Monday, June 27, 2005

The others at the blog meet

A monthly ritual was followed yesterday when twelve of Bombay's bloggers encroached on tables and chairs at a Barista outlet adjoined to Regal Cinema. The participants and their points of conversation have been described here, here, and here already, so here's an account of what else happened during that time.

At a far corner of the coffee shop, three women took turns combing their hair. It was fascinating to watch them groom themselves unmindful of anyone else. One looked like Sameera Reddy. The others looked like her sisters. Not Sameera Reddy's sisters, but her own. Very attractive. They sat by a large window overlooking the shiny street. It was a late Sunday afternoon. What do Sundays remind you of? Suns, grass and hammocks, I would think, but the monsoons are here, so it was grey and wet and seemingly only a finger snap away from heavy rain. But it leaves Bombay clean and smelling fresh. Clothes glistened from recent showers as their wearers walked by. When they entered, the distinctive scent of recent rain came with them. As an ex-ex-pat, I can tell you that it is a smell we imagine with longing when the India in our lives comes only from television and bottled achaars. And then, upon arrival, the welcome scent is accompanied by an ankle high water level.

The three sisters smiled when a strapping man who carried himself with confidence pulled a chair to their table. They immediately commenced a jabbering so excited, it floated to our table some distance away. Elsewhere, a lady with a British accent repeatedly asked for a certain type of coffee. Forced to repeat herself, her voice grew more agitated with each repetition, and her accent more pronounced. This did not help matters. Closer by, our numbers steadily grew and, remarkably, the conversations fell by number until there was only one, not because there was nothing to say, but because Arundhati Roy is a subject that holds you even if you've never met her, or read a word of anything she has ever written.

Coffee shops have always loosely been conversation shops. A place to talk, of course, but also a place to listen to others at other tables talking about things. Sometimes it can seem creepily familiar. Of telephone bills and work hours and things you would talk about. At one table children were discussed by women who seemed a few years away from motherhood. At another, satisfied graduates spoke of college like war veterans. Beside them two lovers looked at each other and said nothing, their fingers touching, heads tilted and resting on an orange wall. Filling in the blanks in this case was easy. In some matters, we come from the same place.

As it grew darker, our thoughts slipped to food. A rooftop restaurant was suggested. A nearby bakery. The restaurant where Shantaram met his friends. A demolished joint reopened for business. The rooftop won, but it more to do with the view. Some went up, some went away. A month will pass before most of us meet. Come if you can. There's plenty to talk about. And plenty to listen to and watch, not all of it at your own table.

And do compliment Amit on his long silky locks. He loves it.

Update: I did go to Meerut, dammit! Does this look like something cut and paste from a Lonely Planet guide?


mandar talvekar said...

Hi Rahul!,
Excellent account -- and as it promised -- very different.

Roshan said...

An odd coincidence: Late Sunday afternoon, I was at a Barista (in Delhi) with a friend, and our conversation too turned to Arundhati Roy. And became a debate about India, Pakistan, and nuclear weapons.

But it began with the Roy. And other paths of conversation abruptly ended...

Rahul said...

Ooh, she must have been hiccuping like crazy. Some coincidence, though.

Ajay said...

"Coffee shops have always loosely been conversation shops"

Have you ever thought of the weird contradiction that is the drive-through Starbucks?