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Flashbacks: From Shloka to Roshni – Part III


J halted his march, we sat at a table. Somehow our teenage eyes adjusted to the dark ambience and the dim lights. We took in the place — the tables crammed next to each other, stale cigarette air, slow drone of ghazal music. Above us, on the roof was a chandelier — its shimmering silver dimmed by the absence of lights.

Our eyes turned sideways to the two women, including the one using the lighter, in cream sarees and red lipstick standing in the corner. The lady with the lighter approached us. She smiled. It was a different smile from the way my mom smiled, or even the girls at school. I smiled back, J gave the orders.

“Ek hot and sour chicken soup,” J ordered.
“Soup?” The lady echoed.
“Soup.” J confirmed and I nodded to confirm his confirmation.
Soup, she repeated — as if on loop. She smiled again. This time it resembled my mother’s. The lady with the lighter left.

“Did you know what this place was?” I asked J

“I had heard about it, but it,” J hesitated, “it was supposed to be like a ladies bar.”

I knew what he meant. Ladies bars were places where the ladies danced, orchestra played music, men sat around, bright disco lights, everyone having a good bright time. But here, it was nothing like that.

“Look there,” J whispered.

I turned to where he was looking. A couple of tables were occupied, a single man on each table. Sitting next to each of them was a lady. Just like our lady with the lighter, the lipstick and her smile. Their silhouettes were smiling, whispering; one man even had his arm across the sofa.

And we had ordered soup.

Last part coming soon.


Published by appamprawns

soni writes about children and people in controlled spaces, in his quest for appam stew. homi writes in the hope of being able to buy prawns to make patiyo.

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