Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Barista. 4.34 pm. In front of me sits a cup of Espresso. And beyond that sits Shankar, my friend and business partner, spilling out of his seat. Nothing unusual. That’s him. He is busy on his mobile, typing away furiously. Again, nothing unusual. Except for the two of us, the place is empty. For once, the music has stopped, much to my relief. If you had spent an entire day in a boardroom with five really LOUD fellows, like I have just done, you will understand the value of this moment of silence. Wow.

Enter guy, girl. They look like one of those first-year-in-college types. You know the ones with that foolish “I know I’m happening” look on their face? God save them. Do I care? No. But wait, I’m going to be treated to an amazing performance in social behaviour. She sits down. He waits. She conveys her choice. Ice-cream. Chocolate. No, I didn’t eavesdrop. She is loud enough. He goes, returns like a bartender carrying the order. Smiles. Sits down. So it’s ice-cream for her. And some stupid looking extremely colourful liquid for him. Social smiles on either side. You know that dumb ‘put on’ smile? Yeah, that’s the one.

She suddenly sits upright, her torso twisted in a rather funny way, legs crossed. Now, that’s the social posture. I’m afraid she will develop a sprain in the back by the time they decide to leave. Social smile again. He starts some dumb story. Now you know they have never met before. Social smile develops into social laughter. He is trying his best to impress her. She is doing her bit. By now, the unwritten law of social behaviour is in full effect. Social laughter follows every sentence spoken. This is getting a bit too much. It’s the last sip of my Espresso. I allow myself to drown in its taste. My ear shuts out all noises around. This is heaven. No guy-girl. No social behaviour. Just pure coffee. Shankar is done with his sms now. Looks at me, grins. He too has had his lesson in ‘social behaviour’ today. We wonder why people can’t just be themselves.

We smile. No, not the ‘social smile’. Never learnt it. We pick up our papers and start walking out. What have we learnt today, I wonder.