Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Your Children are not Your Children

Followers of the Buddhism philosophy believe in the concept of reincarnation. When a Master passes away, he is believed to be reborn. The Master’s devoted disciples set out on quests to find this ‘special’ child and after a number of spiritual tests by enlightened masters, the reincarnation is confirmed. Then comes the painful part- the parents give up the child to the monastery so that all of humanity can benefit from his teachings. It is their way of life.

Every child is born with a mission, to fulfill a destiny.
Think about it. First as a child, then a parent.

Do you remember the good old days when you used to climb the compound wall or neem tree in your school? It was a moment of exhilaration, when you were free to be anything you dream of- a sailor, a pilot, an astronaut or an actor. But as we grew up, we learned to look at those role-playing games as frivolous childhood acts. And when it’s time to choose higher studies or a career, it’s not even a considerable option. The pilot, sailor, astronaut and actor are dead long before they are allowed to fully take birth.

With time, the child becomes a parent, weighed down by a hundred thousand worldly responsibilities. Perhaps the only fleeting moment of bliss is when you look down upon your baby sleeping peacefully in the cot- its large eyes closed and its little fingers twiddling in sleep, trying to touch the edges of some unfathomable, breathtakingly beautiful dream. And just then, you wake them up.

“Concentrate! Finish your homework first!”
“You want to go for a movie? Did you forget the marks you got in your Math test?”
“You want to be a painter? Have you lost it? Do you know how much you will have to struggle? And what if you don’t make it?”

It’s a vicious circle. You were asked these questions once upon a time, many a long year ago. And now you do the same. Perhaps that is where the problem lies.

Don’t get me wrong. As a parent, you always have your child’s best interests at heart. But sometimes, it is that speck of possessiveness that cataracts your vision.

As children and as growing adults, it is very necessary for us to fail, make mistakes, even fall down and bruise ourselves. Because that is how we grow stronger and learn better. It’s human nature. It’s a basic animal instinct for survival.

If you tell that stubborn child not to touch a hot stove, he will touch it once and see for himself. And then he will learn. Ditto in life.

Every child has a dream. Every child is an individual, a fully empowered spiritual being who will blossom into an adult, just like you did. And every parent must learn to appreciate that.

Yes, every child has a dream. Some may be achievable, some overly ambitious. Some may come true, some may not. But no one, not even the life-giving parent has the right to snatch it away from them.

It is but natural that parents wouldn’t want their children to walk down a path that they have already trodden, and failed. Or maybe not even tried it. But I say, let them see for themselves.

Maybe the child has discovered a newer route, a fresher perspective or a creative solution. Ask yourself- is it right for you to cast your shadow upon every little spark of a flame that your child conjures? Because, if you continue doing that, there will be a point in his/her life when the spark dies away forever- and the child (adult) is condemned to live in a shadow forever.

My father is a businessman- every day, his network of transport vehicles make their way across India’s highways. My mother is a doctor, teacher, social activist and homemaker. But that notwithstanding- they gave me the freedom to move out of home 5 years ago, when I was not yet 18. They let me walk on the road of my choice, sometimes even make a few mistakes to learn from. All the while, they trusted me to make the right choice. With their blessing, I did.

Today, I work as a Writer in Mumbai. I’m independent. And I’ve never been happier. But what makes me really proud is that my younger brother is following his dream today- he is well on his way to become the world’s next Master Chef. This was possible only because of our parents.

Maybe the only way I can thank them today is by spreading this message I’ve learnt from them.

In the words of the poet Khalil Gibran,

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you
You are the bows from which your children
As living arrows are sent forth…”

-Avinash Agarwal

Monday, August 8, 2011

I was asked to write about the 'Benefits of Writing'

Some write to make money.
Some write to fill papers to submit.
Some write to move other people.

