Have you heard of the bar that beats all the other bars hollow? The one that’s commanded a loyal following (mostly male) for decades, that spikes up most weddings and keeps kebab shops in business? Unlike brick and mortar establishments, it materialises where and when you want it to, and offers a huge variety in terms of décor, colour and horse power.
Welcome to the eloquently-named ‘car-o-bar’. You may love it or hate it, but one thing is for sure — over the years, the practice of setting up wheelie bars has become a sub-culture of sorts in Indian cities, and the capital city is no exception. Each evening, as darkness descends, you’ll see groups of men station their cars outside small chow joints or liquor shops with a few bottles of alcohol and plastic cups in hand. Sitting inside their vehicles, they’ll order a round of tikkas or rolls, switch on loud, thumping music, fix themselves a peg or two, and get ready for some happy hours.
What’s the attraction of a car-o-bar? Is it an easy getaway from strict parents or spouses? A peculiar type of male bonding? Cheap street thrills? I don’t know. Whatever the case, I’m not a big fan, whatever subversive fun they may offer. As a woman, the very thought of walking past a bunch of bingeing guys inside a parked car at night is nerve-wracking. That is where the parliament’s nod to the new draft excise bill, that proposes stringent penalties for drinking in public places, becomes important.
Still, there is a mellower, more interesting avatar of the car-o-bar, that you’ll see in the coming weeks, as the wedding season gets under way. No alcohol at the celebrations?
No worries. A duty-bound brother, cousin or uncle will take on the responsibility of stashing away a small collection of drinks and disposable cups inside a car, which is then parked at a safe distance from the venue. Comfortably into the wedding and it’s time to sneak away, snacks in hand, giggling. A few drinks and gupshup later, it’s back to the pandal, aiming for sobriety.