Sachin sits there in the Café Coffee Day outlet and drinks cold coffee from a plastic bottle. He is a Ryzer. He wears glasses. He has two ear pieces dangling on his neck; obviously, he listens to a lot of music. Is this what online relationships are all about, I wonder? Meeting a total stranger, another Ryzer, in the neutral territory of a Café, over cold coffee?
“What do you do, Menka?” He asks.
“I work for an outsourcing unit, a part of the GPN network.”
The music is loud, the speaker beside me is blaring some techno music. A pack of dogs and bitches create a mad howling outside. I am frazzled. A pandal opposite is playing a loud Aarti.
“I said I work in o-u-t-s-o-u-r-c-i-n-g.” I raise my voice.
“You are doing some course?” He shouts back. The dogs start howling again. One was even trying to mount a bitch. Oh, God! How embarrassing!
I know this would not be a meeting conducive to getting to know each other. His Ryze profile says he is a broker of some petroleum products, or something. He looks prosperous enough, wearing an Adidas tee-shirt and Woodlands shoes. But it is as if he is from another planet, sitting and sipping his cold coffee. We are worlds apart.
“How’s the petroleum business, Sachin?” I ask.
“Oh, petrol, oh, yeah, prices have shot up so much, no?”
“I meant the petroleum products business….” I shout at him.
Why does this man who seemed so nice and charming online look such an awkward oaf in real life? Just then the dogs start howling again, this time they are yowling with pleasure as they see a man bringing their dinner.
“Yeah, he does that every day; no wonder the dogs congregate here outside the Café. So crude, no?”
“To each their own. Some people consider dogs as gods,” that’s the first intelligible repartee from him. I laugh.
How can I connect with this man, talk to him, understand him, when the speakers are dinning into my ears, and the people at the next table are making such a racket? They are talking in what they think is an American accent and are wearing what they think are modern clothes. I can see them pausing a split second to make up their mind, because they have to act out a careless shrug and put on the psueo-accent. It irritates me.
“Don’t you think it’s noisy in here?”
The loudspeaker starts playing “Churaliya Hai” and the boys and girls start singing and clapping.
“Yes, nice song. From the film Yadon Ki Barat, no? I love it.”
I exhaust all my patience. I feel like running out in the street and screaming, but I control myself. The dogs are busy eating their dinner and the howling is now whines of contentment. How lucky they are, barking, whining, fucking, fighting whenever they feel like it, without the rituals of meeting online, carrying on a dialogue for months, and then, at last, meeting at a café which sounds like a Govinda movie.
“Are you deaf?” I ask, twisting my index finger in my ear elaborately.
“Yes I am fifty per cent deaf in both ears. Doctors say it’s caused by loud pub music and talking continuously on the cell phone.”
At last, he understood my miming. Poor chap, I feel sorry for him.
“Let’s get out of here,” I mime to him and take his hand.
More than anything he is in need of sympathy, and a bit more of silence and quiet. I don’t know why he wanted to meet me in a noisy café. We sit on a bench in a nearby park and talk for hours. When parting we agree to meet tomorrow. I just can’t wait. Dear diary: today I met the most interesting man I have ever met.