Hotel Chanakya – or as the locals call it, Hotel Chanak with a twang – in Etawah’s Purbia Tola, will be filled to its rafters and rather dodgy rooms by February 19. It’s restaurant (sic) isdarkevenindaylightandhasa stark quality to it that makes one thinkofmeninwhitekurtasand muffled voices sitting around tables. So, it’s the next-door Hotel Kunal that I choose.
It’s certain more 21st century like the Samajwadi Party 2.0. Behindthereceptiondesk,Ranu his half-sleeved white shirt as he gives us a manly namaste). Not too far from this star line-up lies the cards of Ravi Yadav, SP district president, Hapur and of the venerable Ram Sundar Das Nishad, SP MLA, both at flicking distance from Star Beauty Parlour and Turning Centre’s calling card.
Outside, next to a mosque and cemetery,sitsanotherlessstellar gathering at Salim’s tea shack. Salim is that singular electiontime character – ironic, laconic and angry young manic. “There are announced on March 11, it’s Holi.“Youwatchhowthepriceof colours will plummet this Holi. This is Uttar Pradesh, b*****d. Someone will win, someone will lose, why do we have to get stuck inthemiddle?Letmetellyouthat this time the prevalant colour of Holi will be khoon (blood).”
Startled,buttryingtobeasdeadpan as Salim, I ask, “But there’s been no real violence this time, hasthere?”Hefinallylooksatme and says, “No.” And he hands me back my change for the tea with utter Etawa-style calmness.