My wife had gone off to the parlour. I was sitting alone at a café located in the next door shopping arcade nursing a long cool drink (of the non-alcoholic kind), thinking of the great tragedy of my life , namely why my wife (and girlfriend of years) should choose the beauty parlour over my company on a Friday evening. Add to it the potential attack on my already stretched finances and you get the general drift of my thoughts at that moment.
After about an hour of applying salves of self-pity on the unseen wounds to my ego and I had relaxed enough to look around at the general beauty offered by a modern shopping arcade, the lights went out. This being Kolkata, the back-up power system refused to start instantaneously. There was a lull and all activity ceased abruptly. In the shadows created by pale emergency lights, the entire shopping area looked strange as everyone stopped mid-step in whatever they were doing. It looked like a giant toy shop where all toys had stopped working together as the plug was pulled off the main switch.
AND there was silence—well, almost.
In that silence my ears picked up a snatch of murmurings—low and continuous. Having nothing else to do in the dark I strained to listen, uninvited.
The conversation was intense. A couple was talking. But ‘talking’ was hardly the word. The couple was measuring each other. Words were flowing from one to the other as each was sizing up the other. Words were being used like a rapier – thrust, probe, parry, feint --- all aspects of a skilful sword fight were in action; except that the sword had been replaced by words. It was a treat to listen to them. It was evident that they were educated, confident and fairly successful individual with varied interests and depths of thought. On and forth, the discussion continued till each one exposed a little bit him/her and each knew a bit more about the other.
Suddenly, the gensets were coaxed into life and the lights came on stunning all of us for a second time.
As I got my eyes used to this light, I turned my head to have a glance at the couple. I saw a young boy and a girl sitting facing each other. I guessed that they were probably out on a first/second date or maybe they were under the modern process of pre-marital arranged marriage interactions where the prospective bride and groom would meet in a neutral territory alone to get introduced to each other.
My glass was empty and the lights had broken the spell. I left my chair and thought that if my wife had subjected me to such brilliant scrutiny pre-marriage, I would have chickened out.
These people were more intelligent and pragmatic but I would always prefer my rather unconditional trusting wife, the unending , finance draining trips to the beauty parlour notwithstanding.