When I had walked into the road side eatery there were already more than a dozen people waiting for their food to be delivered which they would carry to their homes. While entering, a young couple, eating their food fell on my eyes. I had ordered my food and came out so that other customers could order their foods at the counter. I was waiting with the other customers, knowing that the waiting time could be little long. I started looking around. Again my eyes fell on the same couple and then I noticed that they were sitting around a round plastic table in a diametrically opposite position. Since I had no other thing to do but to wait, I started thinking why were they sitting so far when they could have seated side by side. I thought it could be their plan so that did not have to share their table with any other customer; after all it was a crowded restaurant. “Very smart” I thought but the eerie silence which was prevailing between the couple drew my attention again, they were not talking, whatever little bit of sound was coming from their table was the sound of eating food. I got seriously interested and noticed that they were mostly staring at their own plates and sometimes around them but were never looking into each other’s eyes. “Did they have any serious argument before coming here” I could not help but thinking. So I looked into their faces, whatever I could make out from my angle of vision it did not appear to me that they had any serious fight, none of them looked unhappy and they seemed to be seriously enjoying their food. “Could it be only they” I asked myself.
The restaurant was located on a highway in Hyderabad which is called J.N.T.U. Main Road. From early morning the road gets very busy, as it is one of the most important roads to access Hi-Tech City where many large software companies and BPO offices are located. Many eateries had been opened on the road side by young entrepreneurs catering to the needs of people who had migrated into the area after finding a job into some big company in Hi-Tech City. There wee very popular restaurants like Nizam’s Palace, Hyderabad House, Domino’s Pizza etc. but there were also many small eateries like the one where I had ordered my food, where food was hygienic but not very costly. Most of the customers would carry their foods to homes which was commonly called “take away” and those who would prefer to eat there itself, there were round plastic tables and plastic chairs available for them and each table could accommodate four people comfortably or up to six if they would prefer to sit cozy. There were also many tour and travel companies on the same highway where bus tickets were available for those who would travel during the weekend to meet their parents or families in the interior of Telengana and Andhra Pradesh. Every Friday evening the road would remain packed with luxury buses. There were also few other big garment shops; the area always remained busy, during the days and also during the nights.
I suddenly got alert that the couple might notice that I was watching them closely so I looked into the next table. I could immediately notice the repetition of the same thing there, a young couple, once again, eating food and there was neither any exchange of words nor any eye contact. “Is it only these two” I thought. Then I jumped into an expedition mode and started looking into each and every table. The tables which were occupied by young boys and girls, who probably were friends or work together and stopped by to take a bite were talking and eating and laughing. For young parents with children, it was slightly different, he or she was talking to the child and for a very brief period was having a smallest possible conversation between them as well. On the left side of the restaurant, where I ordered my food, there was a fruit juice and ice-cream shop. I noticed repetition of the same thing there.
Being a highway, many people stopped their cars and ordered foods while sitting in their cars and ate their foods while sitting in the car. Like an optimally positioned telescope which catches maximum signals from distant galaxies, I noticed similar things even in the cars. Families were sitting in their cars, ordered foods, ate their foods but during the whole endeavor they did not get engaged into any kind of conversation.
A bye-lane from the same J.N.T.U. Main Road would take one to a newly constructed public park where an elderly couple was walking in the late afternoon. The man appeared to have retired few years ago. He was few feet ahead of her but the distance between them was neither increasing nor decreasing, as if two coaches of a train separated by another invisible coach in between. It would not be very wrong to imagine that the couple, few decades ago, when they were very young, got married. In their first argument she could not speak but was only sobbing and he felt stupid and promised he would never hurt her feeling for the rest of his life. Of course that promise was not kept. Eventually the sobbing turned into screaming along with verbal retaliation and he had to close all the doors and windows so that it did not draw their neighbors’ attention. They had their first child and may be second. When the child was sick both remained awake, putting wet cloth on the forehead of their child for the temperature to subside, feeding medicines to their child at a regular interval; next day morning he dragged himself to work, eyes red from sleep deprivation and feet too heavy to lift, while in the office he was thinking about their kid, would he see the child better when he would return to home, on returning home felt so happy when he found the child to be perfectly alright; blamed each other when there was complaint against their children , felt proud for the good performance of their children in examination, in sports, in musical events, in school drama. Their children probably had grownup, might be living in another city or could be in another country, probably married. The couple had become alone again, probably their children would need them when they would have their own child may be once or may be twice, and after that visiting them once a year or may be even less.
He looked behind, her face was reflecting the light from the sun just before plunging into darkness.
Author: Mintu Ghoshal.
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