March 26, 2006

On a sunny afternoon

He walks up to a stall and looks at the drinks on offer. Drinks of all sorts – green drinks, pink drinks, yellow drinks; milky drinks, watery drinks, pulpy drinks – look back languidly through those plastic vats. He can see himself, reflected in a different colour in each one.

He asks for teh tarik, a frothy condensed-milk version of his usual chai, and is asked to wait. He chooses a table and takes a stool, setting his rucksack down on the stool opposite. He unfolds a map of the city and tries to figure out where he has ended up. He often gets lost.

He hears voices nearby. A Chinese family – grandma and kids – have taken the next table. The table is meant for four, and since there are five of them, the grandmother chooses to stand while the little children establish themselves and clamour for food.

He takes his bag and places it on the floor, and asks the old woman to sit at his table. She is pleased. She thanks him, her wizened features crinkling into a delightful smile. He nods (he's not a very expressive sort, you understand) and returns to his map.

His tea arrives presently. “Teh tarik”, the woman smiles. He smiles back this time, and sips the happy liquid, and loses himself in thought. Tea always does that to him.

He feels a tug at his sleeve. The woman is saying something, and she is holding a small polythene bag. It contains bread-and-butter sandwiches. She points to her grandchildren, indicating that they have already helped themselves and that he should, too. He refuses, placing his palm on his tummy to indicate that he is full, and then wonders if it might be inappropriate by Chinese custom to decline an offer of food. He hopes that they make allowances for foreigners. But the woman does not seem offended, merely amused. He is relieved.

He presently finishes his teh tarik and leaves the foodcourt. He waves goodbye. She waves back.

“Aate jaate khoobsurat awara sadkon pe, kabhi kabhi, ittefaq se, kitne anjaan log mil jaate hain ..” Kishoreda tells him via the iPod. He agrees.

26 comments :

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

I like this scene. I can see it in a greater context. Yes, it is very nice. :-)

Casablanca said...

Teh tarik and kaya toast. Yummmy! I cant believe I'm getting nostalgic about Singapore.... hmmmm, counting days now.

PS: Were you at Ya Kun?

PlanetSonal said...

What a touching story and an appropriately matched song (smart ipod :) ).. Incidents like these always make my day.. something that no "teh Tarik" or "Starbucks" could do..

One is truly amazing and so are the regular visitors who write comments here.. I regularly visit and read this blog as also the comments posted.. I wish I could write as well in which case I would be commenting on every single post here :D I truly enjoy reading your blog.. It indeed is One in a Billion..

shakester said...

real nice post, One.

or wait- is that Neo...

Jinguchakka said...

Translation of what Kishoreda said, please!

Deepali said...

I like this post very much :). Reminds me of grannies on the public transport who smile plenty on being offered a seat while you stand-and sometimes they sit for a while and offer the seat back to you because they sign, they've been rested enough and now it is your turn.

:):)

Cherie! said...

High tea and serendipity.

LAK said...

---un mein se kuchh log, bhool jaate hain, kuchh yaad reh jaate hain!Old ladies are sweet!

One in a Billion said...

Cynthia: Thank you! One did not, to be honest, write it with a larger context in mind, but it is intriguing that you see it that way.

Casablanca: We look forward to your return. And nope, not Ya Kun. No idea where that is, actually.

Sonal: Thank you, thank you! You are most welcome here, and one is truly glad that you enjoy reading the blog.

And .. er .. the iPod might have been helped along a bit, you know .. a few discreet reshuffles of the playlist and all. There, one has confessed.

P.S. Keep those podcasts coming, especially the Gujarati ones!

Shakester: Well .. that depends on whether you choose the red pill or the blue pill, what!

Jinguchakka: A thousand apologies. It doesn’t translate too well .. the best one can do is:

Wandering along this vagabond street,
Many strangers I chance to meet ..


(One shall make it a point to provide a glossary-type thing whenever one feels the need to lapse into the vernacular henceforth.)

Dee: Thank you :) And awww.

Cherie: That should have been the title. Yes. Ah well.

Welcome to the blog.

LAK: Yup .. one couldn’t have put it better oneself!

the Monk said...

A gem, I say, a real gem of a post. You, my friend, are one of the very few bloggers I truly enjoy reading.

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

One... I can see it as a beginning of a story or novel... it wants to continue. :-)

Casablanca said...

We look forward to your return
Merci beaucoup, monsieur :)

And then, you shall be shown the way to simple pleasures like Ya Kun Toast, that are synonymous with that island state :)

One in a Billion said...

Monk: Thank you kindly, comrade. The sentiment is reciprocated.

Cynthia: Gosh. Coming from a writer, that's a high compliment indeed! One is quite honoured.

Casa: Sounds intriguing. One looks forward to it!

AlterinG Abhishek said...

Hey!
Very classy style of writing!
(",)

One in a Billion said...

Abhishek: Thanks. And that's an intriguing smiley .. could you teach us some more?

Anjali said...

Lovely. I have been left at a loss for words. Really, really lovely post (there, I take refuge in repetition).

And let me add my compliments to the rest ... yours is the first blog I gravitate towards when I get on to the net. And it's always worth it :)

aristera says said...

very nice!

One in a Billion said...

Anjali: Thanks. That means a lot to this blogger, you know.

Aristera: Thank you!

apu said...

Always enjoyed reading your comments @ Anjali's, but never got around here myself...Now I knw what I've been missing :-)

Seriously, lovely blog!

One in a Billion said...

Apu: Thank you, thank you! And most welcome you are here.

Camphor said...

Aur un anjaan logon se milne par kya khoobsoorat yaadein reh jaate hain.

One in a Billion said...

Camphor: Bilkul, bilkul!

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