The young girl behind the order kiosk of the famous coffee chain looked hard at my bill. Other than charges for coffee it had charges under a multiple heading that could give anyone a headache. She was young a fresher & struggling with the bill.
I took a guess, asked in Marathi– Is there a problem?
No Sir, she replied but in Hindi!
Mariachi band music played on the speakers, another staffer spoke in Kannada, two housewives gossiped in English at the table. 15 years back this place used to be all farm land. Like the girl staffer, everyone spoke Marathi.
Will this app work?
Of course, sir!
How many people can you get to join ….?
The ‘of course sir’ guy leaned back – saying a lot without saying it. The ‘questions’ guy stared at him. He was dressed very differently from the other, his mac was open to an excel with digits all over. There was a third guy with them who observed the play between the two men while enjoying his cold mocha shot.
It will work sir – don’t worry.
The third man said it. The others had a worried look after that. They left soon after – the questions guy didn’t touch his capuchin no. Even though he paid the bill.
He – Will you have your usual?
She – Just no sugar. I’m trying to –
He left before she could complete the sentence.
The housekeeping guy swept close to her feet. She shot him a look; he backed away without looking at her kept sweeping backwards all the way to the service area.
She – What took so long?
He – Que.
He stood for a second with his mask on & the tray still in his hands while he answered. Something I couldn’t hear. They left in a while. The housekeeping guy took extra care to clean all traces from their seats.
When did you get back to India?
A couple of months ago.
They were middle aged – one in khaki shorts, other in blue jeans – trying hard to be casual.
Are you going back?
I can but I won’t.
He looked at him. They smiled. Both knew that wasn’t true.
Can we sit here? he asked.
He was wearing a silver-grey golfing t-shirt a size larger than his frail size. She was in a colourful cotton salwar kameez white with green & red motifs.
This place is for people to work – she said.
But we are retired – he was tired of standing – so he sat down anyways.
We can sit here – she assured him and sat next to him to give company.
Even if we don’t work – he smiled at her as he looked at a girl lost in her laptop on the other side.
They laughed at their joke without worrying about work.
Why are you sitting here?
They looked at a younger version of them towering over them.
What happened? He asked
This is for people who are working. We can sit on the other side.
We are happy here – he said.
But we can sit there by ourselves.
Come on let’s go – she said
But we just sat down – he protested.
She got up. their younger version stared. Finally, he relented. They went to the corner where people who don’t work sit down.
The shops are filling up again
Means more people will use the rest room
More work for us
Doesn’t make a difference.
I heard them while I was getting into the loo – talking in Marathi. They stood outside the divided rooms marked gents & ladies. Masks on chin, grey in their hair, gloves on their hands, they stood next to each other and waited for people to leave so they cou
In a while I saw them before the coffee shop. A giant glass façade separated us. If I changed my angle the coffee logo hid their faces. I sipped on my coffee, watched them before I got down to write this piece when I looked up , they were gone. All I saw is the lady staffer struggling to read yet another bill..