I ran in to the elevator, it was, for once, awaiting people at the ground floor, and what’s more, it seemed empty and unmanned. I was wrong though, for I stepped in, only to realize the liftman sitting by the corner, half asleep, trying to figure out how ‘high’ I wanted to go.
Earlier, I was at this little drinking place. Well, why resist – tavern, I will call it. I hardly had anytime. It was almost 11, and for most people, at least the ones new to town, it was closing time. I had no intention of getting drunk. These have been a harsh past few days – mostly due to my own making, and I just wanted to unwind. It was most the adventure, the process, than the drink itself. One shot, and by the time I was sipping on the second, I realized I was out of smokes. A drink leaves me in quite an unpretentious state, so I asked this bum who was sitting around, if he would be kind enough to give me a smoke in charity. He was smoking one, not much left, and he passed it on to me and I didn’t hesitate a moment to accept. We clinked, and I was back in my melancholies, when this guy who had lent me the smoke got up to pay. It was a foreign language, and much as I may pretend to know it, I couldn’t really understand why he got into an argument with the bartender. I looked at him, clinked my glass again, before I downed it all, and asked him to take it easy, but by then, the noise was mounting, and I was politely requested by one bystander, to leave, and I was only too glad to oblige.
It had been a long day, and as I was walking by, wondering what was it with these big cities, this other bum walks up to me, and smiles and says he was hungry. Quite selfishly, I didn’t want to be troubled out of my reverie, and so I quickly passed him a tenner, smiled, shook hands and moved on, till I found a restaurant that would serve food at this time.
Hungry as I was, I was glad to have found some place. It wasn’t one of those places that would otherwise be my choice, but I was grateful, for I had found a way to assuage the pangs of the stomach – something that for me, to this date, has been the greatest pain, and pleasure. Pleasure, for I do relish the varied gastronomic experiences that man has to offer. Pain, because I find that even in this so called ‘developed world’, there are many who go without morsel.
By the time I was done, I heard someone cursing. When I looked around, I found one of the waiters, talking to his colleague, about this guy who had eaten well, and walked off without paying. “It’s today’s earning gone”, he was complaining. I learnt from him that it was a regular feature, at this time of the night, there was apparently quite a few who would try and sneak out without paying up. Some, who were caught, would ultimately shell out, the rest I was told, that it was the waiters who paid for them. I left a decent tip, more than I usually do. I wished him, praying he earned more in that manner tonight, so it would eventually compensate for his loss, and so he could, possibly, forgive the poor soul who stole the food earlier.
I’ve been noticing quite a few people with, well, Mongoloid features around here (I hope that isn’t an offensive statement, I don’t know how else to put it). I think they’re mostly Tibetans. I also see some folks who look like Buddhist Monks, with those long red flowing robes. As I was walking into my lodge, I hear this lady screaming. When I paused, I realized it was this big family of Tibetans, with a few of them arguing with an autowallah. One of them, a fairly elderly lady, was cursing the guy. They fought for a few minutes, and finally walked off, with the woman continuing to shower abuses. Some onlookers seemed to sympathize with them too, but then, things go on, and in a few seconds, just about everybody disappeared.
Just when I decided to call it a day, this guy – another autowallah, comes up to me, completely drunk, barely able to stand up on his legs, and smiles, and extends his hand. He looked like a good guy, and I couldn’t but help smile back, when I realize he is asking me for a smoke. When I handed him my pack, he took two, and as he handed them back to me, said, “My name is Venkat….You know, Tirupati?” I nodded in comprehension, both of his name, and of his state, and walked to the elevator.