Posted by: Mojo Jojo | September 20, 2008

And golden flows the dawn…

Scene: A crowded booze shop in Malleshpalya, Bangalore. 

Mission: Get myself a bottle of Hercules Deluxe. 

A bottle of Hercules Deluxe.

Busybee that he is, the man behind the liquor store counter breezes past – my request falling on deaf ears. No, the customer’s no king in these places; they just seem to know that we need them more than, well, the other way round.

A bottle of Hercules Deluxe.

The guy’s now involved in an intense argument with another character on the far end, who – quite obviously – wants more namkeen to go with his cheap liquor than he is actually  entitled to. Even with my feeble grasp over Kannada, I can see that the fight is undeniably one-sided. Finally – accepting defeat – the customer dunks his entire glass in one go, wipes his mouth with the unbuttoned end of his shirt sleeve and stomps indignantly into the horizon. Ah… now that’s taken care of, I might finally get what I have been asking for….

A bottle of Hercules Deluxe.

I might as well have been trying to strike a conversation with a stone wall. A stone wall with a major goddamn-them-all attitude.
So, as he tears past me again to address some person screaming whiskey, whiskey nearby, I let out a heavy sigh and start thinking of ways to attract his attention. A well-aimed bottle of Kingfisher Strong at his shiny scalp, maybe?
It was then that I see them. An old couple dressed in rags, with only a begging bowl between them.  They are standing at the counter, counting their earnings of the day coin by coin, coin by coin.
The man is bald, and the few strands of hair jutting out of his head look white, withered and droopy – like eucalyptus leaves on a hot, summer day. The cheeks on his sunburnt face are no cheeks at all; they are gaping depressions that bear the grotesque impression of a row of cracked teeth beneath. For clothes he wears a dirty woollen blanket – probably provided by one of the very few that may have felt sorry for him.

A bottle of Hercules Deluxe.

I could have saved my breath. So, I turn my attention to the old couple again.
The woman looks even worse than the man – though the clothes on her back are in a better shape than his. As she counts the ones and the twos and the fives, I see her eyes light up. She’s going to put the money to good use, from the looks of it.
They are done counting. She looks up at the booze guy, who is still racing around the shop pretending to look busy, and says something in Kannada. His feet screech to a halt. Apparently, they are quite well-acquainted with each other.

A bottle of Hercules Deluxe. By now, I am just saying it for the heck of it.

The man throws the handful of coins in the drawer beneath the counter and reaches out for a bottle that has Big Bullet Rum written on it in bright red Verdana. The way it looks, the dreary bottle might as well have contained liquid rat poison.  A big blotch of red splashes into the dirty glass tumbler he has in his hand,  followed by a flood of Bisleri. The old couple look on, obviously thirstying for the golden ale before them. Hard-earned stuff, this.
The old woman takes a long swig from the tumbler, and the old man stares on – wanting to make sure that she doesn’t have more than her share of booze.  Then, even as he sees the alcohol level in the glass go past the danger line, he shakes her by the shoulder violently, making some of the rum spill. Quite understandably, the missus gets annoyed and thrusts the glass towards the object of her discomfort. Then she says something really harsh in Kannada, something that probably translates to: You want the booze? Then keep the booze, buster!
But would the old guy be concerned by some bad language coming his way? Naah, he looks the other way and performs an enviable bottoms-up on the glass, before stepping on to the street again.  She runs after him, still screaming at the top of her lungs.
I never get a chance to prepare for what happens next. The old man stops suddenly, smiles.  Then he holds out his hand, which she takes with some reluctance. And the next thing I know, he is leading her back to the road – arm in arm.
A couple of minutes later, they are squatting on the road again with the begging bowl between them. A picture so romantic, it has to be from another dimension. A picture so real, yet so humble that it would never find itself framed in some billionaire’s bedroom.
Aur tumko kya chahiye?!
The ape seems to have awakened to my presence after all. And he is talking in a tone one would reserve for somebody who has butted into his home through the bedroom window.

For the sixth time, I say A bottle of Hercules Deluxe. I get it this time.

On the way back, I drop a fiver in the old couple’s begging bowl. Unlike some people I know, I don’t care what they do with it. If Big Bullet Rum works for them, so be it.



  1. was this the same booze show we went to? the same guy who ignored us?

  2. Hercules Deluxe? I don’t think I’ve ever tried that one. Hope it was worth the wait. And I thought it was just foreigners who got ignored in situations like these.

  3. So the old hag and her partner get to have the stuff before you eh? Poor show 😉

  4. @ Mac: Bang on the head, man! Same shop, same ass…

    @ Nightie: Well, it was worth the wait for me… especially because the other booze shack is half a world away. Plus, it did give me something to blog about! 🙂
    But hey, about the getting ignored bit, I thought it was the other way round. Looking different is a good way of getting noticed, don’t you think?

    @ Mattiz: Yeah, real sad. Don’t know why, but somehow I always end up being the last in line.

  5. Wow… Nice story! And Hercules Deluxe… Never tried it before! 😀

  6. Well, you should be happy! No one gives you a 2nd glance while you shout out 6 times!

    One of my friends, she wore a fairly skimpy outfit, and walked to the ‘tasmac’! I was not entirely sure what scandalized them – the skimpy outfit, a girl wearing it, a girl asking for alcohol, a girl buying the alcohol, a girl buying it at a ‘tasmac’!!! I think their imagination ran wild, thinking about what women could do with alcohol!!!

    Anyway, you didn’t have to go to such lengths for a bottle!

    Nice writing.. I wrote something like this in a post called ‘Phantoms in the brain.. and outside’.. 😀

  7. @ Nikhil: Ha ha, if you had stayed for a drink the night you came along home, you would have found out. Still, it’s not too late 🙂

    @ Aparna: Tell me about it! A female friend of mine used to insist on accompanying me to the booze shop everytime (not in a fairly skimpy dress either), but it would still draw some real weird glares from the people around.
    I’m not complaining, though; it always resulted in me being served first! Think she used to make the male egos around feel real uncomfortable 🙂

  8. booze n begging really a heady combination….somehow hercules delux conjured a deluxe room with a lusty male waiting…..also it could be a chat id …..yea….never tried HD

  9. Mojo, re Aparna’s comment, I think we can help each other out here. Want to borrow a nightie next time you go buying booze?

  10. twinky: drop a fiver on my behalf next time you see them 🙂

  11. Kammommy: Sure! Something you can use the next time you log on to MiRC chat. And come to think of it, do try it sometime – it’s my favourite poison 🙂

    Chailey: Yeah ha ha! Nothing like being a guy in a nightie to get noticed. Keep that thing handy, huh?

    Creepy Suzie: Hmm. Got a feeling those guys are in for a lot of golden days ahead 🙂

  12. […] And golden flows the dawn… […]

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