We had heard rumors of such places from older boys in school. Now, thanks to J, we were sitting in such a place.
A place that had ladies, who carried lighters, wore lipstick, had special smiles, sat across single men on the same side and let the man keep his arm across the sofa.
That’s when we were visited by a big man. He wore a cream safari suit, had curly hair and a Mohanlal moustache with a paunch to match. He smiled a devious smile. Reminded me of dad.
“What will you boys have?”
“We already ordered,” J said.
“Hot and sour chicken soup,” I added.
He repeated it like my dad did, when he meant, ‘You want me to believe that?’
“One by two,” J added to that information.
The ‘one by two’ convinced the curly haired man. Not many had come to his establishment and ordered a soup to be split by two.
“You don’t want anything else?” he confirmed. He wasn’t referring to the food.
“No,” shook his head.
“No,” I nodded to J’s shake
“No?” the man repeated.
“No,” we shook our heads together.
Curly-haired man smiled. He went away. I remembered his smile. It said, ‘There’s still hope. Not for him, but maybe for us.’
I had my take-away in my hand. I looked at the bill, the staff had left . Steep, just like it had been for the soup. I had to break into my emergency funds to pay for it. Damn, J.
As i left the place, i tried to remember things from back then — the chandelier, the woman with the lighter, the curly haired man. It was a blur. But I remember the name of the place. For all the experience of being able to see in the dark, they had named it Roshni — bright lights.
The new name; it was just a name. nothing more. I paid the tab and left.