Apart from the fact that there are few portraits of Sir William Shakespeare, it’s just another pub. ‘Pub William Shapespeare’. Owned and operated by few Pakistanis it’s a popular place in the nightlife of Baku. Maharajah (an Indian cuisine restaurant) belonging to the same owners is right above the pub and, I was told, they also have an Italian food place just across the street. Shehjad and Ashfaque, if I remember the names correctly. Their brother Kashif is here from Pakistan for few months.
Enter three Schlumberger employs. Ali is a regular visitor, Iolut not so regular and me being a first timer. Ali practically eats here every night (gets a good 20% discount as I find out later, “because he knows the owners” Iolut adds). Ali is a Pakistani. Iolut a Romanian. I am introduced to the pub owners and as at every other place with Indians or Pakis around one gets into that desi mode pretty easily. The elders soon get busy with their work and Kashif joins us on the table for food. The language of conversation is a mix of Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi. I apologise to Iolut and he sportingly excuse us.
All the girls in the pub are pros (using a very desi word for pro), Ali points out. Even the waitresses, I ask. Sometimes. Especially near closing time, Ali adds.
There is a pool table in the middle of the bar. The girl bending on the table to take the shot has everyones attention from our table. Desis will be desis.
Stairs next to entrance lead to Maharajah on the first floor. I order from Maharajah, the menu for pub hardly having anything vegetarian. While I was giving order Ali informs that the waitress knows Urdu. Arzoo, I guess must be a Paki as well. I didn’t enquire from Ali if she qualifies for the pro rule.
You write your name on the board on wall next to the bar (if you want to play pool).The person who loses the game leaves and the next name on the board joins the winner for next game. The new player sets the table. The winner starts the new game. Once you lose you can add your name at the bottom of the list (if you wish to play again). Iolut, Ali and Kashif explain the pool rules as they wait for their turn. Over next few hours I am pleasantly surprised to find these rules being followed religiously.
Enter another SLB employee. Introductions and handshakes. He is here to celebrate the retirement of two another SLB employees. Different department hence I don’t know anyone. Sixty two years of experience among the two retirees informs the gentleman whose name I didn’t catch when we shook hands. Iolut was playing pool, his name being the first among three sitting on our table so we let the new entrant have his seat. Like any old oilfield hand, he is full of anecdotes about oilfield work in general and Schlumberger life and work in particular.
Some Crazy Head Lunatic Using Minimal Brains Expects Rewards Greatly Exceeding Results, he augments SCHLUMBERGER. It’s not his original, someone he worked with decades ago.
“Men should wash weekly” welcomes the signboard on the men restroom. Can’t make any sense as to why would they put this up. Just because something has to be said, maybe.
Ali pays the bill. I once again shake hands with the owners (making sure they remember the face in case I ever come back, 20% discount is big money the way things are priced in Baku).
‘Is dil ki aarzoo hai koi …’. Finally, it hits me as I am entering the house. Was trying to remember the song ever since Ali called the waitress Arzoo. I asked him if he has seen Arzoo. “Three idiots dekhi, mast movie hai”, he replied.
But for those portraits the place could have been called anything. What’s in a name?
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