It was many days after I had safely reached Indian shores. With a distinct south Indian twang sparkling he asked, “You went to USA aah ?“ The ‘aah’ intonation at the end singularly transforming a simple statement to a deep question.
Before any word was uttered, came the next question like a spirited response from a casino slot machine, “So did you go to Loss Vegaas ?”
A chuckle could barely stay within the throat. Just about barely. The chuckle had nothing to do with the pronunciation of LOSS VEGAAS, for in many ways he was right. It was indeed ‘Loss’ Vegas, Of course, the loss is just monetary! But then, relating to the USA through one city, and THIS city, was indeed a unique world view which firmly registered in the mind.
“So did you have dinner with Obama ?”
“ East Coast or the West Coast ?”
“White House ?”
“Dude, did you do Hollywood ?”
Those were the most asked questions. Yes, most asked. Some asked with a tinge of sarcasm, yet others soaked in curiosity and the rest as ‘time-pass’ conversation leads. Several of them usually were a conversation starter but this “LOSS VEGAAS “ thing was quite unmatched in getting a smile on the lips many hours after the question was asked and done.
Swarms of people mill around the soul of Las Vegas : the Strip. It a about a 7Km long stretch, which houses a host of casinos and accompanying avenues for a spectrum of vice that can stretch from the harmless to the horrid ! ‘Fun’ is euphemistic representation!
From air, the city sports an incongruous array of buildings that juts out into the day sky with an absent elegance that seems typical of an absent minded planner who thought up of shapes and structures half in delusion and the rest between bouts of amnesia.
Come night, the picture is different. The bulbs get their glow presumably from wires that carry electricity. The amount of electricity that Las Vegas uses up in one night is what the city of Dhaka requires for a three three years, two months, three weeks and four days. Ofcourse, that’s not corroborated. But it wont be too much of a surprise if Las Vegas beats that number hands down.
If you have a coconut tree in your backyard that’s world famous, the chances that Las Vegas will have an imitation of it are very high. There are re-creations galore. From the pyramids to the Statue of Liberty to Eiffel Tower to the waterways of Venice, all of them glow with pumped up lights.
Of course, every single one of them housing Casinos !
Now there are far better traveled people. But there is a doubt that lurks, if any from the most well traveled will be able to spell a city in which the world comes together with such focus and seriousness. Americans, Indians, Japanese, Oriental folks, Australian, Pakistani etc etc, all with singular intention of LOSING money!
The casions are indistinguishable from each other with carpets that seem jaded and an air that has a distinct swirl of alcohol and other vice. Sorry,’fun’. The casinos are large, stretching from one street to another and its easy to physically get lost in just trying to get to the bathroom!
Every casino has slot machines which would seem to extend till as far as your eyes can wince and see. Like someone standing at a beach and wincing to see beyond the horizon !
Of course absolutely normal people with such keen intent, sit in front of those slot machines, intently gazing at the screen and trying their luck at fortune. Be it 2.00 AM or 8.34 AM or 2.46 PM or 5.57 PM or 10.32 PM! 24 hours is small change for an outside possibility of fortune. Electronic ringers and the occasional sounds of ringing coins populate the thick dark air.
And an endless choice of casinos that you could enter, and go through practically the same experience. Water fountains, street performers, elevators at street corners that add to the glitter that crowds & electricity bring to the strip!
After having a good soaking in of the night life at the McCarran Airport welcomes the dulled eye with a bright look. After the customary security checks ( on which a separate blogpost is due ), the comfortable chairs just before boarding could seem empty. Which is when the eyes will notice the slot machines.
Gambling ! In the Airport. After security check. Of course, reams of passengers dutifully pulling the handle at the slot machine. A fortune before the flight takes off, perhaps is an allure with only heavy hand luggage as a deterrent!
A loud facepalm ( which perhaps could have been heard in Las Vegas ) was followed by his quiet exit. Left unsaid was perhaps a a cryptic comment like “you go to Las Vegas for bubbling around. Not for a Bhajan session”.
Which is true. Of course !