The first head turned. Its eyes were focussed on the entrance of the busy roadside restaurant.
The owner of this crucial part of the anatomy had sharp features and other delights too. He was short, rather emaciated, of dark complexion and had a Charlie Chaplin mustache. This latter addition gave the face that belonged to the canine variety a comic look.
It was evening time and the air was thick and suffocating with peak hour traffic.
The first head as we will call our hero hereafter was waiting at the bus stop, and the deliberate turning of his head away from the coming buses backwards to the restaurant naturally attracted some attention. Its taut positioning and the intent gaze emanating from it appealed to the curious instinct of a lot of fellow commuters. More and more heads started turning in that direction.
The ever increasing number of heads didn’t exactly know what to find or what to expect there, but their collective curiosity was constantly fueled by the undivided attention showered by the first head on the ephemeral sight.
The first head made a sudden move now. He started walking at a brisk pace towards the restaurant. The other heads followed him devotedly with their fixed expecting stares. They waited impatiently because they wanted to make sure before they decided to make their next moves. Although always drawn on by such curiosity chores on a daily basis they still thought-why to waste time unnecessarily on the prank of some stupid crank. Being the proud inhabitants of a roaring Indian metropolis they never ever failed to realize that time was money and if a minute was not to be translated into a few bucks more they expected to get at least moneys’ worth for that lost time.
After reaching the entrance of the eatery the first head stopped abruptly, and began taking surreptitious peeps into the crowded environs inside. The counter manager was all smiles and as always he effortlessly stuck to the eternally welcoming posture.
“Come on in Sir, why stop there? Lot of crowds, yes Sir… natural at this hour! But not to worry-we have tables for you. You can climb up to the AC block for more comfort!”
The first head mumbled something inaudible and continued with his random peeps. The manager persisted.
“Are you looking for your friend, Sir? No issues-please come inside and take a thorough look”, the manager was now a little apprehensive. He had been in this business for over two decades and he prided himself in knowing all sorts of customers inside out.
No impact though on this particular one. Again, the mumbling and the peeps continued.
Now the other heads were sure that something fishy was indeed going on. Some fun was definitely in the offing. Most of the heads started moving towards the restaurant.
The manager was taken aback failing to classify this particular specimen. Annoyance was slowly robbing him of his placid welcome gestures.
“Please don’t mind my saying so Sir, but you are definitely creating a hindrance right here in this crucial point of entry! We always want to give the very best of service to our customers and we cannot survive otherwise. Please try to understand, Sir! I still welcome you, please come inside and have a seat!”
The first head paid no attention to the pleading manager. By now quite a crowd gathered outside the restaurant. There were murmurs, whispers now.
“What’s happening, pal?”
“How do I know? Let’s go still nearer and find out!”
“I knew the fellow is not normal; but I fail to understand what he’s up to!”
“Maybe he’s plain mad, maybe we’re wasting our time!”
Nobody knew why they were all there. However, they were all egged on by their insatiable curiosity-the expected thrill of watching something unique without any cost or without any impending fear of any danger to them arising out of their participation.
Now a few waiters joined the harassed manager, but even their combined efforts failed to make the first head articulate. The manager eyed the potential customers greedily and wished all of them came inside ordering happily. But alas! Nobody was interested in coming inside the eatery. His annoyance now gave way to glowing embers of anger that stirred within him.
“Hey, what’s the fun, huh? You people either come in or disperse! I’m not going to tolerate this kind of infringement on my fundamental right of doing business with freedom any longer, not a minute longer, I warn you!, the manager thundered to the crowd growing in size with every passing second.
There were hostile reactions to the manager’s histrionics. To his consternation there followed a voracious exchange of invective and the crowd swelled further. The situation now threatened to go out of control.
Meanwhile, the first head was at total peace with itself and was dexterously carrying on with its sneak preview of the hotel interiors.
Finally help came in the form of a traffic policeman who shouted his way through in a bid to find out the root cause of the problem. While continuing with his authoritative overtures he was constantly passing on messages through his walkie-talkie. The manager held at this last straw and furnished him with a brief of the issue.
The policeman walked up to the first head and demanded to know what was going on. Failing to give a proper enough justification would mean an instant arrest for creating a law and order situation, he warned. The first head now decided to break his silence.
“You see, I’m very lonely and depressed… “
“I don’t see how you are, just explain your actions. Quick!”
“… I have no near or dear ones. I live alone in my house, eat alone… sleep alone… passing every minute in a pain for me; I get no appetite… I… “
“Cut it out, bugger! I’m not interested in your backgrounder. Stick to the point”, now the policeman was getting impatient.
“Please, no abuses! I’m a respectable person. I must stress the point that knowing the background is a must to understand any situation”, the first head readied itself to launch into a scholarly discourse. “I told you of my painfully insignificant and mundane existence. But God has a plan for every living being and I was no exception. You see, I fell in love with a beautiful girl who gave a new meaning to my life. Suddenly I was alive and bursting with energy… “
The policeman was beginning to enjoy now and a grin cracked his dry lips. There were also a few giggles from the crowd. The first head was blissfully oblivious though.
“… I never wanted to lose her; I proposed and she accepted as per God’s will. My joy knew no bounds. But I had a fear… am I really going to get so much happiness… the loner that I always was. I was paranoid about losing her… “
“Hold it now, enough of your love story, buddy! Do please come to the point, my dear forlorn lovebird”, he paused dramatically for effect.
He was rewarded. For a change there were no giggles.
“As always I was waiting for a bus this evening, and suddenly I saw her… but I’m not sure… sort of hoping against hope. I desperately want to be proved wrong. I still stand here to confirm… she cannot do this to me!… You see, I saw her with a man! I saw both of them entering this very restaurant!… If they come out now… and confirm my worst fear… I’ll drop dead right here… !”
There was absolute silence for a moment. First the policeman started it. He bellowed with raucous unleashed laughter. His body shook and tears blocked his eyes. Soon all in the watching crowd joined in the mayhem merriment.
The manager never wanted to let go of this opportunity. He invited all for a cup of tea and welcomed the now silent first head to have a thorough search in all corners of the eatery.
However, the first head began to slip away quietly taking advantage of the relieved situation. As he jostled into a running bus he mumbled to himself, “Abominable nincompoops! Laugh on… you hyenas! How would you know! That this was just good enough fun in my uniquely creative way to have an appetizing supper tonight! Eeeeekh… eeeeeeekh! I’m already feeling hungry, ravenously! Eeeeeeeekh… need food now!”
The restaurant was bubbling with activity. Nobody noticed our hero slipping away.