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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Fade In, Fade Out...!—Part-4


I stood there for some time, not knowing what to make of the words just uttered by my erstwhile friend, and what to do next. However, I decided to do the most sensible thing at that moment. I went in heading for the bar. As I pushed my way through the revolving glass doors I came to a standstill again looking at the spectacle.

The bar was spacious, rectangular in size, with a full glass wall giving a view of the street outside and a wood-paneled wall on the other side. To my utter surprise and shock, the whole interior was filled with thick layers of smoke rising up to the false ceiling. How on earth they are allowed to smoke inside, I thought in dismay; my mind taking an overview of all the steps taken by the public authorities in recent years to save people from exposure to passive smoking. What amazed me next were the customers there.

Most of them were young boys and girls. Almost everyone was smoking, throwing out rings of smoke upwards. Some were looking up squealing in ecstasy while a few others were bent over the tables, jerky and sneezing; some were staring around with total disinterest and glazed eyes; some were either howling or moaning or plain crying and some others were swaying from side to side in their merriment with their bodies hitting or brushing against other bodies. I didn’t take long to understand what was going on.

It was obviously a drug bar, and I was astounded as to how this could be done so openly and in such a brazen manner. My first impulse was to dial the police if any in this strange place, but somehow my mobile phone and I became poles apart in the happenings so far. A few addicts became aware of me standing uncertainly in front of the entrance, and they stared at me, as if trying to evaluate me; a few seemed to jeer at me while some others communicated to me pitifully, ‘give us sustenance...give us sustenance...please!” My amazement fast giving way to fear I made a hasty retreat.

Out of the bar I walked disoriented and aimless for a few minutes, not at all bothered about the streets or the landscape or the skyline. Suddenly again, I found myself in front of a restaurant which, to my great relief, looked like a traditional one with two rows of neatly arranged desks and chairs and normal looking waiters moving around taking orders from customers scrutinising the menus. However, something else was waiting for me inside.

As I entered the open doorway heading for an empty table the manager behind the cash counter moved around in great speed, and walking past me slapped a waiter busy taking orders unawares; he repeated his unprecedented acts on three other waiters, slapping them with fury and vehemence. As I was destined that night I stood transfixed there, one more time. Now, the manager was shouting like a madman.

There was a moment of absolute silence in the restaurant following the manager’s acts with customers and staff alike stunned and immobilized. From the incoherent words of the manager I surmised that sometime back the hotel owner’s daughter with a few of her friends visited the restaurant for dinner, and one or more waiters misbehaved with them, not knowing their credentials or simply ignoring them. The daughter and group left in a huff, and the manager got a resounding bashing from the owner over phone. So he acted upon it immediately. However, before his action fully justified his fury something more dramatic happened.

Three goons with guns ready and pointed in their hands entered the restaurant. One of them stood guarding the entrance, one aimed his gun point-black at the manager’s head and the third one took position at the rear end. And I was like a duck sitting pretty amid the strangest scenario. This cannot go on any longer as far as my safety is concerned, I decided. I was an accidental bystander and therefore there was no reason why I should compromise my safety. I started moving towards the entrance slowly as a heated exchange of words was taking place between the manager and the gun-toting goon.

I almost made it. But unfortunately, just at the final moment of exit I accidentally brushed against the goon standing there, and his gun fell to the ground. Before the goon could react to that I acted impulsively and with a good presence of mind. I instantly stooped down, picked up the gun and handed it over to him with a sweet smile. The bewildered thug also managed a grin, and as I made my last move to exit he said to me in a rather paralyzing perplexity, “You gotta be a good man! But many good guys gotta die sooner than others! Nah..?” he hollered in great merriment over his own humor.  “Enjoy the night, goodbye!” I smiled weakly back at him and slowly moved out. The goon leaned out of the entrance to watch me, still giggling.

About twenty yards ahead the road turned right, and if I was able to round that corner I would finally move out of his sight. I watched many movies and read many thrillers where the villains appeared to be very suave, sophisticated and benevolent, but at the climax they used to murder the victims mercilessly. Those twenty yards seemed to be an eternity as I started moving slowly ahead measuring every step and at the same time keeping an absolute outward calm. The imminent probability that he might put a bullet through my back any time was a horrific thought that refused to leave my mind.

Nothing happened for about ten yards. I quickened my pace only by a fraction now so that it didn’t get noticed, suppressing my extreme desire to break into a dead run, and just vanish round the corner...and escape...

                                                                                    (To be continued...)

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