Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cafés or Psycho-Observatories?

Everyone would do it but would not want to admit it - eavesdropping on conversations and observe psychology-in-action in a café!
I can confess I do that too when the conversations and situations in question are interesting(!) and audible!
About two weeks back, Neeti and I dropped by at Aromas, Powai after grocery shopping at Haiko.
A few moments after we entered Aromas, a typical Punjabi-looking, decent family entered - middle aged man, his wife, a 20-something son and daughter, alongwith another woman, who presumably was an aunt of the kids. The young lad was quite smart, his sister was the chirpy kinds.
As soon as they entered, from our vantage point we could observe what all they were doing. They got two tables combined - obviously more people were joining in, the young lad nervously flipped through the menu card. In all his nervousness he snapped at his sister, who slouched sulking thereafter.
Then Neeti said it - she was ready to bet that this family was here to meet the lad's prospective match.
Our Assam teas and jalapeno nuggets were served.
As we started noisily chomping on the nuggets, a middle aged, sari-clad lady made her entry with her lissome daughter, wearing make-up and high-heels. They either seemed to be Maharashtrian or UPites. The duo headed towards the table seating the lad and his family. They all stood up and welcomed the duo. In true bahu style, the eager-to-impress girl did the traditional paer choona - she touched the feet of the lad's parents!
Neeti was spot on! This was "the meeting" to decide the prospective match!
The girl strategically seated herself next to the lad's mom and aunt, forcing smiles while talking. The poor guy was reduced to coordinating with the waiters! Obviously, this wasn't a classical arranged match! It had to be a love-match, with the prospective couple, or rather the girl "selling the idea of their relationship" to the parents! Had it been an arranged match, the prospective couple would have sat besides each other. The girl was busy, busy trying to make conversation with her mother-in-law to be. I just couldn't help imagine how this "sales-pitch" could in all probability turn into a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law cold-war in a few months!
And then were done with our Assam tea and jalapeno nuggets, we paid the bills and rushed back to salvage whatever was left of the weekend.
A few days later after we visited Aromas, we stopped by at Costa's, Lokhandwala.
Now Lokhandwala being the hub of the burgeoning television industry, it is very easy to spot soap stars. And where there are stars, there are wannabes too!
Make a visit to any of the cafés in Lokhandwala and you're sure to see a scriptwriter on a laptop discussing the plot with a producer, wannabes on a rendezvous with an agent, most of whom would unwittingly land up on the casting couch and some lovey-dovey couple cootchie-cooing in a corner. Invariably, for all these people, a cup of coffee lasts hours, seriously. I sometimes wonder if their passion keeps the coffee warm?
On this occasion at Costa's there was a quintessential Malyalam with a heavy accent, presumably with a film industry fixer trying to make an appointment with some Bollywood bigwig at Juhu.
On another occasion we sat next to girls. One of them, as we gathered from their conversation, was recently engaged. And she was gushing effervescently over her beau!
These cafés are the places, where you would realise how urban growth has crowded out spaces for young lovers. As a matter of consideration towards their plight, it appears the cafés allow them to sit there undisturbed for hours as emotions between the lovers shift faster than anyone can ever imagine.
It is said that social media is transforming the society fast, but cafés in urban India like Costa, Café Coffee World, Barista and others are also heralding a slow social transforming of how we interact.
As for Neeti and me, its that cup of warm Assam tea that does the magic, invigorating us to move on!

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