Saturday, September 19, 2009

A riot at Ivy bar in Delhi: a clash of cultures


We Belgians are very proud on our beer culture. While there only exist around 10 million Belgians, the total number of various kinds of beers produced in Belgium must be somewhere over thousand. Personally I know 2 or 3 guys brewing beer in their Belgian living rooms.
And in Belgium you can easily find pubs where you can have a couple of beers for 1.5 euro (100 rupees) a glass.

So ... what initiative can be better to bring Belgians together in a city like Delhi, having three times as many inhabitants than in the whole of Belgium ?
Right: a beer party sponsored by Inbev, the beer multinational which started in Louvain were my wife and I have (or had) our base. It's a Brasil company by now, but we still feel very proud, just like we still feel proud on Electrabel and the fact that we could manage in Belgium to keep SO MANY people living together with only 5 governments !

All 20 or something Belgians residing in India were present at the beer-gathering. Many many consultants among them. I felt especially proud that our lively Belgian economy has evoluated to such high levels that we all became Consultants to the World, a profession I myself however link spontaneously with our neighbours from the Netherlands. And guess what? I can be wrong, but I had the impression that quite some Netherlands-accents crawled in our Belgian Flemish-Dutch.

Anyway, let me stay focused on the beerparty.

We had to pay 600rs and then we could drink as much beer as we liked between 7 and 9:30pm. Great. Even according to Belgian criteria a good deal.

The evening went on in a good pace, everybody was trying to swallow as much beer as possible in that short timespan. So the moods were very good and under influence of the alcohol, here and there people started to loose their natural Flemish shyness (including myself).

But then came the time of no return: 9:30pm. Because I was feeling really really thirsty still, I thought by myself: "Let's order another glass... the last one before the road."
Unfortunately the bartender told me: "Sir it will cost you 500rs" (= 7 euro).
"Then for that money I can drink till what time?", I asked.
"What do you mean?", was the question.
"Well", I said, "I payed 600rs to drink 2,5 hrs as much as I wanted. So now I pay 500rs to drink whatever I want, till what hour?"
I found it very fair from them that they realised that even a Belgian cannot keep up the same drinking pace whole night. So I welcomed the idea of a 100rs discount.
Unfortunately the answer was: "No Sir, it's for ONE glass of Stella".

For one glass? I quickly calculated that also 30% various taxes should be added, resulting in the cost of 1 glass of Stella beer of somewhere between 9 and 10 euro.

Well, after the Belgians came to know about the kind of money they had to pull out to keep on drinking, hard words started to be said. The sentiments went extremely high a few moments later and I think I even heard our esteemed Embassador calling names to the Indian bar manager, even insisting that he would get a Hoegaarden for 50 rupees. Well, I myself judged this a little bit exagerated from his side and after having brought him to reason (which would be only possible to do BEFORE he would actually drink that extra pint ... I admit it was a little bit a tricky moment), we could come to a fair price of 100rs. We had to explain him that even in a low cost country you may not take advantage of the situation. We told him that if he could bring the cost of a pint of beer in India down to the level in Belgium, that this would be a very esteemed achievement for his position and function.

At the same time however, while we were convincing our Embassador, in another corner of the establishment, glasses were thrown on the floor and chairs flew through the air. I have not seen who did it, but I have a slight suspicion that even the Chairman, nevertheless an Indian, showed his loyalty to the Belgian cause in a very expressive way. Well ... he's not to blame, it's in his culture to be so enthusiastic! Probably he was thinking he was at an American party!
Anyway, being a little bit a chairman myself I can very well understand the endless frustrations he has to deal with when trying to get along with other cultures. And yes ... every now and then you really feel an urge to throw and destroy some small things here and there. All my sympathy for his difficult position.

One hour later the bar's shape was resembling the Gurgaon roads, including the potholes, the water up to the knees, ... I started to really feel comfortable from then on.

The waiters, probably foreseeing that the scenery went out of hand, had wisely chosen to go safely back to their family before 11pm, like they are used to do.
We locked up the manager in the kitchen though for possible administrative complications later on.
At 11:23 one of us found him pinched in the small window of the restroom (the female one - they always are so much cleaner!) trying to escape from the place.
We Belgians we never eat snacks when drinking so the kitchen seemed to us the best place to safeguard him. Having him locked there was a wise decision as to keep at least one responsible person in the establishment.

By democratic voting among the Belgians in the bar, and after having convinced our esteemed Embassador, we lowered the price of a Stella to the levels we are used to.
But only after every one agreed with it - I repeat it: 100rs INcluding service tax, VAT, TDS, service charge, education cess, wealth tax, fringe benefit tax, capital gain tax, customs duties, securities transaction tax and excise duty.

A form, form 32, was created by the Embassador himself and was duly stamped by the bar manager in the kitchen to make it offical.

Someone proposed to knot the Belgian national flag to some lightspots, a proposal we happily and proudly accepted. And so three trials took place to hang our national flag on the light bulbs. In fact every time that a power cut occured.
Unfortunately the guy got electrocuted when suddenly and unexpectedly the power came back. We are still glad that the proposal of the Belgian flag being raised came from one of the Indian maintenance employees.
This accident was thoroughly discussed among us and we agreed with unanimity that this was a freaky accident that could have happened anywhere.

After this small disturbance we didn't bother too much anymore about our national flag though, as we focused completely on the Inbev products.

Completely in accordance to Indian law and to guard the entrance to make sure that no minors of -25yrs age would enter the place, we expelled all 4 Minor-Belgians from the place, first those with a slight Netherlands-accent. They were given the important job of guarding the entrance, a job which they happily accepted against a few packs of sigarettes and some bottles of mineral water. That is to say ... completely in accordance with Indian food culture we filled some empty bottles with water from the tab. We couldn't do otherwise, because our agreement about the selling prices was only applicable to the beers.
These young people ... they just want to have a few smokes anyway...

With the money we saved on each Stella we did drink from then on, we could easily bribe the police officers who gathered at the entrance and wanted to enter to reclaim the bar as Indian territory. And still we got some extra dimes to give a few bucks to the small Indian kids still begging just outside our new Belgian territory.

We didn't understand how the police was so quickly aware about the riot at Ivy bar though.
I think now that we forgot to take the mobile from the manager who was locked up in the kitchen.

We closed the bar at 5:42am but released the bar manager first at 4:12am from his kitchen. In only half an hour he was able to clean up the whole place.

By 6am it was like no Belgian ever entered that bar!

(For a good understanding of the reader: everything mentioned here is fake and nothing of it comes even close to reality.)