After a failed shopping expedition best friend and I decided to drop our aching bones at a Barista place in one of Delhi’s yuppiest markets. Predictably it was packed. Mostly young people. Bright clothes, bright hair, bright smiles and lots of high decibel talk.
Friend and I slumped back in our seats. When you’ve known your friend for over eight years, very closely, there are few things to talk about. It’s as if mid-marriage crisis hits the relationship. Things hang thick between you. Things she said. Things she did. Thing she didn’t do and didn’t say when she should’ve. Times she should've been there for you when she wasn't. Neutral spaces like Baristas make you want to open up painful conversations in a casual manner and get issues out of the way. But it doesn’t happen. You just end up asking whether it’s going to be tea or coffee. Flavour? Anything to eat? And then you settle back once more to look around, trying to understand what stages those other people are at in their relationships with those they seem to have so much to say to.
At the far end, in one unobtrusive corner close to the counter sat an old man. He had a blue-black, over-cultivated wig and large soda bottle glasses. His gaze was pulled asunder by a pair of disobedient, aging, sad eyes. The wig parted very unwillingly at the centre low down on his forehead.
As he sipped on his coffee slowly and deliberately, he looked at everybody who passed him by, pointedly and unabashedly in that once-twice-thrice over kind of way. At first it was uncomfortable to think of an old man sitting alone like that staring at every pretty young thing that went by, so purposefully.
But as he sat there just looking, increasingly it seemed like he was seeking a flicker of acknowledgment from anyone at any table, anywhere. But everybody continued to chatter, glancing up occasionally only to see who’d swung the door open. He seemed to be taking forever to finish his coffee. Just sipping and watching, a slight trembling at his wrist, each time the cup came up. But nobody looked back at him. Not one person.
Then finally after ages, very slowly he pulled himself up. It took a good thirty seconds for him to straighten up completely. He shuffled forward a bit. Stopped at table. Stared at its occupants for a long moment or two, and then shuffled on. Yet nobody seemed to notice this old man with his bright black hair and wide set gaze. A full minute later, after making many stops at many tables, he was finally out of the door. He patted his wig lightly with trembling hands, drew a deep breath and stepped out into the flow of people.
Just then I felt best friend’s hand on mine. Our eyes met. And just like that I knew she knew what I was thinking. She smiled, and suddenly I realised how glad I was for all the years that she’s been in my life.