leo protesting against something? Like freedom, may be or may be the taxes on salt. Now Maharajah Leo looked more like Mahatma Leo. He bent his head and looked at me above his glasses. I rose from my seat in respect. He touched my hand again. There I was standing in front of a Head wagging Salt Maker and a radio that looked like a woman, who does not even open eyes when she is transmitting. I felt bad and selfless. Coonan, you were wrong. I was so self-less and had no space for ego.
Leo put the salt into the spoon and heated it over the candles that lit up our table. The Virgin Candle happily lit up the spoon as she was just loosing her virginity. There rose a slight gray smoke from the spoon and I could see something was boiling. Oh. So that was it. Why is Leo not bothered about people around? Who knows? I waited for Radio Vani to be turned off for speaking something. Somehow, I felt that interrupting another person is a crime. May be, Radio Vani knew it too. She never stopped.
Leo took a syringe out from his pocket and took the syrup in it. He kept the spoon aside. Did these people come hear to drug me? Who the bloody hell knows? And who the bloody hell cared? I carry a body that’s too willing to accept any kind of addiction. Come onto me and screw me up. He tied his hands up and injected it on. He closed his eyes and he kept a smile onto himself. I felt envious. I am the Big Dude Writer sitting here. Drug me, first. Oh, my ego. Coonan, you were right.
Leo would have wagged his tail too, if he had one. He was smiling and his body was dancing a light dance for a music he could only listen to. He passed the apparatus and the object of desire to Radio Vani. OK. This was the method to shut the transmitter off. She proved to be an expert than Leo. She finished it off quickly and put her head on Leo’s shoulders. It looked like both of them could hear the music now. Fuck you people. I want to listen it too!
Leo passed it on to me. The waiter appeared from thin air. And looked at the apparatus I was holding.
I smiled at him. Don’t interfere. He smiled back. He won’t.
It was long time since I used Heroin. It would date back to my days with Coonan. And that was the only time he did not accuse me of ego. May be he always did that because he saw himself in me. The needle got in and inner. And I could feel the bottom of my feet cold. And the chillness was slowly creeping in to reach the control panel I carry somewhere on my head. But it was smooth, a smile creased my lips and then I could hear the music. I looked out – Out of the window. The chillness whom I accused of being a rapist was smiling at me. It was saying something – Some thing in a deep coarse voice.
“You should have let me in before.”
I smiled at him. I took time to realize what you are, my lord. I looked at the Virgin Candle. It was showing tinges of blue. The sunset tinge was no more there. The virgin was dead. The greedy is born.
And then I could see that the darkness got darker and the red light, ruddier. Leo and Radio Vani disappeared. And then the fight began between the red and the black. I looked close. The red was Kaali, the death goddess. And the black was King Dhaksha. There was fire burning high in front of them, witnessing all. Kaali was interrupting the King in the midst of a fire ritual. I looked at the fire. Aren’t you the same force that I inhale every now and then and exhale out as black stupid smoke? I felt frustrated. How come you are here witnessing the battle with me? Who gave you right to Equality? I felt frustrated. Coonan, you were right again.
Kaali slaughtered the King and threw his head into the fire. The king was left with a body that was trembling from a split of organ. And the Fire swallowed the head. Kaali dissolved into the red. I took the fire into me and exhaled out black smoke. I was glad. I laughed loud. And then I thought of home which has become a hang out when I live in the Bar.
Amulu was the most beautiful thing in my life at one point of a time. We had similar vibrations in speech, thoughts and belief. We were a happy family with 2 children – Ahalya and Arya. Everything was that perfect home until the day she had a nervous breakdown and was admitted to a hospital. Doctor told me that her nerves were weak. And has a low blood pressure. What doctor never told me was she would loose sleep and would become a monster with restlessness. Well, she lost sleep. If she could get one hour of sleep a day she would smile at me. She looked always drugged and was always frustrated. She was changing.
