i was invited by a group of co-workers to attend a party, "hosted" by one of them. apparently when something fortuitous occurs in the life of one person on the team, that person is cajoled into taking out the rest of the group. our host purchased a new motorbike, which apparently is sufficient to spark a celebration. of course i agreed to go. in fact, i had to cancel a planned get together with a few expat pals who had helped me in my housing hunt. that i had two conflicting social obligations within one week of moving to bangalore left me very impressed with myself.
back to the party. apparently, all parties, at least in my office, seem to be pretty much the same thing. a round of bowling (very popular here), followed by dinner. "hosting" means paying for it. ok, not really what i'd call a party, but i'm looking forward to it nonetheless.
bowling is a bit different than back home. at home, assuming you're not bowling becuase you're drunk and the alley is within stumbling distance, you either own your own ball, or you spend some time picking out the right ball from the racks. and that becomes YOUR ball for the entire game. not here. here you just walk up to bowl and grab a ball that might sort of fit your hand from the group of 7 that happen to sit at your lane. after the first frame, do you wait for your ball to return to go for the spare? no. you just grab another ball and throw it. there's none of the chalk stuff or bowling gloves or using the little finger fan. because of this, the game moves remarkably quickly. which means i like this version of bowling much more. one thing i didn't like: the loud, bad music filling the room and my ears.
it was a very wholesome experience. there was no sense of competion, no playful ribbing when a gutter ball was thrown. nobody swore when they screwed up, except maybe me, and i did it under my breath. everyone just wanted everyone else to do well. lots of cheering and claps on the back and high-fives. only one out of 9 of us scored over 100.
we ate dinner at queen. no, not a gay bar, but a restaurant designed to look like a mud hut from a traditional indian village. we separated into the veg and non-veg groups. only a few of my co-workers eat meat. after a week of vegetarian food, i was looking forward to eating some animals, even if it would only be chicken and goat. the guys asked me how i am with spicy, a question i get nearly every day. having had no problems all week, i was beginning to think this indian spicy thing was exaggerated, or that perhaps after 4 months in asia i had grown accustomed to such things. i was about to be punished severely for my arrogance. this was the spiciest food i've ever had. i made my way through the first few courses, but once i hit the briyani i was completely screwed. one bite and the heat started to build, and with each gulp of water the heat actually increased. i would be dead in minutes if this trend continued. i started eating the yogurt concoction desgined to cool. after a few minutes i hit peak heat and began to come back down. the worst was over (though there may yet be a reckoning in my gut). my tribulation was the source of much amusement around the table. strangely though, i never broke out in a sweat, which is what i thought people did.
i thought maybe drinks would come next, but the evening seemed to be over. most people went home, and a few of us went back to the office to pick up things. it was there that 2 of my coworkers and i decided to go for some drinks at purple haze, a rock themed pub. i caught a ride on the back of one of the guy's motorbikes. as usual, with traffic and all of the one way streets, this took longer than walking. still, the driver of my bike found ways to achieve remarkably high speeds ever so briefly before coming to jarring stops. somehow i held on.
purple haze was something to behold. the focal point of this very dark bar with blacklight images of hendrix and zappa on the walls is a giant flatscreen tv blasting rock videos though an amazing sound system. you really feel like you're at a rock concert, even though you're essentially watching mtv from 20 years ago. the enthusiasm in the room is shocking--people are up dancing and pumping their arms to the body shaking power chords. each new song brings new cheers and high-fives. sometimes the videos would pause at dramatic moments to let the frenzied crowd sing out lines acapella. among the bands: pink floyd, janis joplin, nirvana, u2, metallica, survivor (yes, eye of the tiger), the scorpions, rem, and a host of others. it was impressive that seeing, for example, survivor, in all of their early 80's music video lameness, could be an energizing rather than simply laughable experience, but it was, thanks to the energy in the room. i suppose the beer helped a bit as well. drunk and happy, the guys at the next table befriended me and started stuffing skewers of meat in my face. i kept pleading with them that i was stuffed and could not stomach another bite but they kept making me eat. in fact they'd try to shove the skewers directly into my mouth. i don't like being hand fed by strange men.
even though i'm the rich foreigner, my co-workers insisted on buying the beer. what nice guys. management booted us out at 11:30, half an hour after the mandated closing time.