The lobby of the hotel wears a totally different look after eight at night. People, who possibly won’t be able to spell the word “concierge,” smartly walk past liveried men who salute in earnest.
As long as they can spend the money, respect and veneration are ensured. No questions asked, of course, about the provenance of their disposable cash. For those who frequent the countless seminars and workshops held in this five star establishment, this sight after dark may come as a shock.
Swarthy people in jeans and multi-coloured shirts are seen walking in. “Political honchos” says the commissionaire. This writer believes him.
Nowadays, there are many such people aspiring to be either the general secretary of some city unit of a political party, or a zonal leader. With their positions, and ready money, they increasingly achieve the trust of the top political whales.
Maybe “trust” is not the right word here. How about, relation of convenience? Dhaka city’s political history has ample examples of trusted friends who lose favour, some are even gunned down, when they begin to eat into the profit margin. Just go back to the Ramadan shooting in front of a Gulshan shopping mall a few months ago.
Top leaders come to this top hotel to relax, would-be ones (pathi-leaders) sit open–jawed as dancers take the stage with unveiled seduction in their eyes. As the small fries feel ennobled to be sitting with their masters, the so-called conservative society seems like a far cry.
Voluptuary is the rule here and vulgarity is the norm.
In the dimly lit bar, whisky and tequila reign. The waiter is aghast when white wine is requested by the writer. Noya maal (newcomer) he possibly thinks while taking the order. He is even more taken aback when the writer’s companion orders orange juice. The disappointment on his face is too visible. Did I forget the entry fee? It’s Tk3,000 per head. Free, if you are a hotel guest.
As the night gets older, the singer on stage bids goodbye. More heady items await as in come some enticing dancers. Navels exposed, they gyrate to Hindi numbers. More drinks are served as the night progresses.
Someone in a white shirt and a pot belly staggers up, and with vigorous moves, takes out a bundle of notes from his pocket.
Swiftly, the rubber band is torn off and cash flies around the dancer. In the dark it’s hard to ascertain the denomination. Whether 500 or 100, at least twenty notes pour on the girl. She is animated. The moves become even more provocative.
The white shirted guy brings out another bundle. The same exercise follows. He sits and takes a sip from his glass. His companions are entranced by their drink and the power of the flying money.
But in a place like this where many arrivistes gather, it is hard for one white shirted guy to claim all the glory. Another one stands up. Well-connected contractor who loves to forget blues from his all-boys school days, I am told.
Walking up, he stands in front of the new dancer, who, while moving to the music, adopts a demure look as money is rained on her. She has the quintessential Bengali movie ai dushtu ki korcho tumi (naughty boy, what are you doing) look on her face.
Second glass of wine and the atmosphere is beginning to appear rather nice, even to the writer.
Meanwhile, other heavily made up women move about, trying to make eye contact with the men who appear to be in need of some cosy company. Nearing midnight, a young group walks in. The guy in the lead takes out his wallet and throws a wad of cash in the air. Some extra-alert cohorts of the dancer promptly pick them up.
A competition of cash showering soon takes place between a guy in a white shirt and another in a T-shirt. Both men eye each other as the notes fill the air.
One is intrigued as to how they walk in with so much money. In a duffel bag maybe!
Does the security ever ask what the money is for?
This writer often wonders what the probable answer is to that question.
To shower it on the girls seems a likely explanation.
Back on stage, the girls keep on dancing. More cash is in the air, and escorts desperately look for a catch. The waiter becomes unwilling to serve wine!
As Shakespeare said, hell is empty because all the devils are here.
In among all this, some foreigners maintain a bemused look. Any Dollars to spare! Hello no, austerity bites in the west, every penny matters. Just sip the drink and fantasise .
The writer decides to take his leave. No, he does not take a moral high ground. In fact, he feels a sort of excitement.
Come another day? Well if the dark side is so fun and can co-exist with a daytime conservative layer, why miss the fun? Saint by day, a little Satan by night!