Sunday, 18th July 2010. Our flight, Detroit - Frankfurt - Mumbai - Goa was for Monday evening. One suitcase had already been packed, weighed and kept aside. There were two more, along with a kitbag and two small cases. The remaining items were spread all over the floor, cots, side table and the chest of drawers making the room look as if a cyclone had just crossed over. I was trying to sort out things and assign them to various containers. But there were restrictions. Some of the things had to go specifically into the suitcase borrowed from my wife’s brother. Some into the case borrowed from my sister, some to the small case to be carried by hand etc etc. Also, important (only my wife knew what was important) items had to be in the bottom and perishables had to be suitably packed in sarees, towels etc etc. If I do the packing and on arrival we find some toy bought for our servant maid’s daughter (one of the 'important' items) missing, god save me. So, I tried to ignore packing and was in the process of searching the Lara Ingalls book which I had to finish and return to the library before we left, when Bhanu asked me to get ready to go to the Casino.
The Casino was the last thing remaining on her ‘must show’ list and she had to finish the list. I told her that I was not interested in seeing that. I knew what a casino was. A few hundred slot machines, roulette, black gammon and what not and people smoking, drinking and gambling. She was not ready to accept it. She insisted that that it will be a worthwhile experience and said that she was sure that I will agree with her later. We were going to the MGM Grand Casino in down town Detroit. Vishwa excused himself saying that he just cannot survive in that tobacco smoke for more than two minutes.
When Bhanu decides to do something, it is done. We set out after lunch around two in the afternoon taking Uma with us as Bhanu was not very familiar with the area. As it turned out even Uma had to search around a bit and we arrived near the Casino around three in the afternoon. I was expecting it to be a large but seedy place but from the outside it looked like a five star hotel.
We found the parking lot, parked and the lift took us straight into the casino lobby. We passed the security and entered the Casino hall. I was dumbstruck. It was no seedy place but a huge posh hall as large as a football field where gambling was a very sincere and serious business. There were rows up on rows of slot machines numbering more than four thousand and almost all of them were occupied! It was not just the good for nothing, rowdy types gambling to while away time but elderly ladies, house wives, pensioners and even the handicapped in wheel chairs playing with rapt attention in the hope of turning out to be instant millionaires. They were very seriously pushing the levers and pressing buttons with all concentration. Once in a while some one won and the machine made a lot of noise and multi coloured lights lit up announcing the win to the world and tempting others to keep at it.
There was an elegant bar and in front of every high stool there was a gaming console. There was a cafeteria with consoles on tables. I did not see the toilet but Vishwa said that there are consoles in front of every toilet seat. The place runs twenty four hours and there are no clocks anywhere. I believe the idea is to make sure people lose sense of time.
We walked around the place for half an hour and tried one of the slot machines putting in a dollar. None of us knew what to do. The old lady in the next machine very kindly consented to initiate us in the art of gambling and showed the basics. We decided to gamble away two cents at a time, and pushed the buttons and pulled the levers till the machine said that our dollar is no more there.
Not satisfied with the dollar that we had contributed towards the profits of the MGM Grand, we purchased two coffees and a muffin in the attached cafeteria adding another ten, spent some more time lounging and window shopping looking at the exorbitantly priced bags, hats, caps, footwear etc etc, and returned home by evening.
Bhanu was right. Casino was a worthwhile experience.