You can tell a city by the club it keeps. Kolkata has the Tollygunge. Mumbai has the Taj. Nagpur, well, Nagpur has The Skylark.

Looking for a venue for our last night together, myself and the lads plump for Lucky Paul and Simon Nos’s hotel. Treading gingerly into the facilities, past the battered door marked “Bar & Grill” in neo-Tudor lettering and into a world that shrieks Phoenix Club.

All that’s missing is Brian Potter.

The Maharashtran Les Alanos are there, snuck steadfastly in a corner of the room, the circling disco lights and sound system are their protection from the outside world.
The room is a noxious mix of brown painted panels, dirty white tiles, dirtier mirrors, rust clad twisted iron grills and cream and ruby tiger striped seating. Tottenham versus Swansea carries on regardless. Two signs on the walls grab the eye. Firstly, and quite arbitrarily, Medium Of Cooking Soya Bean Refined Oil. Secondly, Smoking Zone. The reason for this becomes clear soon.

Eyes shut tightly, India Idol-that-never-was croons his way through another Hindi classic, buoyed on by Les Alanos and their wall of weird sound. I never even saw the choir. Our Marvin is joined by his Tammi Terrell. Another song falls on deaf English ears.

The bar begins to fill up. Regular faces from my hotel’s breakfast melee join the scene. Two middle aged chaps minus their mindless, shirtless Cockney pal come in to steal a glance at the telly. Simon Nos’s contact and our transport coordinator aka Nagpur’s Eighth Most Unreliable Man takes a seat at our table. Seedy looking single men filter towards the corner.
A fellow hotel guest, face like a melted Richard Nixon mask, a moaning, bullying shower of a Scunthorpe resident and probably the man who put the cu…. Anyway, he’s here. Complete with his monosyllabic bearded tit of a mate. I’m embarrassed to be from the same country as them. No black coffee or hot water to complain about now, just the Kingfisher. And the noise. Obviously.

The receipt roll from the clerk in the adjoining booth clacks slowly into life as the music fades. Is it part of the act?

It doesn’t matter. The music goes from Maharashtra to Mariarchi. The club from Phoenix to Coco Bongo. Those magicians in the corner on their keyboards have done it again. The reason for the upturn in punters suddenly becomes apparent.

The most beautiful girl in Nagpur takes the stage. The locals have their Tina. The Smoking Zone. This striking chanteuse strikes up a number. Collars are loosened. Pulses quicken. Repressed but shabbily dressed. Eyelashes flutter. Hearts pound. Warm applause greets the conclusion to the plaintive posturing.

I smile upon this scene, one of the only times I have in this armpit of a place in the last few days, and await the arrival of the one-legged Elvis. Or maybe Jerry’s Free N’ Easy Night?
Talent Trek?

Deciding I’m getting none of this. I head back to my hotel, for, hopefully, a decent night’s sleep. And the conclusion to an epic series of Test Cricket.

Hope, damn hope….

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