“Let’s go in” I say.
In an hour Sudesh and I were standing outside Mac’s. I had almost ran to Sudesh when I had seen him coming. Overwhelmed by the outrageous happiness of meeting him, I had dodged an Autorickshaw and went over to hug him in the middle of the road. Our high-pitched abuses to each other, had sent a wave of shock through the silent god-fearing people in the premises of the Railway Station.
There was no other peaceful way in which I could meet Sudesh. Over the numerous years of friendship, starting from school, we had developed a bond which went beyond the defining constraints of the word ‘Yaar’. Before I left the weird city, we were a part of each other’s every joy and plight. Circumstances had distanced us, but the chord between us had stretched like a rubber band over the fate marked expanse, recoiling itself and bringing us together as and when times arrived. A stage you attain visibly after a decade of friendship. A stage where you need no assuring factors for the connection that you share. No phone calls, no messages, no any other media of communication, till it becomes extremely necessary. A line of attachment that goes beyond all this to constantly reassure you at the back of your mind that your friend is there for you. A friend whose girlfriend who cannot eye upon.
After a round of public display of our emotional outburst, we moved to the safety of the footpath outside Mac’s. I suggested Sudesh that we go in.
“It’s crap yaar…” Sudesh replied.
“Mac’s?” I asked.
“Yup…It’s an economic drain” He stated.
“How?..” I ask. This time I am bewildered.
“Where does all the profit goes to?” He asks.
“Let’s go somewhere else” I reiterated his line. He had a point.
“Let’s go to the Irani across the railway tracks.” He suggests.
“Yeah…” I agree instantly.
I could always prefer an Irani over Mac’s. The rules were almost the same. Both had self service. You could sit at both the places as long as you could, till you had something before you. An both places provided a good environment for conversations. There were other things that differed too. Primarily the menu. Beginning from Chai to Chicken Biryani, it served everything that you could think of eating at different points of time. And what differed secondarily was the service. There were no over smart employees on the other side of the counter. Their smiles were real. Their affection was real. And their will to serve was the absolutely genuine. They served because it was their passion to serve. Because loved doing it. And they had spent years mastering the art of service. They knew that customer was the not just the king. He was the friend, a brother, a son and means of his daily bread. So they treated the customers like fellow humans. They knew the value that sprinkle of humanity in this large city of business. And that was what preserved them over the time in this Metropolitan. And that was what made them the preferred ones. It always scored a point over the fake plastic trained smiles at Mac’s. Where customers were treated like targets of business. The end points of the purchase process. And the multiplicands of profit.
We are about to cross the road when Sudesh’s phone rings. He pulls it out of his pocket. Looks at the caller’s name. Gets awkward for a second and pushes it back into his pocket. It’s his girlfriend. He loks at me and gives a sly smile.
“I am in the loo” He says.
“And I ain’t there?” I ask.
“No…you are not a problem.” He smiles.
His phone rings again. He doesn’t pull it out this time.
“Attend it fucker” I suggest humbly.
“Why the fuck?...can’t she give me a moment with you?”
“Did you tell her that you’ll be meeting me?”
“Then maybe she’s guessing that I’d turn you sodomous”
“Yeah!...that’s what she cares for!”
His phone rings the third time now.
“Bloody shit man!...”
“Attend it jackass”
“You!...gonna be screwed!” I said making a gesture with a fist banging sideways in the air.
His phone rings once more.
“Attend it!” I decree.
“Yeah man…one more….and it turns messy”
There is a certain hypnosis about a girlfriend’s call. It mesmerises you and takes you away from the position you are standing in. You cross roads. Surpass traffic. Overcome hurdles. Cross rives. Jump over valleys. Climb up a cliff. Walk overs peaks. Swim through oceans. Transport over continents. And defeat celestial distances when you are talking over mobile phone with your girlfriend.
Sudesh slowly disappeared from my view and he drifted away talking with the new commander of his life. I stood where I was. Crossing the road. I resorted to the railway station shade to await his return from the distancing trance.
A cold wind blows out of nowhere in the scorching heat of the city. It soothes me. I keep looking in its direction. It slowly captivates me. It touches every pore on my body and seeps through it. I feel a coldness spreading across my skin. It burns lightly on my crust. It enters the layers below. It enters my blood. It enters my head. It makes its way to the mind and freezes my thoughts. I go blank. Everything before me fades gently. And I hear those alien voices again.