At every table, there’s always going to be someone that’s loud. Their laugh will thunder above the music and shake a few glasses on the table as it reverberates off walls.
And then, there are the lousy dancers.
Should there be a constant flow of liquor, the conversation could easily get lewd and you’ll get eyeballs trained on you. Disapproving stares from the goody too shoes drinkers who want decorum in a bar. Disgusting.
Everyone hates them. Not the loudmouths but the goody too shoes drinkers. Sipping on their favorite brands (the small White Cap or Heineken) like their glasses came with a halo. Disgusting.
But sometimes you’re not looking to shout over a friend’s voice or over the music. In a typical nightclub or bar, it gets too noisy, you must talk over the din. But sometimes you want a place that’s calm. A place where your voice can be heard across the table without attracting glances. Pasara is one of those bars. An old joint with history sticking on its walls like ancient folklore.
Smack in the middle of CBD at the archaic atrium of Lonrho House on Standard Street. I’m here. A lull of Lingala music belts out. The kind of music for guys whose pot belly is on the third trimester (for the past 9 years). Same guys who have a taste for sugar-free beer that comes in bottles shaped like their first wives. A weekend for them is spent on a farm, with a polo shirt tucked into jeans and a brown cowboy hat. In their own way, they are trendy.
Before I go on let me get one thing out of the way, I’m not a history buff. I don’t wish I was either. I mean yes, it’s interesting and carries around some mystery about it. But the curiosity has escaped me. Find me in the middle of a conversation on history and I’d be bored out of my wits.
For instance, the guys here with me are talking about Pulp Fiction – an old movie. From the conversation, it is a classic. I know nothing about it other than Quentin Tarantino is a genius and the acting in the first ten minutes is epic. (I might download it now just for the culture. But sometimes I am not oblivious to the gems that hide in history. It just depends on who is talking. Anyone that sounds like my Form II History teacher is written off. But there are peeps like Owaah, a literary genius that spews history facts in tiny little bits. Tasty and chewable.
Posters of classic and vintage movies on the wall give Pasara a quaint feel about, frozen in time.
So, for me, the only way to describe the photos hanging on the walls here is rustic. Frameless photos that have aged well, freezing moments in history from old Nairobi with the colonizers busy about their day to an old Toyota rally tuned looking a bit too menacing for its time. Some have the years printed on them while others leave you guessing. Nairobi looks deserted in them. A few buildings. Some rickety cars on paths that can barely be called roads and a bunch of white men in hats and black folk in shorts.
The crowd here is mostly middle-aged men. In suits. Old fashioned suits that last were in style when they landed in Kibaki’s closet. If the setting and furniture were any different the place would be fit for a ball. But, it is not. The airy space though means you can’t easily eavesdrop on a conversation. Which is great for those clandestine dates. So, guys that are dating two or three chicks at the same time, you won’t have to run into melodramatic Sally and have a scene on your hands.
Drinks here are relatively cheap compared to other joints in the CBD. When was the last time you paid anything less than 250 for a drink in the CBD? Well, here the beer is 200 shillings. The place remains untouched by the greed of club owners to reap ridiculous profits.
Methinks it’s the test of time. A place that has been here as long as it has must have witnessed joints come up with the fury of a match’s flame and die out as quickly as it sparked. Their strategy must be built on long-term growth, they’ve avoided trends. They do not have themed nights and are not interested in even hiring a deejay. This is a place that guarantees you that if you left the country and came back 8 years later, it will be just as you left it. In its walls the nostalgia you left saved allowing you to pick up right where you left off.
For me, this place is a local in the middle of the CBD. A place of solace where you can casually catch a beer or a cup of tea with two samosas. I wish I had more interest in its history. Or that it had a curator that would talk about it with passion. About its heydays and how it started. Or maybe a brochure on the middle of the table that told the story. But for now, I will just enjoy the place in peace and revel in the hidden stories that it carries in its walls.