I had been to an open house cafe this evening. That is not the reason why I want to tell you this. I did not know that such places existed in my small sleepy town, where men counted money during daytime and yelled at restaurants without restraints- sundaytime.That is again not the reason why I am telling you this. This cafe could have been anywhere, in Kolkata, Gangtok , or any other town, with its loud choice of western music, dimmed lights, flood of alternating red, blue and white lights. The girls and boys with their witty scribbled T-shirts and jeans could belong just anywhere. The music and the dimmed lights soon had their defects on me. I began tapping my feet and swaying my head to the music. More girls came in flaunting their long white waxed legs, long lorealed hair. My eyes travelled to the next table. Two intimate girls sat with arms around each other, sipping from a long glass. “Do you want to order that?” asked my companion. “Ice tea”. “Nope” . He knew my love for cocktails, but having decided not to call on mother Mary that evening, I ordered Coffee Frappe.
Both the girls were in loose floral tops, long brown lorealed hair. They wore cheap stoned finger-rings. They were eyeing the guys as they came in young and well built. Their famished faces distressed me. They were now sipping from the empty glass of ice tea, and beyond their skin lightening powder and loud lipstick I could make out that they were quite past the prime time of their youth. The elder of the two was studying me. Our eyes met.There was sad novel inside. A couple next to them sat comfortably perched on high chairs with legs folded busy taking selfies. The young girl pouted her lips sometimes. 108 beer bottles were arranged in a mirrored shelf that stood between the couple and the girls. 108 is the number of skulls in the skull- garland of mother goddess. Each skull represents a syllable.
[cf: Ramprasad’s “bramhanda chilo na jakhon mundomala kothay peli? When there was no universe form where did you conceive this string of syllables? ]
The crowd behind me were getting wilder. I briefly turned back. I came back to the girls. The sadness in the girl’s eyes were burgeoned under the convex of the empty ice tea glass at which they now took turns.
Back home after the doors have been checked and the lights turned out a worry trickled in ... a kind that an elderly person feels for the young, an elder sister for her younger sibling. Did those girls ultimately find someone who ordered food for them? Did they make enough for tomorrow’s cosmetics? They were quite past the prime...
I had an urge to visit the pub again next day but decided against. It would be embarrassing for me as well as for them, for they too could connect with me above the loud music by an innate acuity that connects all women.
I prefer to forget the painful experience and remember what I had read in the washroom:
“ Keep me clean , use me well, what I have seen I will never tell.”