Writers write because they have to. Period. It’s who they are, it’s what they do. For them writers, writing is not merely an art of a meager form of expression. It’s a gulp of fresh air, a breath of life. It’s the opening of the windows to their soul, letting caged birds fly out as full-fledged ideas. And letting whiffs of wind come in, bringing with it hatchlings of unnamed, unfulfilled emotions like specks of dust. It is these that grow, evolve and blossom in the lonely nest of a writer’s mind- to take flight as birds of tomorrow.

There are no benefits of writing. Nobody writes to benefit from it. And if they do, they kid themselves. Writers write to write. Writing is its own reward-and its own punishment.

Some write to make money.
Some write to fill papers to submit.
Some write to move other people.

Then there are those who write because they have been sentenced to a lifetime of it- for it is in this impenetrable jungle of an unmovable silence that it all begins to come together as one sound- the rustling of a pen scribbling on paper. And the words etched across the page.

You could call that a benefit of writing, yes. 

- Avinash Agarwal

Monday, May 23, 2011

I can't. I can't

“I can’t. I can’t.” Her voice rang out in the deafening silence that followed. The two words were no more than a gasp of pain, a desperate plea for help. But they ricocheted off the walls of her heavy heart and resounded hauntingly in the auditorium. Not a whisper, not a murmur was heard. It seemed like not one of the 500 plus audience was present. But we were there, of course. I was seated in the front row, my breath caught unawares, like many others.

Arpita is an exceptionally pretty, charming young woman in her early 30’s. She has short, jet-black, shoulder-length hair. She wears gold-rimmed spectacles which try but cannot conceal the enthused spark of life in her eyes. She dresses extremely tastefully- bright, pastel shades complemented with vibrant accessories. But I haven’t mentioned one important detail here. And that could change your entire perspective of her.

Arpita suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. She is sentenced to a wheelchair. Maybe, for life.

Changes everything, doesn’t it? Maybe. Maybe not.

Arpita stood on stage that day, speaking to a 500-strong congregation in Mysore. “I can’t. I can’t.” were the two (four) words she started with. But in a way, they echoed the whole story of her life.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system. Researchers are not sure what triggers the inflammation. Symptoms vary from muscular spasms to bowel-bladder, eye, brain, nervous, reproductive and speech symptoms. Despite our 4G and mind-engineering-space-nano-nuclear technologies, there is no known cure for Multiple Sclerosis. Arpita is one of the 2 million people worldwide who are affected by MS.

The difference in the before and after of Arpita’s story is shocking. Nightmarish, even. She was living a life that was as fulfilling as could be. At least, it appeared so. That was when MS struck. She was left without a job. She had to abort her unborn child. Her husband abandoned her.


That day, Arpita had come walking onto the 4 feet high stage with the help of 2 volunteers, leaving her wheelchair far behind. She was welcomed onstage with a thunderous applause and a standing ovation before she had begun. Then she stood up straight- without any volunteer or stick. And she started speaking. “I can’t. I can’t”

For the next 8 minutes, I saw not what my eyes were seeing. I saw only what Arpita showed me. Her words painted a picture of the millions of MS patients and even larger number of ‘differentially-abled’ men and omen around this world. Ripping apart the rose-tinted, song-n-dance, happily-ever-after sequences of movies on the subject, she scripted a film reel from her own life, shot on the sets of stark reality.

A story like this would logically progress into a moralistic monologue, where I tell you to be nice to them, look out for them and help them stand up, in every way possible. But that is precisely what you and I must stop doing.

Arpita had contested in the International Speech Competition at the India-Sri Lanka level and made a place for herself in the top 6 Finalists from among 8500 contestants. She did this without any reservation quotas or special privileges. And so can every one of the ‘disabled’ citizens of the world, in the field of their choosing. Maybe even better the others.

Yes, they might need a walking stick, a wheel chair, hearing aids or another form of physical support. But please, that is all.

They do not need constant reminders of their differential ability.
They do not need our sympathy or pity.

They want acceptance, just like anybody else.
They want love, just like anybody else.
They want equality, just like everybody else.

The shining story of Arpita is testimony enough to this. I can vouch for that.

