[238] The Napkin Cafe

Mumbai is a city where you see people drifting in and out of their own lives. Some days they feel the urge to live and some days they stay quiet and let the city consume them. On the days of living people go out in blind hope of chancing upon their destiny. They feel the need of luck to propel them forward rather than consistent hard work. They come to cafes.

I visited a quaint cafe beside a metro station. The road outside pumping energy into the city and the cafe serving as a sort of an energy station to fuel up the body for the middle to upper class so they can join the race again. The cafe housed your usual suspects; the actor who looked like every other struggling actor, an elderly couple marvelling at how out of place they felt here among the young crowd, a girl who looked up occasionally only to scribble her memory on a page and a guy who looked unusually calm with only a pen in his hand.

The guy wore a green denim shirt. His face seemed to be built as a cage for his eyes, for his eyes wore melancholy for a second only to shed it for an idea, lighting it up in the process. The idea started transferring from his mind to a piece of tissue laid out in front of him. I was aware enough to watch him discreetly, so I looked away for some moments.

I looked back to watch him pick up the pen and put it in his breast pocket. The waiter gracefully served the bill and he paid it by card. The napkin on which he wrote was nowhere to be seen on the table. I looked away again only to look back and discover his absence.

I looked at his empty table and something rose within me. It gripped me like a disease and carried me forward to his table on which I’m sitting right now and writing this. The table looked clean even though no one had come here to clean as if the guy’s purpose here was not to eat but do something else. Maybe he sat here in solitude just so he could articulate his thoughts. Then I saw something unusual on the table.

There it was, the tissue on which he wrote amongst the several clean tissues. I picked it up and other than the impression of the ink it was squeaky clean. It felt like I was invading someone’s privacy and discovering a truth at the same time. My gut favoured towards the truth as I turned around the tissue around to read it.

“City life has eroded all the stars from the sky
Whispers of the universe die out in its noise
There will come a time where we’ll forget the twinkling night
When city life will swallow all the secrets of the sky”

– Tabiir

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