The café sat nestled amidst the narrow lanes of the old city. Those lanes reeked of multiple stories of the fatigued rickshaw-wallahs, the local vegetable vendors, the westernised shopkeepers selling indigenous stuff, that group of American girls buying red bangles.
Tia’s chin was cupped in her right palm. She was sitting beside one of those French windows, long, empanelled in white, and looked outside at the Jagdish temple, at those pair of marble elephants at its entrance.
Tia was brought out of her reverie when Aakash exclaimed, “Days, the hypocritic daughters of time!”
“Emerson,” she said with a sigh. Her vegan shake was already half empty.
In the crackling sound of Nachos, Aakash said, “Yes. Emerson. Our favourite. Remember?”
“How can I forget? You and I would read aloud those essays to each other. On Nature, experience..”
“Yes, ” Aakash interjected. “And, we used to call ourselves the Transcendentalists,” his voice crackled with laughter.
Tia joined him and said, “You know I often joke about myself that I carry my thought universe with me. If thoughts were tangible, you would see the burden I carry.” Her laughter had transformed into contemplation.
Since her marriage to Rohan, she’d had tried converging their thought universes, but to no avail. “Why does Rohan not try as much as me?” She would wonder.
“What do you think morality is?” She asked as she narrowed her eyes.
Aakash who sat composed with his grilled chicken sandwich on the table in front of him, said, “Morality can be flexible, indurate, or obtuse, depending upon how you see it.”
“I see. But, I can think of morality only as indurate. There is no other way I would like to see it. Do you want to say that same behaviour could be moral in one situation, but immoral in the other?”
“Or one’s morality is the other person’s sin?”
“Take the example of the Jains. They are vegetarians. But they still wear leather belts and carry leather purses. Would it not be immoral for a vegan?”
“Or may be some person in a far off galaxy who finds your adherence to veganism abhorrent.” He said it matter of factly, in a way that Tia’s opinions didn’t matter. May be, it was better they weren’t together. At 27, he was single, though he’d had courted few girls, and things didn’t work out with them. “Don’t forget that plants use oxygen too,” he said.
“Oh yes! You are right.” She said, and raised her eyebrows, well versed with the trajectory of conversation of the sort.
“Well, we only talk about 9 planets. After Pluto’s demotion though, only 8 planets. We think that 8 planets govern our lives. Strange. What about the effect of other galaxies, other worlds that we can’t see?”
“You’ve got a point there.”
“You know I always thought you’d do something different,” Aakash said as his past romanticism suddenly overwhelmed him. “Like, divergent. You understand what I’m trying to say.”
“I didn’t know that myself!” She was modest in her reply but, both of them knew that she was afflicted with a superiority complex.
“In college, you were the only pretty girl who ever smiled at me.”
“But that was courtesy Aakash.”
“I thought you loved me.”
“So, where are you coming from? These bermudas look good on your strong calves!” She winked and his heart skipped a beat.
“You always do this Tia!”
“Let it be. You would not understand. You never did.”
“So what do you want to be?” She often flitted from one topic to another.
“I am a software engineer. Already.”
“Yes I know. But what do you really want to be?”
-(To be continued)