Maybe that was why, after the ordeal of standing on stage for 8 whole minutes, Arpita concluded her fiery speech with the spotlight shining on her being like a mystic halo, both her arms raised shoulder-high, and the closing words, “I can. I can.”

-Avinash Agarwal

Friday, May 6, 2011

Revenge is sweet. But STOP tasting it

“OSAMA GONE, BUT WHEN WILL MUMBAI GET JUSTICE?” screamed every newspaper and tabloid on the morning of May 3rd, 2011. At the end of a decade-long search and the world’s largest man-hunt, Osama bin Laden had been terminated. Shot in the head, some reports claimed. Well done, indeed.

India stood up along with the rest of the world in applause and then turned around to question herself, as if on cue. ‘When will I get justice?’ every voice seemed to shout out loud. The frustration pulsating through the nation was visible- 18 months after 26/11 and no ‘good’ news. Justice delayed is justice denied, as they rightly say. But that brings us to one valid question- What is justice?

Google gives me 397,000,000 results in 0.07 seconds for the word ‘justice’. Not a single one of them makes any sense to me. Oh, the words are all right. But what does it really mean?

Those who are guilty must be punished. Agreed. But to what end? Are we killing the disease or the patient? Do the complicated, often-misinterpreted-misquoted principles of ‘morality’and ‘righteousness’ give us the right to kill people who kill other people? We now want all the Ajmal Kasabs to share the same fate as bin Laden. And rightly so. They are guilty as the devil.

But I fail to see why we have turned a ‘March for Peace’ into a ‘War against Terrorism’- because there’s a world of difference between the two.

If I was given a choice between a tomorrow where a ‘War against Terrorism’ was being waged as opposed to a ‘March for Peace’, I would choose the latter. Without a second thought.

I believe there is more to a ‘March for Peace’ than holding hands and walking the length of Rajpath Marg or chanting slogans at the Gateway of India. There is more to it than just a brightly burning candle reflected in a pair of misty eyes.

No, I’m not trying to undermine the sentiments of those who have loved and lost in these despicable acts of ‘terror’. Never. What happened was cowardly, disgusting and downright evil. There is nothing more painful than the unexpected loss of a loved one-for someone else’s ‘cause’. It’s a wound that the balm of time may never be able to doctor. The culprits must be brought to order- in this life or the next.

But the real question here is- What do I do? How can I make a difference?

Well, you can’t. You can never make a difference.
Not until you become we.

It’s amusing to observe that, despite the million years of evolution, techno-lution and a whole lot of other so-lutions, there’s this habit that is still embedded deeply in our physiology. It’s our habit of developing a habit.

No longer can we walk past a nasty incident with a shrug and say ‘Thank God it’s not happening to me.’ Well, it very well could- tomorrow or the day after. And you wouldn’t want the next not-so-good Samaritan saying the same thing, would you?

Let’s not get used to a bunch of brainwashed midgets deciding when or how we die. Let’s not switch our mental channels every time the same old topic comes up. Let’s not wait for them to strike again, harder and closer.

Let a name, a turban, a beard, a cloth or a holy building not be a reason to fight any more. Let’s kill the devil that lurks in the hearts and minds of men and controls their bodies. Let’s cure the madness that is slowly taking over the soul of humanity. Let’s not forget that a better universe starts with a better U n I

Let peace, love and respect not be hollow words any more. Let’s have a vision, not just plain sight.
Let’s fight. For what is right.

-Avinash Agarwal

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Housewife, a Homemaker

When Ma’am asks Chotu in school, he says, “My father is a doctor. My mother is a housewife.” House wife?

Chotu doesn’t really know what the word means. Nor do most of his classmates. Yet, that is what their answer always is. It’s not wrong, though. She is a housewife, Chotu’s mother.  

Her day begins well before sunrise, when Dadaji goes out for his morning stroll. He likes a hot cup of tea with an extra spoon of milk before he leaves. Then, she has just about enough time for a quick shower before Dadiji begins her morning puja. She has to make sure that the diyas are washed and fresh flowers are ready in front of the deity. 

