By Sehaj K Maini Apr. 03, 2019
We’ve all had that adda. That neon sign flashing loud in the dingy street crawling with mice and drunk uncles. That dimly lit interior reeking of puke, heartbreak, and freedom, all at once. It amazes me to think about how one spot within four walls has witnessed so much of my life.
Iswear I will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: I am, slightly – okay scratch that – obviously intoxicated. It probably isn’t the wisest state of mind to be in on a weekday, but what the hell. I’m still a few years away from my 30s, and my hangovers only take one entire day to cure themselves, so quite clearly, I’m living life dangerously. Not as dangerously as I used to though. You know what I’m talking about.
Back when we were all of 18, newly liberated from our parents’ hawk-eyes, cramped up in a PG with clogged drains and chota Goldflake buds under the beds, enjoying invisible allowances and perpetual dark circles, there was one aspect of our lives that stood the test of time. It was our liver. And to stand strong alongside, the Ron to our Harry, was The Adda.
We’ve all had that adda. That neon sign flashing loud in the dingy street crawling with mice and drunk uncles. That dimly lit interior reeking of puke, heartbreak, and freedom, all at once. That jukebox bellowing out Himesh Reshammiya songs at a volume so high, it would drown out all the sorrows of a shitty day. That Chicken 65 that would give you the shits the next day, but you’d still eat it. That cheap liquor that somehow never caused a dent in the pocket – and even if it did it would be fine because the manager knew you by then, and apna idhar chalta hai.
Our adda. Our local college bar. Sunlight.
Many life events have transpired since then, but nothing has shaped my life the way Sunlight has. I’ve faced it all there. Joy, anger, sorrow, misery, blackouts, Antakshari sessions, “One last drink”, tears, lasting love, PDA with somebody whose face I can’t recollect, stupid decisions, smart decisions, and some more blackouts. It amazes me to think about how one spot within four walls has witnessed so much of my life. And no number of fancy bars with a Zomato Gold (2 +2) on drinks can replace the magic of that beautiful shithole.
When I was in college, the song “Chopsuey” by System Of A Down used to play at least once every evening in that bar.
When I was in college, the song “Chopsuey” by System Of A Down used to play at least once every evening in that bar. We would wait every night for that song, just so we could all collectively sing out loud and headbang, because project submission was the next day and life was tough. And when I say we, it wasn’t just me and my friends, it was the entire bar. There were always a few out-of-place Gujarati uncles, who never understood the song but lifted up their cigarettes and shouted “Halo piyo!” loudly in accordance with our choice of music. The unity at that place was exemplary, to say the least.
I was in love with that bar. I’d go around pitching it to everyone everyday during college. If anybody needed a suggestion, Sunlight was the place to be. I would drag my three girlfriends there at least once a week, much to the dismay of one whose perennial hyperbolic refrain that coming to the bar would somehow make her contract AIDS I tolerated. And when we would reach there, she’d spend about 15 minutes cleaning the seat, the table, the glasses, and the plates with paper napkins. But I think deep down, even my OCD friend couldn’t deny the grip the place had on her. She never got AIDS, FYI.
It wasn’t just me. All the drinkers of my batch would land up there every other evening, despite having 8 pm hostel curfews. Sunlight was located close to a competing college, but in spite of being enemies during college fests, we all became best friends inside that dingy bar. There were pats on the back, “Arré, tu yahan!” moments, and unnecessary beer-chugging competitions. And the next day, we’d go back to hating the students from that college like it was our moral obligation.
It wasn’t always all rainbows and butterflies, of course. I’ve had fights with people I care about, said spiteful things, and embarrassed myself thoroughly in front of a known crowd. But we’ve all been there, haven’t we? Gushing out suppressed emotions triggered by the abuse of daaru because we’re still figuring out who we are. And those three-four years of college life are possibly some of the most mentally formative ones of our lives.
Perhaps the fact that the bar provided the backdrop during some of the most important years of my personal development is what makes its appeal so everlasting. One study, published in Newsweek, states that we recall our adolescent years so fondly because “this is the period when we lay down memories and store information that will define who we are for the rest of our lives — the crystallisation of the self in memory, if you like.”
And that is why the adda becomes a high-point of a rollercoaster journey that is hard to match up to later. Maybe that’s why no matter how much we start earning later, and no matter how many expensive bars we visit, nothing can substitute the one that witnessed all your highs and lows. And that’s why, “Sometimes you want to go / Where everybody knows your name / And they’re always glad you came.”
Sehaj K. Maini is a young filmmaker and writer. The K in her name stands for Kaur. She likes movies, travelling and butter chicken. When she is not working, she is mostly going through an existential crisis.