Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Minor Glitch in the Machinery of My Life


"There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle."

Albert Einstein

Your uncomplaining patience in reading my oft-trying posts is a commodity very precious to me – and I’ve been shamefully extravagant in my expenditure of it. Thank you. Now Dear Reader, I beseech you to spare me a little more. This is going to be terribly, terribly dull.


I left the cold comfort of my room on Saturday morning at precisely 7.20 am, and its preciseness is the chief virtue I remember it at all. Right before I did, I picked up Hugh Laurie’s novel – The Gun Seller – which was at that time only wanting of one final chapter before conclusion. I debated whether I should also bring along Susanna Clarke’s Ladies of Grace Adieu which I was concurrently reading since there was so trifling a remainder of the former to read. I ultimately decided against doing so.

Being a creature and often slave of habit, I plodded my way to my usual weekend breakfast place, Pangal. I said ‘plodded’ because that was how I was feeling; like an elderly elephant tramping through an ocean-wide mud-pit. I felt dull-witted. I felt as if my limbs were on autopilot and the microchips were fried. I felt an almost overwhelming desire to just turn back home and sleep the day away – breakfast be damned. Yeap, that sums up how I usually feel after skipping yet another date with Sleep.

The walk lasted about ten minutes but I felt as if I teleported there. That’s me; a somnambulist in the making. By then, it’s about 7.30 am – give or take a minute.

The thing about the waiters in Pangal is that they are either resentful of foreigners, xenophobic, or just unhappy with how my face looks like. They’d zip (yes, zip) around the place, taking down orders from the other breakfasters while carefully pretending not to notice me. After almost a minute of vigorous gesticulations, I managed to flag one of these elusive zipping waiters down and told him that I wanted a couple of vadas and a piping glass of chai. The good thing about ordering vadas is that they are already made and are usually sitting in a crispy pile somewhere – so they came almost instantly. The bad thing is; two aren’t very filling, and eating more than that can be seriously sickening.

I finished at about 7.45 am, and ordered a cheese omelette sandwich – my personal favourite from Pangal. The problem is, they don’t start serving sandwiches before 8.00 am. One of the queerest things about food places here in Manipal is that their menus are often heavily scheduled. Only local breakfast items like upma, poori, vadas, etc are served before 8.00 am while the western sorts like sandwiches are available later. Maggi noodles and fresh milk are only sold after 9.00 am till about 2.00 pm, and dishes containing rice can be bought only between 12.00 pm to 2.00 pm, and 7.00 pm to 9.00pm. Tandoori stuff like naan and parota starts after 6.00 pm while North Indian dishes begin rolling an hour after that. Between 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm, you’re better off eating your own socks because at this time, they serve the culinary equivalent of cow crap.

But why? The bread, cheese and eggs are in the kitchen and the same damn guys that’s churning out pooris and dosas since 7.00 am will be the ones making the sandwiches at 8.00 am anyway. What the hell is wrong with these people?

So wait I must, and at 7.55 am, tragedy struck; I finished the book I brought with me.

I cursed myself for not having the foresight to bring the other novel with me. Not having anything to do while waiting without the pleasure of human companionship is a terribly disconcerting experience for me. Disconcerting – that’s the best word I can think of to describe how it felt like that Saturday morning at 7.55 am.

I noticed for the first time that there was a local man sitting right opposite of me at my table - he was wolfing down a plate of idli with gusto and I smiled nervously as his eyes briefly met mine. In my hands was a small, tough piece of cardboard I brought with my book – I remember that I salvaged it for the purpose of serving as my bookmark from its previous occupation; a clothe tag for a Polo collared T-shirt. Then, with a minor start, I realised that I’m wearing that same Polo T-shirt at that moment. I attempted to work out the probability of that event happening but I abandoned the endeavour in the end because I could not recall accurately just how many shirts I owned and because I possessed no possible means of quantifying the chance of my recycling a particular article of clothing from my laundry basket (as in the case of the Polo shirt that morning) at that time.

At about 7.58 am, one of Pangal’s waiters dropped a packet of something small and wrapped in newspaper in front of me. I was at first bewildered and wondered what it was – and then I assumed that the waiter must have mistakenly placed my order of a cheese omelette sandwich to go. I was prodding at it with finger when the local man sitting opposite me cleared his throat and remarked politely that that packet belonged to him. He then scooped it up and left the table, leaving me sitting there feeling pret-ty embarrassed. I was sure that I would not have done what I did had I brought my other book – not having anything to occupy my attention had turned me into an assumptive ass. I cursed my lack of foresight for the second time.

At 8.04 am, I reminded the waiter of my order, and a local couple, probably students, took the place of the idli-wolfing-man opposite me. I noted amusedly that the male counterpart of the couple ordered ‘coffee; extra strong, extra sugar’. Even at their usual dosage of sugar, the tea and coffee from Pangal are barely bearably sweet. Then, from the couple’s mannerisms and conversational tones, I deduced conclusively that the relationship they shared (if any) was very much lop-sided in the favour of the guy. The girl seemed to worship him, while he was scarcely tolerating her affection. I was aware of just how depressing it is to love someone more than he or she loves you back, so I wished diabetes upon that guy, if he hadn’t already have it.

At 8.06 am, I was methodically checking out every table in the establishment, watching their occupants’ antics. A pair of middle aged ladies held my attention for a full two minutes as they poured both their cups of tea into a thermos and took turns drinking from it. I thought it was simultaneously bizarre and fascinating – for the sole and simple reason that I did not understand why they did that.

