Monday, July 13, 2009

Kophi with Mogri

Mogri puts away her pile of clothes into the cupboard. It has been six moons already since she arrived in Spain. Every evening, her cousin has been taking her out, sometimes to the sea shore to watch the sunset and sometimes to the market to check the freshness of the tomatoes. Last night, her cousin took her out for dinner to a typical Spanish restaurant. They order Paella, the traditional rice dish that contained assorted sea food like clams, octopus, shells, shrimps, fish and also meat like pork and chicken. She had loved it much except that it was too bland for her taste. The food was not all that spicy and she wished she had carried her pickle bottle in her purse.

Nevertheless, Mogri is enjoying her stay in Spain. She decides to go down alone and asks her cousin to join her later after he has finished his errands. She walks down the street to get a cup of coffee. There are chairs and tables spread outside the coffee shop. Mogri is amused because she has never seen tables and chairs out side the cafe on the foot paths. In her city of Mumbai, only beggars or street hawkers are allowed to use the footpaths, sometimes, the beggars are even allowed to cook for their families who come back to that footpath after their hard days work at begging, none of pedestrians in Mumbai ever use foot paths, they always walk on the middle of the road, Mumbaikars are always dodging and tricking the traffic. Things are so different here; European countries have tables and chairs to enjoy a meal on the footpath? This is something new for Mogri. She likes this arrangement very much and decides to sit down and call for a waiter.

Mogri does not notice that there are no waiters in this coffee shop. She does not see that the people go inside the cafĂ©, read the graphic menu board that is displayed on the wall, place their order and bring it back to their tables. She sits relaxed, enjoying the cool weather of Spain. She watches people on the street who are dressed in stylish clothes and wishes that she could also dress up like those Spanish ladies in jeans and T-shirt, or even a long skirt would do, but this salvar-kameez is so darn cumbersome and it is attracting too much attention on her. When she had walked down the street, most of the people on the road had given her a second glance. Some of them had even stopped halfway, stepped aside to allow her to pass so that they could admire her ‘Arabic costume”. It was like walking on a ramp, only the applause was missing.

“Puedo sentar aqui?” says the white-skinned man as he stands by her table with a cup of coffee in one hand and croissant in other.

Mogri does not understand that this man is asking her permission to sit at her table. She looks at the coffee and croissant in his hands and wonders how a waiter can bring her order without consulting her but she does not want to argue with him because of her limitation of speaking the language fluently. Luckily she has memorized few phrases so she happily beams “Gracias, Si! Si” and takes the cup of coffee and croissant from his hand and keeps it on her side of the table.

The white-skinned man smiles and sits down next to her. She looks suspiciously at him. She is not used to sitting next to a stranger and never next to a waiter. She does not like it one bit. The man stretches his hand and pulls the cup of coffee and croissant plate toward him. Mogri does not understand how these waiters behave in such an odd manner in a foreign land. She stretches her hand and pulls back the coffee cup and croissant to her side.

The man smiles and says, “Vale, si tu quieres eso, voy comprar otro mas para me” he gets up and goes back into the coffee shop. Mogri does not understand when the man tells her that he was going to buy some more for himself, since she wanted to have his coffee and croissant. She just nods and says, “Si, Si, Vale.” She is so grateful that she can speak few words.

She likes the taste of the croissant and munches it slowly, savoring each bite and takes small sips of coffee between each bite. She has almost finished her share when she sees that man again with another cup of coffee and croissant.

“No! No, No!” she says shaking her head from left to right and then right to left again, several times, trying to send the message across that she is too full to have one more ration of the same stuff again.

The man sits down again, opposite her and starts to sip his coffee. Mogri wishes she knew Spanish fluently then she could have told him that in her country waiters don’t share their coffee break with their customers. They normally have it in the kitchen. Mogri is now getting used to a strange behavior of this man. She is thinking whether she should pay her bill now or wait for him to finish his coffee.

“Hola! Que tal Amigo?” she hears the familiar rumbling voice of her cousin. The loud voice of her cousin had the power of frightening a sleepy child, of defusing the traffic sounds and even for breaking the ear-drum of elite politicians. She could recognize his voice even if she were few miles away.

She looks up to see the white-skin man get up, shake hands and peck on her cousin’s both cheeks.

She knits her brow, bracing herself.

“Mogri, I am so glad to see you with my friend Pedro, did you ask him about the new schemes that his bank is offering this week?”

“New schemes at the bank? Er? This waiter? Do you know him?”

“Waiter? You mean to say that you don’t know him and you are having coffee with him? Don’t you know that he is the bank director of ‘Banko Santader.”

“Really? He is 'the' Bank Director of Banko Santader? Oh my God!!” she says stressing on the word 'the'.

She is glad that she does not know enough of Spanish, else she would have made a fool of herself.

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