Life ebbs and flows, in all its glorious predictability, like the tide. Streets aglow, music deafening, laughter raucous, people vibrantly dressed, scintillating. Thus is the nightlife of Colombo. It is a bit of a cliché, yes, but what isn’t?
Imagine yourself walking down the pavements of Galle face on a Saturday night with a group of buddies, what do you see against the backdrop of unceasing sea waves and the starlit horizon? Families sitting down on blanket enjoying the soft gale, enjoying the ice cream they just bought off the elephant house ice cream vendor; pranksters pulling practical jokes and having a hearty laugh with their friends; lovers reveling in their romantic bliss. Everybody carefree, seeking a short lived escape from their intricate everyday life, everyone for the most part in blissful oblivion. What do you smell in the air? Is it happiness? Is it joy?
Now you pass this mass of human revelers, you seek a different kind of an experience. It hits you like well spiked orange punch. You see it before your eyes, materialized, calling you, beckoning unto you, inviting you, you are compelled, almost forced to give in, your friends share your desire, they compel you to give in too. ‘Tis the Nightclub. Now though much frequented by the Colombo crowd, few years ago they were next to nonexistent. The word itself was taboo. Almost whispered. But progress saw its shores invaded by this fast proliferating entity. It boasts class, it boasts decadence.
Now you stand before the entrance to one of these Nightclubs. You see a couple of bouncers with instructions to keep the peace or to intimidate (seriously, which one of these two?) Sometimes you are expected to show your ID before they allow you to purchase tickets. But is this no-underagers policy strictly enforced? Are these bouncers, ticket issuers immune to a friendly nod, an acknowledgment, a little greasing the palm? Also, reader, you may have come across several establishments where they have ‘ladies walk in free’ or ‘only couples’ policy. In a country which has a considerably substantial LGBTQ community (still a hush hush topic), in a world where human rights are all the rage these days, the (un)fairness of the matter seems to have been trivialized.
Now you walk into the studio: cacophony of sound and color. The alcohol is sizzling down nozzles, down beakers, down glasses, down throats. The music is loud and deafening. Sometimes almost a merciless caterwauling. A group of individuals looking for a good time at 10 O’clock. A mass of intoxicated writhing bodies by 12 O’clock.
Now please step out for a few minutes. Shall we stand at the crossroads? To your left is the group of revelers we passed early on whereas to your right is the Nightclub. Let’s do a game. Who is having the most amount of fun? Well that would depend on the definition of ‘fun’, wouldn’t? Who can say that the lover who bought his partner an ice cream from the elephant house vendor at Galle face is less happy compared to the lover who bought his partner a bullfrog at the Nightclub? Or the group of friends dancing to techno music is having more pleasure than the father watching his kids play ball at Galle face?
Colombo City which has a near 700,000 population is almost certainly reaching its point of saturation. Each year hundreds and hundreds of foreigners swarm into the Colombo City looking for adventure. Let’s not be too specific on the kind of adventure most of the youngsters among them seek. Suffices to say that nightlife is a big part of the package for them. How are they accommodated? Apart from the odd pub here and the odd club there, it has become trendy indeed to organize foreign cultural festivals (Oktoberfest for an example). The result is a delectable slice of cross cultural integration? What can they experience here in Colombo that they can’t experience in their own countries? Are they not the pioneers of nocturnal life? Is it the lack of variety that draws them here? Is it the rumored charm and wantonness of Asian women folk? Or is it the sheer boredom born out stagnation? Nevertheless they come. Colombo accommodates.
Put the cultural disparity aside. Think of the class disparity. The disparity between those who gets to be a part of this and those that can’t. Between those who want to and those that can’t. Between those who can afford and those that can’t afford. Thus follow the stories, though not without a grain of truth in them: nightlife is demonized. It is called a salacious lair of lost men and women.
The point is not to slander, not to criticize. The point is to question and observe and make do accordingly. The point is to see the things for what they are. A piece of frosted cake is nice. But over indulgence can lead to diabetes. Trying a bit of everything should be appreciated. Otherwise how are we to know what we are missing? But this is not to say that we get to judge, for we can taste only a little of everything in one lifetime.