My cheese omelette sandwich arrived at 8.12 am and I dove for it thankfully. Idleness and inactivity simply disagrees with me in so many ways. Between 7.55 and 8.12 am – a mere 17 minutes – lasted as conceivably long as several sunlit days. Not doing anything, I discovered, exposes a person to all his senses and thoughts. I fancy what I went through in that brief 17 minutes were what the greatest scientific, artistic and literary minds experienced hours daily when they ‘sat down to think’. Possibly, the initial inklings of Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity was conceived the day his telly broke down. Dali probably did an awful lot of nothing, staring at empty canvases before he actually painted anything. I can indeed see my favourite author, Susanna Clarke performing a monstrous amount of mulling over the span of a million cup of teas during her ten year long authoring of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - all hypothetically speaking, of course.

But what set me apart from all these admirable people was that I found ‘doing nothing’ to be very disconcerting. Maybe that’s why I always carry a novel or two with me whenever I go out in the same manner and purpose some people carry bad-aids with them, download hundreds of movies and TV shows every year, and spend hours writing long, tedious essays like this one – I’m just afraid of ‘doing nothing’. Perhaps that’s what makes special people special. ‘Doing nothing’ does not upset them.

I finished less than half of my cheese omelette sandwich, picked up my tab, and left for home and bed. My appetite, I found, had deserted me.


Disconcerted,
k0k s3n w4i

9 comments:

michellesy the multitasker said...

I find eating alone to be a challenge on par with ascending Everest too =(

I detest it for the following reasons:
1. I fear I look stupid
2. I fear I look like a loser
3. I fear I look like a stupid loser

Now I know that by declaiming the statements above, I may have, in fact, confirmed my own conjunctures. But we'll disregard that for the moment hey? =)

I too hate having nothing to do. Sitting idly - it just feels so wrong somehow.

Which explains why I always have a book propped open when eating alone. Paper and ink is good company when you have none.

I used to read-eat at home, despite Mom's admonitions that I was going to give myself indigestion. Now I do it all the time - hah! The daring-ness of it all =)

Plus, when you have your nose buried in a book you get less-to-none annoying 'excuse me, is-this-seat-taken' enquiries from all the world and his dog who can't possibly sit anywhere else *winks*

And I didn't find this entry boring at all - minutiae fascinates me (and I don't mean this in a perverted way at all!)

I should have been an anthropologist in a better-planned incarnation of my life. Or an obsessive-compulsive office cleaner. LOL!

ps: It was kind of you to wish Diabetes Mellitus upon the inconsiderate bf. Some people deserve to just curl up and die. Or possibly suffer from gangrenous toes for the rest of their lives.

pps: Maybe the two ladies were using the thermos to keep the tea warm as they were having a very, very voluble chat? Tongues going like clappers probably.

ppps: How freaky was that thing with your shirt and the bookmark? Coincidence? Serendipity? A sign of an over-full laundry hamper? *winks*

bubbly soda said...

HI! Melly here btw, actually... it is good that you spend all your time doing something productive than those that does nothing. but of course you need to have a break once in a while.

and about the love part... the best is to find someone that love you just as much as you love him/her isn't it? then again, love is just love.

fuolornis said...

that is the thing about pangal. There seems to be some kind of hatred to foreigners.

Here is a tip for you: When u are walking in, js place your order to those waiters there. That way, the hv no choice but to serve you. Do not say that i won't work cos i already tried it.

And one more thing that keeps bugging me: lunch time at pangal starts at 11.30.

k0k s3n w4i said...

@michelle the multitasking wonder

LoL, I'm perfectly okay with eating by myself - so long as I don't realise it (hence the books, see?). But reading can be a real struggle here in India, since stuff like naan and dosa requires me to dig in with all ten (yes, Rome, Romans and all that jazz).

About the seat enquiries; they are practically non-existent here. Any empty chair is fair game.

The only person who admonished me for my reading during meals was an uncle that came to visit once every year. He said that it diminishes the enjoyment of them. My mom quit stopping me when she saw the glazed, zombie-fied look on my face as I chewed the last time she did.

P.S. The ladies weren't talking. Odd, huh?

P.S.S. I gave my cleaning lady the weekend off - hence the laundry piling up. Anyway, my point was not the coincidence of it, but rather - how I wouldn't have realised it if I actually had something to do then.

@Melly

Well, I'd hardly call blogging, reading novels and watching TV shows and movies productive, LoL.

No relationship is ever equal, in my opinion and limited observation. The thing is, it should never be as obviously one-sided as that local couple.

@fuolornis

Too bad that their food and price is good, eh? I don't visit there as often as I would have liked because the way they make me feel.

And thanks for tip!

Rabbit said...

What a long post...

I have this problem. I tend to forget what you've written in the previous paragraphs when i read on. aiyoks!

But i did read! =p

michellesy the hungry said...

*Nods*
Reading can close your eyes to the outside world and turn everything inwards.

Guess why I'm a bookworm LOL?

I do wonder how many things I managed to ignore/ brush off in the past because I was too engrossed in reading? Agatha Christie woot =)

Did your uncle mean it would lessen your enjoyment of the meal or of the book?

ps: Very odd indeed.

pps: I do wonder how you manage to order anything to eat with the regimented eating regime they have in India.

pinksterz said...

how on earth you manage to write this long?!

i wish i am a medic student in india now!

i didn't manage to read the whole post. will come back again. haha.

k0k s3n w4i's said...

@Rabbit

Thanks =), but don't bother if it's too long. Sometimes I just enjoy tokking kok so much that I forget myself.

I promise that the next, next post will be sweet and simple.

@michellesy

The meal, I suppose... But I wasn't really listening. I was reading, see.

P.S. Well, those shops that cater esp to Malaysians are a lot less rigid. But I prefer to eat local stuff - taste a lot better than counterfeit Malaysian and Chinese dishes.

@pinksterz

Well, I write several posts at the same time and I add to them whenever I feel like it. This one just grew monstrous without me realising it.

Why India? