Friday, 10 February 2017

Crossing the Bar

-Brian Mendonça

There are no dearth of bars in Goa. My mother used to say, ‘If you throw a stone in Goa, it would fall on a bar, a D’Souza, or a pig.’ Times were different then.

Yet the allure of bars remains. As evening drips into night one can see them filled to capacity. Bereft of their soul in the day, the often-crammed spaces, spring to life at dusk. There in the noisy banter of drinkers, you realise that the troubles of this world are not on your shoulders alone. Even if you are alone, you can always swoop on an unsuspecting lone tippler and jettison your cargo of cares.

Being so well-frequented bars have become landmarks of a place. Like proliferating garbage dumps -- which have long ago been enlisted for the same purpose – bars have their unique sense of place and identity. Different types of people will frequent different types of bars. They also have their favourite place to sit.

So it is with some reluctance that I cross the bars in the city on my way home. Given the time (the inclination is always there) I should slip in surreptitiously and take a seat well away from the dim light. No matter if I am having water (it looks like caju feni anyway), what I would like most to do is to watch the people in the bar. From the swagger in their stride to the smirk on their lips every gesture tells a story. Here you will meet raconteurs of the first order, uninhibited, fearless, and happy.

People in bars speak about the day, office politics, elections, deals, or business. A little liquor does much to loosen the tongue and there are brands for the asking. The pungent smell of the various brews make you want to taste all, if the night be young. The flourish with which each drinker steps forward to order his poison; the controlled impatience of the bar-tender waiting for the drinker to make up his mind; the hurried pouring out of the elixir from the goblet to the glass – are a delight to watch.

There are delicious snacks to go with your drinks. From a pleasingly proffered plate of peanuts in their pods to more spicy starters, companions abound to help you nurse your drink. As you sip on your glass you can always give the dinner order.

Names of bars have been quite fascinating. From the long-standing Alex Bar in Vasco, to Unique Bar and Restaurant in Dona Paula, I was delighted to learn of Perish Bar in Merces. I have decided to go and see this bar for myself.

Excessive drinking has ruined families and lives. Another of mum’s words of caution were, ‘First the man takes a drink, then the drink takes another drink, then the drink takes the man.’ Women drinkers, particularly teenage girls, are on the rise in Goa. Proceed with caution.
‘Crossing the Bar’ (1889) - title of poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson; Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on 5 February 2017. Pix of Alex Bar, Vasco taken by author on 10 February 2017.

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