This was an hour of the day when most of the restaurants, big or small, had least number of customers. They used it for the preparation for the night. More specifically for Rock Star Café; as here, the life started only after the down of evening.
The Rock star was a theme café that offered a wonderful tribute to all rock stars of the world. It had a feel of a warehouse, where music and food were beautifully blended. Though the place rocked during the late night hours, it had a customer who generally visited in such empty afternoons.
Today, when Ritika walked in, the evening was approaching. The café had very low lights. The waiters and the waitresses were preparing for the night. From a distant speaker, a piece of music by Metallica was flowing.
Ritika, walked straight, up the stairs and seated herself on the couch, placed by the side of the wall which had no concrete but just a reflective glass placed between the ceiling and the floor.
By the time she settled, the attendant for the table had arrived. She placed an order for a glass of wine. He thanked her and left. Ritika stared at him till he could be seen and then moved her attention to the closest interesting thing. It was a portrait of Elton John. He was drawn immersed in his singing. She thought, “Oh! When he sings, he appears like a god!” Then she shifted her thought, not her eyes, “Is it him, or ease of mind with which he has been painted that makes this portrait flawless?” She left the question unanalyzed; unanswered.
Her wine had arrived. She thanked the attendant who smiled in return. When he was gone, Ritika sipped the drink and moved her sight out of the reflective glass.
On the other side of the glass, the day appeared to be bright, even though the glass added a grey shade to it. She did not know what it was called, but there was big tree outside, with small but thousands of leaves. It appeared to her, that the breeze and the tree were playing a love game. Like, in such afternoons, marred by the laziness and the assured of her return, the lover doesn’t run after his beloved when she kisses and runs away but still tries to get hold of her till he can reach out in that sitting posture, the tree would try to catch the breeze when she caressed it and ran away, but never stretching beyond its radius. It knew that she will return. They were not playing to win over each other but just for the pleasure of the game. At times, it’s not the conclusion that’s important, but the moment itself is. This was such a time.
The café had placed a vase with plastic flowers on the table. They were so beautiful, bright and colored that anybody could mistake them to be real ones. But in this moment, when the tree appeared in the background, they appeared ugly; their ugliness emphasized by their lifelessness.
She noticed, on one of the branches of the tree, a pair of pigeons was making love; happily, freely. She though of smiling but before the thought could have been materialized, the moment outside the glass passed. She put her right palm on the glass; as if she was trying to hold that moment. But she knew it was not her world. And she allowed a smile on her face, stretching it to the full length of the moment inside.
In the gully next to the compound wall, she could see some children playing cricket. They had their stumps made from the broken branches of the tree and held together by ill-shaped bricks; the bat and the ball were weathered by the extreme use. The road perpendicular to the gully was kept busy by one of those metro city vehicles, every moment. Sometimes, more than one of those vehicles clogged that moment. This was the same road on which she was chauffeured by the country's most revered men, once upon a time. Now, her driver does that because he is paid to do so.
On this side of the glass, every moment waited longer than it should, before it passed. On the other side, each one raced against the other. She just wished one moment to pass. “May be the next one would be easier,” she thought.
Through the gate of the café compound, she saw two men entering in. They were walking straight along the building, but were not looking on the way. Their focus was on the glass, which served to them as a mirror from outside. They combed their hairs with hands, said something and laughed. Ritika smiled and moved her attention to a leaf that was just above the men’s head.
During all this she was never hit by nostalgia; neither was she introspecting. She was enjoying the view of the world; a world of which she is no more a part. She was watching it like a movie, like she had been watched by the world.
On the other side of the glass, the two men met a third man, who instructed them to fix up one of the lampposts. While doing his business, the man up the post peeped through the glass and waited for a moment before he announced with amazement, “hey! She is Ritika!!”
The other man asked, “Who Ritika, man?”
“Arre, she was a heroine, yaar! She was in the blockbuster Bollywood movie, Mera Dil. Haven’t you seen that?”
“Oh! Ritika Manchandani? What you saying man? Where?”
“Inside the café.”
“Man, she still looks beautiful!!”
Both men, along with the third, tried hard to gaze at her through the colored glass.
The leaf paraded from one side of the view to another. It appeared, to her, to be very happy; the reason of its happiness remained unexplored. When it again moved from left to right, she gazed its path. In that very moment, she looked at the group that was curiously looking at her. They were all smiling and trying to figure something out. She could recognize two faces out of them. They had just combed their hairs. This was the first object that had broken the glass between the world of antonyms and had crossed from outside to inside - The sense of recognition. And its acknowledgement was something which traveled from inside to outside. It appeared as if the glass changed its state from solid to liquid and allowed the movement of objects through it.
It was then that she realized, the evening was falling down and it was getting darker outside. Inside, they were switching on the lights. People had started coming in, but they were too busy with themselves to notice her. These few moments on this side of the glass passed so fast that she could not gather herself. And by the time she did, it was almost dark outside. The lampposts along the compound wall were lighted. They glowed brighter than the lights inside. She looked, one last time, at the glass pane. She saw her hazy reflection in the glass, against the light outside, below which she could see the small crowd smiling. And she smiled back.