The Stars of After-Hours Quarter Bars


The Stars of After-Hours Quarter Bars

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

It’s closing time at the local bar and those godawful lights are blinding your hazy pupils. The drunkest member of your crew has made a slurred proposition along the lines of, “Bill sort kar ke Yacht chale?” This will be countered by an equally drunken “Nahhinnnn… Gokuuull.” This debate goes on until the bouncer shoves plastic glasses in your intoxicated faces with a firm, “Please proceed to the exit, sir.”

The virtuous ones have already booked their Uber rides back home. But the brave and boisterous make their way to an enchanted watering hole aka the place “jahaan iss waqt daaru milegi”. At this hour, the nighthawks with a craving for more alcohol end up under one roof – an after-hours quarter bar.

If you’re a first-time visitor to an after-hours bar, here’s a field guide to the creatures you are likely to encounter there.

The “Slumber Party” Girls

Post 2 am, it doesn’t matter if you have Malabar Hill money or are Bhiwandi broke, the corner table is always occupied by upper-middle-class teenage girls whose parents believe they are having a sleepover at a friend’s place. These young women went past their drinking capacity three Jaeger bombs ago, and at least one of them is moping over her recent break up. Vodka-Rasna will make their world whole again.

Things you’ll overhear at this table: “I’ve toh decided arranged marriage is the best! Shots?” “This Kylie Jenner make up kit is so fetch!” “We went to third base, guys!” *collective yelling*

The Jolly Bantais

In the non-AC section, basking in the familiar stench of expired cheeslings and stale masala papads, are Jolly Bantais from the hood. At least one of their fathers owns a mobile repair shop in Irla, which explains the annoyingly loud speaker on that Samsung J5. The lifeblood of any after-hours bar, the average Bantai’s ability to do bakchodi is unparalleled. They are to quarter bars what red leather is to all-American diners – fundamental to the working of the establishment.

Things you’ll overhear at this table: “RX100 kharaab ho gayeli hai, bantai” *Clinks of Haywards 5000 bottles* *Drunken sing-alongs to “Tere Bin” and “Zingat” * “Aur chakli schezwan manga na?”

Whiskey Uncles

Whiskey Uncles are easy to spot. They are the four furry beings buried under 15 kilos of Haldiram’s bhujia and Chivas Regal. Their protruding chest hair is trumped only by their protruding bellies, which are further trumped by the sheen on their nylon shirts. All of them have some sort of gold ornament on their body. One has a gold tooth, another a gold ring. And the man with the gold chain is the alpha male, also the loudest of the lot. There is enough gold on this table to rival a Dhanteras sale.

Things you’ll overhear at this table: “Aaj kal ke college fees are ridiculous, no?” “Modi kya kar raha hai?” “Koi naye WhatsApp jokes bhej na yaar!”

In the non-AC section, basking in the familiar stench of expired cheeslings and stale masala papads, are Jolly Bantais from the hood.

The Brooding Artist

The torchbearer of noir-era alcoholism, this gentleman can be found wallowing in self-pity while simultaneously dealing with the crushing burden of his own existence. Most often seated alone, he spends the majority of the night drowning his issues in 60 millilitres of gin while pretending to write. He is on a first-name basis with all the staff and other regulars. He is probably the only one who understands all the grammatical travesties on the menu like Sweat & Sore Cheken Moms, Butter Garlic Porn, and Vag Sandwich (no cheese for me, thank you).

Things you’ll overhear at this table: *The deafening silence of unrealised potential*

The Urban Poor

Unlike the depressed writer above, these “creative types” have sold their souls to the media. Seated with their laptops tucked away under their tables, majority of them peaked in college as uber-cool teens who smoked Gudangs and had sex earlier than their peers. Now firmly in their mid-20s, they can’t quite figure out what to make of their residual coolness and meagre 25K salary. None of them can afford more than two small pegs of Old Monk but that’s okay because they consider themselves intellectually wealthy.

Things you’ll overhear at this table: “Saw my Inktober post today?” “Why is it INR 15 per sutta, bro?!” “Can you believe Shardul didn’t tweet about the #MeToo movement? Misogynist prick!”

Under the dim glow of cheap bulbs, these tribes congregate to share equally dim memories of their nights at the after-hours bar. The setting might be dingy and dirty, and the crowd has probably more alcohol in their body than water, but no matter where they’ve come from, the after-hours bar is home.