By the time the clock in the drawing room strikes 6, Chotu and Pinky have to be woken up. Juggling two pieces of semi-burnt toast, pacifying the froth on the sweetened boiling milk and the groaning-moaning kids in their blankets, the Housewife forgets she can indulge in two odd minutes of sitting and breathing deeply on the sofa. It’s a luxury she could well afford, but only accompanied with a pang of guilt.

9 am on the clock says that its time for a leisurely breakfast with the Husband before he packs his suitcase. A non-committal grunt is his ‘Thank you’ and ‘Bye-bye’ and ‘see you in the evening’, all packed into one. He doesn’t remember to meet her smiling eyes before slamming the main door shut behind him.

The two hours before and after lunch are her loneliest hours of the day. The maid, if she has come, is busy with the washing and cleaning. Lunch is ready. Dadaji and Dadiji are relaxing with their mid-morning or afternoon siesta in their room. And that is when it all comes flooding back to her.

The Housewife was once a school-going girl, not unlike Pinky, who used to announce her ambition proudly during Essay writing in Language class. One day an astronaut, another day an architect, the third day a lawyer and a painter the next; she felt no shame in dreaming new dreams and no fear of them possibly never turning real. It was only a dream, right? Fair enough.

The Housewife was also a college-going woman once, not unlike the one Pinky shall soon be. Laughing a little too loudly in the canteen, smiling shyly at that boy from the corner of her eye and still carrying in her bag a little diary where she writes down her silly dreams. Somehow, against all odds, they had found the light to blossom from seeds into saplings. The road to her future was still an empty highway with endless crossroads. The world was her oyster. India is a developing country, they all said. You will be free to do whatever you want, they said. Fair enough.  

And then it happened. One ‘meeting’, four functions and seven pheras later, she became that what she is now- a housewife. The little private world in her head came crashing down on top of its head, but so stealthily, so quietly that she didn’t even realize it. She still doesn’t. Twelve years have gone by, with no promotion, no incentives, no leaves and no appraisals. But she still gives this job her best. Every day. Fair enough.

She has to ask for permission first, to step out of the door for anything other than fetching vegetables or to have a little chat with bhabhiji next door. So she doesn’t ask anyone. And she doesn’t go anywhere. Who will take care of the house? Will it look decent if I step out too often? Why all the trouble just for some freedom? Fair enough.

She commits the sin of losing herself just a little bit everyday, sometimes watching that interesting little episode on TV and sometimes while talking to her friend from college over the cordless phone. The TV is full of strong-headed women who make the world dance on their fingertips and telecast the blasphemous message that women are the embodiment of Maa Shakti. They can achieve what they want. Nothing is impossible. Fair enough.

Her friend Anita is now in the United States, freelancing as a designer. Anita gives her updates about their other classmates. Two of them are in the United States, having recently started their own little firm together. Another friend of hers is now a big shot lawyer, driving her own Honda Accord through the rowdy streets of New Delhi. The others are in her city, but not really the ‘career type’, so they make up for it with their monthly kitty and bi-monthly outings. She doesn’t go there, though. Her husband doesn’t like her mixing with ‘those types’. Fair enough.

The Housewife has but a few minutes to reminisce and maybe smile a broken smile until there is a faint call from the other room, beckoning her for a glass of water or some kadak elaichi chai. The lazy afternoon gently slips away into evening and the children are back home. Fantastic, exaggerated tales of school woven over hot Maggi and Bournvita milk, notes in the diary about homework not being done and Chotu and Pinky’s upcoming class tests keep her occupied all the way till dinner time. After dinner, an hour of TV is the ultimate reward (the kids watch their cartoons, the Husband watches his movie, Dadiji’s soaps or Dadaji’s news) and maybe an ice cream if it is Saturday. Then goodnight it is. Tomorrow is a busy day. Fair enough.

The next morning dawns as if new, and the schedule is lived through all over again as if new. There are no complaints registered, no protests voiced, no regrets felt, no love lost.

