by Sudha Chandrasekaran
All by herself Sangita sits at the corner table of a not-so-posh restaurant, Bhoj, in Jaipur, which was teeming with people on a Sunday afternoon. Sangita sat silently in the middle of bustling restaurant, devouring the ever interesting sights and sounds that were present there on that busy afternoon.
The restaurant presents a scenario of being the fulcrum of conversations of a wide range of subjects including that of a couple who engage in non-effervescent chat. Sangita is fascinated by these dialogues and interestingly observes the crowd. She loves people watching and is one of her great past times. Human behaviour fascinates her and she loves to capture it in various moods.
Being a weekend, most of the restaurants in Jaipur are whirling under the pressure of several guests; many reservations; too many hungry families losing their patience and calm; and innumerable parking woes. This popular restaurant, Bhoj, is battling against an exceedingly onerous afternoon. Waiters are seen rushing to tables to take orders; running between kitchen and table; and nodding at the customers with a friendly smile; and at times receiving an ear full from irate guests for mixing up orders.
All that one can hear inside Bhoj is the murmuring and droning of people – a subdued, hazy noise that is constantly being heard, and at times accentuated by a shriek of laughter or that of a wailing baby. It surely is a distinctive noise, which is nothing specific, but so discernible that a sudden silence would feel strange definitely, which is akin to the silence that hits a room when there is power outage resulting in the stoppage of the fans and all other electrical appliances.
Bhoj is no upscale restaurant where the noise emanates only from the sophisticated clinks and clanks of cutlery; and hushed cultured and civilized low-keyed languages. There was this multitudinous array of characters constituting a veritable slice of humanity. They were seen busily talking and eating over conversations that ranged from Covid-19 to online classes to the sufferings of migrant workers to elections to virtual weddings to online shopping to temple visits, to practically every single plausible topic under the sun.
In the midst of the din and noise, couples were seen arguing, cloaked by that safe whir that submerged their angry cross talks; then again were some excessively dressed ladies belonging to a Ladies Association group chuckling away like teenagers, totally forgetting their niggling family tensions for some time.
Sitting right in the middle of this big ocean of this orderly confusion and chaos, Sangita devours the sights and sounds present there. Sangita is one who is always enthralled by people – the way in which they conduct themselves; their expressions, their collective sub-consciousness, their obedience to certain unspoken rules that make them desirous of being a part of those rules; their single big movement through time; and the ups and downs of life. “All these pave the way for our culture and civilization; and shape our children and language,” thought she.
Totally lost in these various thoughts, while Sangita sips her tea in silence, she notices a couple, sitting in a corner near the entrance. The smartly dressed couple in their late twenties were exhibiting contagious mirth and laughter around. The way the lady laughed with her head thrown backwards, water flowing from her eyes, and the way he cast a loving glance at her with his eye full of affection, Sangita just could not turn her eyes away from them, because she felt that their conversation seemed to be unusually odd. Sangita’s first thought was that she was imagining it, thanks to the hum and murmur of the guys around her!
Sangita continued to look at them, defying the danger of being looked at for looking. He was conversing with swift movements of both his hands. His lively eyes compensated for the loss of his voice, and the movement of his hands were so fast that words were created as he outlined designs in the air. The lady appeared to understand each and every syllable of what he conveyed and responded with ease of similar motioning of her hands and fingers.
Sangita felt curious to know as to what could be their topics of discussion? Well, is it about the movies which they had watched? Or is it about the other guests and waiters in the room with their peculiar mannerisms? Or is it about their savings and EMIs, loan mortgage and other mundane things that gnaw at us day and night; or about the amusing faces that wailing babies make? Funny faces of kids? ….. They were at liberty to make fun at anyone as no one would ever come to know of it!
Were there any differences in opinion between them? What if they did? Would they scream or swear words at each other? Would they say, “I love you sweetie” to their child or to one another? What would they do if their favourite cricketer gets out with no scores? Would they croon some romantic tunes when they are in a pleasant mood? Would they get into road rage, if some motorist overtakes them from the wrong side? What if they met with a serious road accident? Will they reach out for help?
With dawn every day comes the fracas created by birds- what with the non-ending parley going on between them; the swishing of leaves and the squealing of squirrels. Well, it appears that discussions and conversations are considered to be the birthright of life in all its forms. Still there are a few with sound but no sight and few with sight but noiseless.
The cacophony surrounding Sangita appears to dwindle like that of the abating waves, paving way to a quiet ocean. Sangita stood silently at the portal of this world, totally in awe with the quietness that ruled their lives. Sangita tries her best to fall in line with the pin drop silence but it is futile! The sounds emanating from far and near keep ringing constantly in her ears. She hears the ringing of the nearby temple bell; the temple chants that vibrate in the atmosphere; the animated voices and the contagious laughter of her children; the wailing of an adamant kid; the ringing of her phone; Angry discussions and quarrels ; …. Yes she hears life.
Just as Sangita searches for that evasive silence, would the others long for the sound? We at times try to keep our relationships in tact by using our words sparingly but would others like to talk to create more new ones? They may wish to hear more sound, whereas Sangita may wish that at times she didn’t hear the sounds of life. Isn’t life an enigma?
Sangita sees the couple still continuing the conversation. Seems as though the man is such a sport that the lady is in splits of laughter!! ***