It isn’t as though I’m over-reacting. Although it may seem I am over-reacting about one dingy, dank-carpeted drinking hole in the national capital that no reader of this paper probably has heard of, let alone visits even in Delhi. But when I passed Volga, that memento from a time when Brezhnev and Indira Gandhi were still looking into each other’s eyes, my heart fell. There were two large ‘No Smoking’ signs pasted next to the other signs that included ‘Last Order 10.30 pm’ and, ‘We shall not be accepting debit/credit cards’.
Not quite believing in the veracity of the printed word even on a poster-sized sign, I thought that maybe the ‘No Smoking Area’ referred to the region in front of Volga, and not inside its cavernous innards. I went in, asked a bored-looking waiter whether the horrific rumour was true. He looked at me as if I had asked him whether they served 1993 Pellegrini Merlot. “It’s like this for the last month,” he said, cocking his head towards the general direction of a largely empty scattering of tables and chairs. This was about 8 pm and the place usually is packed by the likes of me and various other clients that include Sitaram Kesri-lookalikes. Today, it was just a few people chugging on their beers. In other words, the delightful dive of Volga was dead.
I was told by another waiter that the government had ensured this rule and there was nothing the smoke-friendly management could do about it. He added that this was the case in many other ‘restaurants’ — now, that was stretching things a bit — all around the Connaught Place area.
Now, I’m no activist. But I sat down ordered a beer and with the surly waiter as my witness, chewed down — not smoked — two cigarettes. How’s that for civil disobedience, ye soul-sapping hafta-encouraging government?