Wait. Does this sound familiar? I can promise you I haven’t plagiarized! Yet, the funny thing is, she is not a figment of my imagination. You will not hear this story over adventurous jungle bonfires or read it in romantic novels. In fact, you will probably not even catch more than a glimpse of the main protagonist of this story, the Housewife.

But maybe, just maybe, on a rainy evening when terraces and verandahs are filled with men sitting on armchairs and smiling contentedly, while children stick their tongues out with the efforts of balancing flimsy paper boats on the dancing puddles of water, you will catch a glimpse of her. There she is, the Housewife, wiping the sweat off her brow while frying hot pakoras and stirring sweet tea for the Husband and kids. You can see her through the grilled window of the kitchen, absorbed in the activity of her activity.  

Oh yes, she’s a very happy woman. She smiles all right. But don’t be misled, because somewhere in between those 100-watt smiles and good-natured, open mouthed laughter through the day, there is a brief moment of darkness.

The darkness is not black or evil or permanent, but just like a fleeting moment when a matchstick flame goes out and another is lit. It’s like one person’s dream has gone away into nothingness, replaced by another dream. Only, it’s not her own. Fair enough.

They call her the Housewife. Some call her the Homemaker. The latter, though closer to the truth, still doesn’t capture it in its entirety. This is a story from somewhere in a quiet house on the corner of a bustling street in the very heart of our ‘Shining India’. It may feel like a tale of yore or urban legend, but take a closer look. She is a real, living person. And this is a real, life story.

So the next time someone asks Chotu, “What does your mother do?” and he says his mother is a ‘Housewife’ or a ‘Homemaker’, I don’t really know if little Chotu is right or wrong.

Do you?

- Avinash Agarwal

Friday, February 18, 2011

One Quack, Two Hoots and a Bucketful of Tears- The 'Lame Duck' Speech

This Wednesday’s press conference (speech) in New Delhi was one that touched the hearts of every living, sick and (especially) demented Indian. Addressing the editors of electronic media was Mr. Manmohan Singh, the currently powerless in-power Scam Minister of India.
PM (Poor Manmohan),
 who quacked on16th February

“It’s a real pleasure meeting you on this auspicious occasion of Eid. May this day bring you added peace and prosperity,” he started. On hearing this- Hassan Ali Khan, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Lalit Modi and A Raja burst into spontaneous applause, moving the gathering into giving him a 3 minute long standing ovation.Ajmal Kasab, India’s peace messenger and new face of the Atithi Devo Bhavah Tourism campaign, reportedly, was moved to tears when he saw the broadcast on Loo-Tube while on his prison guesthouse pot.

The visibly nervous Singh cleared his throat and continued with a little more confidence. “First of all, I’d like to thank the media and press of this free country for bringing these issues to attention.” An immediate SMS was beeped to every media editor present in the hall- ‘You’re going to pay for it, you filthy-nosy-yellow-journal-b*stards. Love and (t)hugs, The UPA.’ The CBI has started investigations on who could possibly have sent this threatening message.

Ignoring the worried murmurs reverberating through the hall, Singh continued. “Whatever some people may say about us being a lame duck government and me being a lame duck PM, we take our job very seriously,” he quacked. The hall went quiet in anticipation of the next few words.

“I am not as big a culprit as made out to be. I am not afraid to appear in front of the Joint Parliamentary Commission (JPC). In fact, we met up for a drink just this 26th January. I was so sloshed that Soniaji had to…” and hurriedly covered up the rest of the words under a severe coughing fit. “Sorry, I got someone else’s speech. These damned Portuguese… leaving their speeches lying around everywhere,” he muttered, wiping the sweat off his brow.

“Why only talk about the 2G and Adarsh scams? Look at our growth rate—it's touching 8.5% this year. Thanks to programmes like the Vibrating (or was it Vibrant) Gujarat and the Bhains-full Bihar…,” he was then interrupted by an audible whisper from the backstage, “They’re the opposition you f**l! Talk about my son Rahul now!”

