Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Around the World: Bar Hoping in Jaipur

February 15, 1992

The early afternoon train journey from Agra to Jaipur is expected to be around four hours.  As I am walking through the station toward the platform, I hear a familiar voice.

"Can you spare 5 rupees?"  It's the same drug-dazed Westerner I saw in Varanasi, clad in the same bright green, yellow and red clothing.  Is he following me?

On the train, I meet three British guys, one of whom entertains everyone with tales of trying to cause the demise of Bluey, his sister's prized budgie. Except for the sister, the bird and members of the household share a mutual detest of each other.  His father had read that a sudden shock would stop the bird's heart.  Ever since, father and son take every opportunity to covertly frighten the bird into death, so far unsuccessfully.

The Evergreen hotel is 120 Rs for a room with unlimited cold water.  Hot water is available for 10 Rs per bucket.  The war between soapy water and the constant cloud of airborne dust makes showering a pointless activity.  I seem to always be the same shade of grime, whether I'm fresh from the bathroom or returning from a day spent outside.

The hotel has a large covered outdoor area to enjoy a breeze while eating something from the hotel's restaurant.  It's now early evening and as I'm looking up local sights in my guidebook, I meet Claire, from South Africa and also new in town.  The British guys from the train plan to investigate the bar up the road and invite us to join them for a drink.

A drink?  In India?  This, I have to see.

Sure enough, just up the road from the Evergreen is a sign that says, "Bar and Restaurant."  A little further down a winding path is another sign, this one with the same words and an arrow.  The signs remind of the Road Runner cartoons and I half expect Wile. E Coyote to greet us when we get to the entrance. We follow the "Way to Bar ->" signs into a room with bench seating.  A casually dressed employee tells us the bar is closed.  Thinking some may enjoy a drink with a meal, we follow the "Way to Restaurant ->" signs upstairs to a room that looks like it was imported from a trendy area of New York.  Waiters dressed in tuxedos, perfectly pressed white napkins and tablecloths under spotless glass and silverware. 

We order 5 beers and are told, "The bar is closed, but this can be arranged for 32 Rs."  We sit at a table and wait for our drinks, but all we eventually get is a head bobbling apology.  I think the head bobble is a sign of confusion; the more difficult the question is to answer, the more intense the head bobbling is.  Two waiters come to our table, their heads bobbling dangerously close to toppling off their shoulders.  One waiter says, "No beer," while the other communicates through charades, something about a bicycle and a kingfisher.

Hoping for a beer in India proves to be the activity of the dreamer.  Claire wants to check out the Palace of the Winds, while I would like to see the Jantar Mantar Observatory tomorrow so we have agreed to do a little sight seeing together.

• ¤ •

"Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza."
~Dave Barry

No comments: