“So, what’s happening?”, I asked him. This is all he needed to hear, like a gunshot to the athlete, as he started off with his story about how miserable he feels. It had now become a ritual on a working day. We, both, would come to this place after finishing our lunch. As he continued his drabwhine, I at some point, got lost in my own thoughts. I was looking around – others, in their own groups, were engrossed in similar dull or interesting conversations.People animatedly sharing their stories – how the weekend was, how bad that movie was, why that friend did not call back, when the next recession will come, when will the day end. You can hear sounds of laughter cracking from the distant corners. Sounds of chuckles, sobbing and sharp noise of heated arguments filled the air with a unique symphony. My gaze, after a panoramic view, fell upon the table we were sitting by. On a closer look, faint marks of coffee cups can be noticed on the table. It was a thick round marble plate mounted on three polished wooden legs. There were six pair of such tables and wooden chairs scattered around the place. I tried to form a pattern of some nature but none existed. Perhaps, you may when standing near the entrance. To the left side entrance, you will find series of people waiting for you starting at the counter. The first one is an old lady who will smilingly greet you and ask your order. While you look up at the menu and make up your mind, with hersquinty eyes, she will probe you forsome signs that can reveal your identity. “Do you work around here?”, she will finally ask in all excitement and curiosity if she couldn’t identify you by her own occult powers. The front part of counter is lined up by the jars full of candies and cookies. Each of them labelled with the price tag in a white background and big black handwritten text. There are always two varieties of cake – banana and mixed fruit on top of these jars. This levels up to a height so the old lady can keep an eye on you should you try any funny business! There’s also a small donation box full of coins, notes and fishes.
Once you have made your order, you will naturally take a step forward. Naturally – because the queue behind you will compel you to move forward, like a magnetic force, without uttering a word or making a movement. Your will then meet another old person, this time a man, who will eagerly yet patiently be waiting for you. His eagerness is evident from his stance (about to launch in action) while his old eyes will be gazing hard at you for any delay in speaking! Yes, you are supposed to speak! You are supposed to tell your order to him. Yes, I know you had just ordered but you have to tell your order again only this time hearing the first few bits that old man will spring into action like a mechanical toy that had been wound up.
It will take a few more minutes before you order is ready. Meanwhile, you may look around at the old dull paint on the walls; few years back it would have been a brand new glossy paint; at the old fans and the chandelier, alone in its pride, on the ceiling; few years back it would have lit up entire the place like a palace. If the clinking sound of metal does not distract you then the loud voice of the old man screaming your order on the top of his voice will. After collecting your order and turning around you will face another puzzle – finding a vacant table! During this time of hour, most of the tables will be preoccupied – some physically taken up by people, some reserved by the people through various items representing them such as identity cards, lanyard or even small tissue paper packets.
Finally, you spot a table in the corner towards the end of this place. You take your seat and begin the conversation with a sip of your hot brewed coffee, “So, what’s happening?” And the other person opens up you will be lost into your own thoughts and you will notice the faded coffee marks on the table. These are not just coffee marks but witnesses to endless conversations people would have had on the same table.