Sweating profusely now, the Scam Minister continued, “Food inflation is a thing of the past. But look, even now our little Rahul takes an onion with him every time he lunches at ‘The Dalits' in Uttar Pradesh. If we don’t think of the common man’s plight, who will?” This line was greeted by a ‘Quack Quack’ here and a ‘Hoot Hoot’ there.

Here a ‘Quack’, there a ‘Hoot’, Quack-Hoot, Quack-Hoot…

Ending his 3 minute-long, speech-cum-rhyme, Singh concluded, “I, the Scam Minister of India, wish to assure you and assure the country and assure the whole wide world that our government is DEAD serious about bringing all the wrong-doers to justice.

We at NTMN are touched. Really. 

Take one look at the horrors enveloping the outside world and you’ll know why—one ex-US President cheating on his wife and one invading the Middle East when he ran out of video games; a Russian President clowning around with a gymnast-turned-politician; a French President riding his girlfriend coasters at Disneyland, Paris; Italian PM Silvio Macaroni Berlusconi ‘never paying for sex’ and getting it free from underage prostitutes ‘Heartbreakers’; Egyptian Presidents imposing 30 yr long rules…

We feel that our Scam Minister Manmohan Singh is a shining beacon of light in these turbulent times. With a track record as blank as his expression and dreamless 7-yr-long sleep on his PM-marked chair, we are sure he’s going to take us a long way down ahead.

The media conference ended on a high note late on 16th night with special appearances by Sharad Pawar and Lalit Modi. They also brought along a troupe of IPL cheerleaders for entertainment, who were at their unemployed and desperate best with the One-Day Mataram (World Cup thingy) around the corner.

We salute the One Quack brave enough to finally speak up . We give Two Hoots to his speeches and empty promise of impeaches. We look on as someone out there (let’s call him the Common Man for lack of a better word), cries a Bucketful of tears. And to all the Slumdogs who are now Millionaires. JAI HO. 

- Avinash Agarwal

This article was written for News That Matters Not. Click here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Brunch

It is an hour before noon. 
The Restaurant sits contentedly at the edge of a dark green-blue lake. There is almost no wind today, making it hard to see any movement in the trees lined up thickly on the other side.

A narrow, wooden bridge pokes out from the side of the Restaurant leading to the lake and coming to an abrupt stop somewhere near the edge. The water in the lake is uncannily calm, almost motionless.  There is only a hint of movement, given away by the sunlight sparkling mischievously at its surface now and then. It is like a pink baby dreaming with her soft eyelids closed, indulging in only so much of a shy smile every few minutes.  And like her little fingers which curl and uncurl slowly, perhaps reaching out to touch some unfathomably beautiful thought high up somewhere.

Yellow-golden sunlight streams in generously through the French windows of the Restaurant, highlighting a rare speck of dust that might have escaped the stringent eye of the morning cleaner. It floats about hither and thither, enjoying being hopelessly lost in the big, big Restaurant.

I walk into the Restaurant, looking around with mild interest. It feels like I’ve been here before. I just can’t remember when, though. It must have been a lifetime ago.

The place is quiet, but not quite. There is a muffled clink of shining steel cutlery on warm silica plates. From the far end of the Restaurant, the soft notes of a Piano mix into the sweet air like a shameless intoxicant. I am invited in. I come in.

I am ushered to my place by a pleasant man in a white uniform and I choose a nice chair facing the window, overlooking the lake. I am just about to park myself when I change my mind. I shift over to the other side, now facing the Restaurant.

I am here for Brunch.  

Twenty minutes later, I am almost halfway through. I’m not quite full yet, but not starving either. I’ve chewed and swallowed up the Pancakes and honey with almost uncouth enthusiasm. I’ve dug into the Quiche deep enough to proclaim it belongs to me. I sip on the Orange juice in between bites, enjoying the slightly sour tinge trickle down my throat.
Appetite somewhat satiated, I put down my spoon and fork. Pausing for a moment to clear my throat, I look around once again. And I’m surprised at what I see. The scene’s almost entirely changed!

