Friday, November 14, 2014

The Pub Brawl

Turn left after Hotel Figaro, then right at the next crossroad and the second door is that of The Café (why is a pub called that?). There is no guard or usher at the heavy wooden door. It is a small establishment (reviews say ‘cosy’). The door opens to a small hallway with three tables. The hallway leads to the bar in the inner sanctum which is only marginally bigger. There are no stools at the bar. In the inner area, four tables crowd against the wall one arm-span from the bar. Even two at a table would have to sit sideways to avoid knocking knees (reviews could say ‘lover friendly’). Those at the tables can’t escape the large flat-screen TVs in front and back. The rest of the wall-space has framed posters of brews like Guinness (not served there). The way to the restroom is next to the bar. A whiff of pee creeps in when the restroom’s door is opened.
There is a bartender and a waiter, young men with plastic smiles and dispassionate service, polite but minimal. The manager, who has an office somewhere inside, flits in and out. A recording of an English premier league game is on one screen (ManU vs. ManCity), and Eminem is inciting trouble on the other.
At the first table, there is a man in his forties; hair peppered white, trim built giving way to fat, pleasant untroubled face; sipping draught beer (asks for Guinness, settles for Kingfisher), munching free crisps; watching the game, listening to Eminem.
The man at the second table is of that age too; dark hair, stocky, haughty, edgy, sullen; nurses a large peg of whisky; tries to catch the attention of the bartender or the waiter or the man at the first table to share a complaint; frequently turns to scowl at the crowd at the last two tables.
 There are ten youngsters at those two tables, four of them girls; mid-to-late twenties; young professionals partying at the end of a working day, celebrating bonus or promotion or anniversary, or without any particular reason. They are noisy. They have shots together, one after the other; bourbon, tequila, they know their drinks. Couples move to the hallway during breaks, sit close, talk, hug or kiss; then go back to their friends for the next round of cheer.
Eight men enter the pub. They order the couples in the hallway to join their friends. They ignore the two men at the first two tables. Seven men face the ten youngsters; their leader stands apart, behind his gang, near the first table. They take out canes from within their shirt, pants. There is hardly any space to raise an arm. The leader nods at the bartender. The bartender switches off the CCTV cameras. The waiter slips behind the bar. The manager is nowhere to be seen.
The leader is in his early thirties; medium height; round pudgy face with a wisp of a moustache; not fat but sporting a pot-belly. He stands with his feet apart, hands at his waist, his cane poised awkwardly in front (is that a phallic symbol?); stares menacingly; trying a pose of generals in battlefields (or, that of landlords doling out punishment to errant slaves?).
Apart from a superficial difference in their attire, casual formals of the professionals and the casuals of the newcomers, the two sets of young men can’t be distinguished. Some seem to be from well-off families, some from poor background but now doing ok, some nouveau riche. Their families can’t be different either; they might marry similar girls, kids might go to the same school; probably remind each other of friends or enemies they had in school. Seems a lot like ragging in college, seniors bullying juniors who will be the bullies the next year.  
The leader says that it is a shame to see such activity; disgusting to see the young who should lead us (us?) to greater riches wasting time and energy; polluting (it’s good to use that word in every context) one’s own brothers and sisters.
One of the girls (not the biggest, not the oldest either) stands in front of her cowering group and dares to defy (‘polluted your brain!’ she says).
They do not touch her (they must have orders not to touch the girls; they do look at the one sporting a daring décolletage but then all the men there, including the forty-year-olds, were guilty of that). The seven move in. They select one man (the toughest, the biggest) and cane him from all sides. The girl who challenged watches that in horror.
‘You filthy lot,’ the leader shouts. His gang of seven followers close in on the young scared men, caning, showering blows and kicks in that small space.
The man at the second table urges them on, ‘Oh yes, they have been asking for it for quite some time!’
The man at the first table finishes his beer. He stands up, the mug in his right hand. He swings his right arm freely in a wide arc and the mug of hard glass crashes against the leader’s face. The man turns and knees the surprised bloodied (broken nose, lost teeth, split lips) leader in the groin. The leader collapses, groaning, barely conscious.
His gang realizes this only after everyone else in the room. The young professional, who first bore the brunt of their caning, charges and brings down two. The other young men decide that odds are in their favour and that it is safe to save face in front of their girls and charge too. The girls join too, throwing glasses and kicks. The man at the second table tries to escape but the man at the first table blocks his path, and ends on the floor bloodiest of all.
The bartender, or the manager, calls the police. The brawl lasts till the police manage to quell the uprising. The press is also there by then.


Most of the newspapers had photos of the drunken unruly youngsters, especially the dishevelled girls (the décolletage got the caption ‘OMG!’). Some of them lost their jobs. Two rags referred to the leader as a social worker. He kept a low profile till the local elections. Every wall had a photo of him then, a near-martyr with a golden smile (two golden and two silver teeth actually). One journalist tried to sell the story of the uncle (a Naxal mastermind of the 60s) of the man at the first table but failed to find a buyer. Another was more successful with his story about the two men at the first two tables being lover and husband of the same woman.


  1. Hi Arjun,

    This story reminds me of a caption I like, "my life is much more interesting in my head". At times social injustice calls for heros and one rarely becomes one... Liked the concept of the abused becoming abuser at least to some time...

    Coming back... Liked the comparison between reality and the review of pub... When it started I felt that it is about the two men... Well it was right?? Wonder who was the husband or the lover...


    1. Thanks for reading this, KP.

      Yes, it probably has a Mittyesque feel to it.

      I guess it is more interesting as a ruse to bash up a rival in love. Hahaha...

      Ok, let's bury this... why talk about a story whose story is over... :-)))