a visible oblivion

14Nov05

I walked into the cafeteria, into perceptible mood swings of a typical weekend eve, noisy rattling of plates and spoons, people seated in groups with animated discussions and naive gossips doing rounds. A plate of Bhel puri in hand and I walked across to the other end of the cafeteria to join my little group of snackers. As I walked, I went past a coca cola machine, a middle-aged vending lady sitting next to it.

She was wearily traversing her dim eyes across various corners of the cafeteria, expressionless at the busy sight all around. People engrossed in talks, why did ‘Swades’ miss out on its oscar chance, the Government always dozes, will Ganguly be back for India’s next series, what plans for the weekend, and some inexplicable gossips extrapolating into an incoherently audible din.

The lady was not busy. She was waiting for someone to come over for a cup of coke and she gets busy only for the moment she pulls the flap to pour out the drink and give back the change. And she rests again, rather painfully, waiting for her next customer, her eyes traversing with bemused interest across the array of faces in the cafeteria.

What is she actually looking for? A person who might show the slightest indication of his interest in drinking a cup of coke? A distant hope that the next step of the guy who just rose from his chair would be towards her vending machine? A wild thought if some isolated group is talking about the coke from her machine? A chance to momentarily exercise her vocal chords by talking with someone even if it’s the routine few words of selling a cup of drink?

She sat there all alone, all day, every day amid the increasingly familiar yet glaringly alien crowd, swamped in a private zone of her own oblivious to the shared world. A coke was not in my snack menu that evening, but I found myself walking up to the vending machine.

I got a cup and the change from her and let out a thin smile, ‘Thank you’. She smiled back.

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6 Responses to “a visible oblivion”

  1. 1 San

    see I was right, you do more walking about and very little work :p

    >>What is she actually looking for?

    the day to end so she can go home?

  2. perhaps she has discovered solitude too.

    it is very well written post. Enjoyed every word.

  3. "a" well wrtten post :)

  4. 4 Chaitra

    Hey stupid, is that the same lady, who was there 6 months ago??

  5. 5 Vijaybabu

    "increasingly familiar yet glaringly alien crowd…" – simply superb da kichu..

  6. Nice post – images captures as if through a camera. Ya, sometimes I look at these people and keep wondering about their loneliness in the midst of all that crowd too. That was a sweet and sensitive gesture on your part.


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