The old couple dressed in a dull orange and brown are no longer there.
The family of four that was sitting in the table diagonally opposite me now has two people.
The young married couple that was cuddling and cooing some time back is now squabbling and hissing in hushed voices. The woman is close to tears. The man wears a disgusted expression on his face.

Seeing me looking around curiously, the man in the uniform walks up to me again. He asks if I would like to have something else. Shaking my head, I indicate that I would help myself. And I continue to look around.

An old woman sitting alone catches my eye and smiles dotingly through her thick spectacles.
She thinks I am the son she never had.

A baby boy looks at me with interest as his mother wipes crumbs off the corner of his lips. He thinks he has met me before. Well, me too.

Why do I suddenly feel I’ve been here before?
The setting seems so familiar. The food, though fresh, seems like it’s been eaten earlier.
And the people, well, that’s the strangest part…


I’m about halfway through my meal when I stop, in between a particularly fulfilling bite. A little thought suddenly gets hold of me. I narrow my eyebrows and look around. Then I push it away to the back of my mind and chew. But I slow down and stop again. It’s that thought. It’s gripped me good. I can’t stop thinking about it. Because with every passing second, I realize how true it is.

In that sixty-odd minute meal, I was going to live my whole Life in short. Minute by minute.
I only began realizing it when I was past twenty, but that really didn’t matter. There were still forty-odd minutes to go.

It started when I was out there, strolling in the lobby. I had almost walked past the door to the Restaurant. Then, I can’t explain why, I back-tracked my steps and made an impulsive choice to dine here today. A lucky coincidence, I think now. And no regrets about that.
I vaguely remember the first few minutes as if they were my first ever. Well, they were, in a way.

I remember the bright streams of golden-yellow sunlight, the sweet mix of intoxicating music in the air and the scent of a freshly baked something. This was my welcome into the Restaurant.

And all the while, something kept prodding me softly at the back of my mind. ‘You’ve been here before,’ it said. Now I know what it meant.

Again, the white-uniformed man helped me choose a seat by the window. I had almost sat down, but something stopped me mid-way and I turned. I sat facing the People in the Restaurant. Well, it wouldn’t hurt to look around at the People while I was here, would it?

There were glances. Some stealthy and swift, some warm and lingering.
I smiled a few smiles and got a few more in exchange.
I waved out to those I knew, and they waved back.
I ignored some completely, and they let me be.
I am here for Brunch. So are they.

And while we’re at it, I really don’t think it would hurt to get to know a few of the People-the old couple dressed in a dull orange and brown who would no longer be there in a few minutes; the family of four that was sitting in the table diagonally opposite me, which would later have only two people; the young married couple that was cuddling and cooing right now, but would later be squabbling and hissing in hushed voices; the old woman sitting alone, who
thinks I am the son she never had; the baby boy who looks at me and smiles, for no real reason. I cannot help it. I smile back at them all. Warmly. There’s a connection, I think.

Occasionally, the uniformed man keeps coming up and I refuse politely. I prefer to go and choose for myself. I’ve got a lot of choices here at the Restaurant. I wasn’t going to let some uniformed man make them for me.

I steer my way through the Brunch, sometimes wolfing it down, sometimes savoring every little sliver of a bite. Sometimes I’m distracted. Sometimes I’m all attention.

The crackling cereal, the spongy cakes, the warm milk, the sour juice and the honey I sweeten it with. It’s all here. Whatever I want. Whatever I choose.

And now, here I sit. Chewing mechanically, the nerves in my forehead pulsing.
But I’m lost in thought. Where was I?

Ah yes, I’ve sat for about twenty minutes. Another forty to go, I’m assuming.
I might sit here till late afternoon, staring into the lake and sighing contentedly, if I feel like it.
Or I might be spilled upon by a fellow diner or the uniformed man and leave early in a huff. Who knows?

I am here for Brunch.
It’s no special occasion today. But then, I think I should make it one.
After all, I’ll be here in this Restaurant for this Brunch only once.
I better make it worth my Life.

-Avinash Agarwal
Now about 22 minutes into the Brunch