Being medically unfit was posted to 33 SU and minding my own business in the Ops Room. In walked the Boss, the very loveable Alan D’Costa, and with him the fire eating AOC, whom Bobcat has referred to in his kahanis.
“Coops, hand over the scope to someone and come to the training room” said the Boss. I followed them there two mins later and was given the once over by Stern Face. He got straight to the point. I was to take care of the VIP bar for the farewell party of the C – in – C the coming Saturday. It was a very special bar with the finest wines, whiskeys, cognacs, liqueurs and what have you being put under my care. He wanted every drop of every bottle accounted for immediately the C-in-C went off. “I trust no one, specially you Marut guys. I want you to keep things under control. No one gets served from there except the C-in-C and me! And keep those guys in check. I’ll be watching your every move.” Was also told that once the speeches started, only my bar would be kept open till the Old Man left. That was it, considering that the Marut stream boasted such renowned elbow benders like Cool Hand Luke Sam, Sambo the Bobcat, Koch, Keru, Randy, Atul etc I knew my saturday evening was stuffed!
Came the great event, yours truly manned the special VIP bar in one corner of the ante room. Two more bars were there for the aam aadmi. Having to cater to only two throats, the job should have been easy. Hadn’t catered for the tourists. Every one came over to eye the full bottles of the best there was. Many sidled up asking me about my health with one eye on the bottles behind me. Some even asked for a sip of something saying they wanted to taste it, never having had a Shivas or Dimple before. Doe like my eyes would seek out the Stern One. He seemed to have eyes at the back of his head always directed my way. I pretended I hadn’t heard.
Since both my ‘wards’ could knock it back with gusto, there was constant traffic between ‘my’ bar and them. Meanwhile, like a coy and demure maiden I had to keep fighting off the advances of the many suitors who came ambling my way – eyeing both me and my wares. Now when the younger ones tell me how they have to fend off unwanted attention, I know exactly how they feel.
It was speech time. The other two bars were closed and my nightmare got worse. The AOC gave a flowing speech, not a word of which could I follow. There was a slow but definite crawl towards my side of the room of some of the thirstiest Marut guzzlers. The Stern One noticed too. Paused in his speech to give me a hard long glare, as if to say “Dare you!” I knew I was well and truly between a rock and a hard place. My ever dependable Boss, noticing that I would need reinforcements, slowly came and took position at the other end of the bar and gazed paternally at my many fans.
If I remember correctly, to my immediate right, within touching distance of the bottles, was Bobcat himself followed in a straggly line by Randy, Keru, Atul and Koch. If that was not a force to reckon with I don’t know what was. As the AOC concluded, amidst the applause, Bobcat made his move:
“How about just one small one?” wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
“Don’t bet on it” said I
“Oh come on, just a small one.”
“Do you see who has got his eyes on us?” I asked through clenched teeth.
” Don’t worry I’ll sign. One for you too! I’ll take the blame”
The boss slowly made his way to our end and Bobcat gave him a beaming smile and moved his way making room for Randy to try his luck. In a pincer, Keru and Koch joined Bobcat to chat up Boss.
“Lets have one for the road, Dara”
The C-in-C was just getting warmed up into his speech. I could feel a pair of eyes boring into me.
“Whats the problem? Just one small drink with friends for old times sake.”
“Sorry Randy” I was feeling like a heel and a lousy one at that. But it was those eyes! Frying pan to fire situation. To say ‘no’ was to invite scorn, to say ‘yes’ was death defying. When would this freaking speech end? Between clenched teeth I was being labelled an Uncle Tom and worse, losing friends and respect by the second.
And finally they brought on the heavy artillery with emotional blackmail. Felt a hand round my shoulders ” Hiya course mate! Knew we could depend on you to keep it open for us!” Through the corner of my eye I could see Stern One brace up, winding himself up into a fury.
“If you know what’s good for us both, you will kindly take a walk, Mr Samsi”
Finally it ended and one final determined assault was attempted as the “Jolly good fellow” got underway. I would have been demolished but Boss saved the day – “come on guys, time to close up and look who is heading our way?” There was the Stern One almost upon us and telling everyone to get out and see off the guest – I was saved.
Not before Bobcat had the final word “And to think this $%^&*@@@$$ is one of us, or was.”
Finally each drop was accounted for.
The kindly Boss, with a twinkle in his eyes, had one last piece of advice ‘If you ever join the circus, be a tight rope walker!’