Thursday, March 26, 2009


He sat, waiting.

He stretched out his legs under the table one after the other, feeling the muted click at the knees. It meant nothing and felt like nothing but felt good. He’d been waiting for a while.

He looked around at people on the other tables. Friends, businessmen, lovers, to be lovers. Hot females. Well dressed females. Dumb males. It takes all sorts, he thought.

Nobody minded the ridiculously loud music. Nobody minded the clock slipping past midnight. Nobody minded the waiters and waitresses fleeting deftly around their tables, overhearing comfortably what they discussed. Nobody minded the city outside. It was Mumbai. It could have been New York.

He sipped some more beer. Licking the froth off his lips, he studied the mug, three quarters filled. D├ęcors changed. Menus changed. Even whisky glasses changed. But beer mugs never did. Anywhere.

He thought for a while about Nikita. And how not beautiful she was. Eyes too far apart, accentuated by brows that met. Oversized cheeks that seemed as if they were locked in a battle to stretch her face outwards on either side. The strange combination of a roundish face, short neck and broad shoulders. The slightly bulging belly which she refused to conceal through her choice of tight body hugging outfits. Nice legs though. And a nice girl. He really wished something worked out between them.

He picked up his mug and held it up against the dim yellow light bulb of the pub. Closing one eye, he looked into the side. The bulb looked a little yellower and the area around it a little darker. He moved the mug down slowly, waiting for the bulb to rise above the beer into clear glass. When it did, it revealed his sticky, oily fingerprints on the mug. He wiped them off with his palms as best as he could. Next, he tried to hold the mug at the exact position where the bulb would be half out of the liquid and found his hand shook too much. He sighed and put it back on the table.

On the table right in front, a couple (to be lovers) was regretting their decision to sit across the table. He wouldn’t have minded the girl himself. Outside, another couple stood waiting impatiently. They’d been waiting for some time. He didn’t mind that girl either. Not long to wait now.

He flipped out another cigarette and motioned to the waiter, who graciously offered him a lighter. He looked at his watch. It’d been two minutes since he’d seen it last. He waited for the second hand to move and just when he was about to decide there was something the matter with it, it did. It was as if time was waiting with him.

The couple moved out and the one waiting moved in. Lovers surely; nobody went on prospective dates after midnight. He hoped the girl, with her low cut green gown, would sit on the opposite side. She did not. Instinctively, he gazed down at his own attire and wondered how ridiculous he must look, all dressed up and alone. He straightened his shirt with his hand, dabbed at the mound that his trousers made over his crotch and looked around to check if anybody had noticed.

Still no sign of him.

He went back to his beer mug. The fizz rose to the top of the mug, each bubble in a race against the others to get there first. To them, I must be God; he contemplated this for a few seconds and then sipped a little.

He clearly felt the effects of the beer now. Not that it would make his speech disjointed or slurred or screw up his sense of straight lines. Alcohol never did that to him. It only made him make conversation. Made him enjoy conversations. And made him adore Fatih Akin.

The watch had moved another three minutes.

The crowd inside the pub had gradually thinned. Just four tables, including his, were occupied. Almost in sync, the music had imperceptibly melted into softer instrumental sounds; the place felt more intimate now. The couple in front of him were holding hands, he noticed. On a table behind him, another couple were readying to leave, struggling to keep their hands off each other. Some distance away, a group of four young men (college kids, probably) chattered away. He focused his stare on them, absolutely certain of what he was looking for. Soon enough, one of them stole a glance at one couple and the other. He made some comment and the others sniggered. Brothers!

The drink again. It was like the centre of his existence in this place. The pub and he had no business with each other. It was only the beer that brought them together. He gulped it down quickly till only a little, barely sufficient for one last swig, remained.

At long last, he came. He saw him walk up to his table in measured, confident strides, an irritating apologetic smile plastered across his face. Thank You Sir, the waiter whispered and placed his credit card and the processed bill on the table.

He picked up the card, nodded and left.


priyankar said...

My immediate reaction. Your best piece by far. Loved everything about it...the simple, staccato prose...the observations casually thrown around...the immersive yet detached tone...there is a passive restlessness to the entire thing..

keep writing weekend par baat karte hain

Ateet said...

The entire piece is extremely good in terms of mood.

But it leaves something to be desired in certain individual spots.

A lack of finish perhaps. But then I am comparing it to Murakami. :)

fd said...

Nice. Anti climaxes back in vogue?!