I tried everything that I could to put her to sleep. Anything I tried made her more weak and tired. Nothing helped. She began to hate the sight of me. And that’s when I left. I left home to travel and get peace of mind. I left much after Arya left for his college days in the hostel and Ahalya for doing her PhD to US. I went to India. I traveled across the country. It was more of a pilgrimage than a travel. And I started getting bored – bored of listening to people who spots me in a crowd and bored of me wanting to talk to people. I always got a new acquaintance when the last thing I wanted to do then was to speak or smile. And then I started missing her and I ran back home. In the flight, I thought that I could try some heroin to put her to rest. Well, she hated drugs. She hated me using it too. But I decided to try. I was missing my love. I wanted the person I loved, back. And I did not care for what she would think. I was in a worry if she got through all these days with out sleep or if at all she did, would throw stones when she sees me.
But things were different. She was much better. And she just smiled when she saw me. I felt as if I was an uninvited guest. But I was glad she is looking better. Then I found that she is leaving early in the morning to return some time in the noon. I could see pastors visiting our house once in a month. And she always made sure of one thing – to avoid me. I once stopped her, the pain unbearable.
“I am Esther. Amulu is dead.” She gave me a cold look.
I could not help but smile to myself. The drug was injected much before I bought heroin – The Drug called Devotion.
Ahalya was in a rage when she knew this. She tried shouting at Esther. Esther did not bother. Some times Esther looked like she did not notice anybody but for the pastors who would visit the home once in a month.
Ahalya once tried to abuse the pastors. I was sitting in the living room and preparing for my next book. The pastors listened to everything very patiently and blessed my daughter before they leave. Ahalya felt insulted and Esther felt victorious. These stupid men clad in black gowns might be some real good MBA graduates.
Arya came home as Ardan Khan. He looked powerfully built and declared that he has dropped out from college to join the film industry. He is moving to Bombay as he was selected to play the lead role after a screen test in the forth-coming Subhash Ghai movie. I felt proud of my son. And his new name, I thought was a necessity as every hero in Bollywood ought to have a Khan in them. Like Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan… and so on. And every other hero who does not have a Khan in their name could be hiding it for astrological purposes. Like Akshay Kumar Khan, Mohanlal Khan… and so on. But end of the day, every Hero is a Khan.
But later on, I discovered that every hero is not a Khan and my son has converted to Islam in the first year of graduation. It always seemed so funny that in a family of four headed by an atheist; there were all the major religions that made the Divided India.
The Holy War
Esther once declared at the dining table that she has decided to join a divine center in India to spread the knowledge of Christ among the needy. But there was a problem. She wanted Ahalya to get married. That was her only worry. I looked at my daughter. I could see her getting frustrated. She declared that she would never marry. She would not let her leave home. I felt that all the thinking that I have been doing over the years have spoiled both my wife and my child.
Ahalya is still screaming at Esther. And Esther is not hearing anything. She declared that she might not hold the call of god and might join the troupe even if Ahalya remains unmarried. Ardan threw a plate onto the window, broke both and went out without having dinner. I was thinking of the holy shit that made religion. The next plate that my dear daughter threw at her mother hit straight on my forehead.
And they left
I felt a touch on my hand. It was Leo. Not the Maharajah and the Mahatma – Just Leo. Radio Vani was missing. I looked at her couch which was transmitting volumes of what I wrote, a few hours back.
“She is in the car, blown off.”
I smiled at Leo. He had some thing else to ask.
“Could you write something for me in this book? She would love it.” He pulled out a notebook from under his jacket – Magician Leo. I searched for my pen. He had it ready too.
I smiled and wrote.
The Brotherhood in Bar is holier than the Holy wars at the Dining Table. - Mathrubotham
He read it and smiled at me. Did he really know what I wrote? Yeah, may be. He would have. He looked so. He was looking at my signature.
“Your name is one wonderful thing, Mat-row-bottom”
I smiled again. He thanked me, I thanked him too and then he left. Coonan, you were always wrong. See his smile. You don’t smile with that innocence to an ego-headed prick.