A room that could barely fit a minivan. The entrance opened to the footpath and was partially blocked by a counter, with men jostling in and out, arguing and making purchases.
You entered in one big swoop, if you came here by 8pm. That's when the crowd trickled in. The 14 feet by 8 feet space housed around 30 people. Men.
Men who had worked all day and earned a hard day's living, came here to spend some or all of their day's earnings. They doused themselves and their conversations in alcohol, night after night. A certain kind of men; men who drove rickshaws, pulled carriages, lifted heavy objects, fixed toilets larger than their own homes came here to unwind and discuss matters of public policy and governance. No one invited them on TV debates or into their living rooms.
The word 'riff-raffs' comes to the mind when I think of people who came to this bar. It isn't meant as high praise.
Bottles clanking, trash everywhere, empty cartons that lay in a huge pile, cigarette smoke that choked your lungs and burnt your eyes, foul smell and filthy language, the dark dark floor, worn down walls, grime on the table; Nothing about it was pleasant.
But no one you knew, would ever be here. Or even think that you could be here. As though you were worthy of all the respect you got in your community.
It was comforting. Free.
You were not the man who had the red SUV or the beautiful wife or the one who could recite a sacred text or be 'a dutiful son'. You were the guy who was being "thickheaded" and not ordering the snack when you ordered the drink five minutes ago.
Unless proven otherwise over time, everyone walking in here was assumed to be an alcoholic. And was also treated like one.
Friends and associates who sufferred from an inflated lifestyle and sense of self, would never come here to catch up for a drink. You could never tell them about this place even, forget inviting them. This place was reserved for the real connections. It was a mark of true friendship. There were no frills.
The food tasted atrocious and you only ordered something to eat when you couldn't get over your colleague's nasty remark from that evening– why would she comment on my receding hairline. How dare she!
You would never spot a woman here, ever. Men had decided this space was not safe for women– add it to the list.
The tension in the air was always just short of a fight breaking out. But the owner had mouths to feed, so he fought the worst. He stopped serving you drinks, if you threw a fit and asked you to get out. The cops were friendly with him. He had bribed them well. They let him keep it open after the deadline. So you could sit here till 1am. But if you also wanted to have drunken fights, you were just being greedy.
The lights turned off at 1am. You got your final drinks on the way out smiled and wished the waiter goodnight. You walked home and the security guard at your apartment opened the locked gate for you. You wished him goodnight like all decent men in your apartment.
You called it a night.
You never planned going to Swarga bar, you always only ended up there.