AFTER VISITING Bengaluru now for eight months we have come to the conclusion that any claim it has to be any kind of pub capital at all is completely bogus.
Most of the drinkerias are located off MG Road and Brigade Road but they’re no great shakes. Perhaps the best of a sorry bunch is Coconut Grove, on Church Street, a small bar attached to a restaurant and separated from the road by greenery. We were down there the other day and bumped into some would-be journalist hacks and some ex-pats. You can also pick up pirated books there – we saw a copy of White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga, the recent winner of the Booker Prize. That was selling for Rs125 and was printed on a superior type of toilet paper.
The smoking ban in public places in India appears to be one of the best observed laws in India. While traffic laws are widely flouted, the smokers in the bars dutifully traipse out into the street and smoke their tabs while gazing wistfully at their friends and beers sitting two feet away in the open air. At least the temperatures in Ole Bengaluru are more forgiving than in Blighty – at this time of year the dedicated smokers stand outside shivering in the British cold and rain, paying homage to the great god Nicotine.
The hotels and coffee shops in Bengaluru appear to have decided that they may as well ban smoking even if they have open spaces as part of their property. Just around the corner from this apartment in the Defence Colony is a branch of Coffee Day, looking onto the busy and very smoky 100 Feet Road. It has lots of seating outside but smoke there and you commit an offence, punishable with an on-spot fine of Rs250 if the cops nab you, it appears.
The egregious Leela Palace has a vast area of fake tropical jungle, on the edge of which are two restaurants. There is no place for a smoker to lurk – if the addict wants a fix, she or he has to traipse through another restaurant into a little corner to light up a tab. The Oberoi, on MG Road, also has an area of greenery in the middle of the hotel. Smokers have to negotiate a dark little path and get their fix at two tiny ashtrays away from the eyes of those who must be obeyed. They cannot take their drinks – obviously people can’t have too much fun at the same time. ♣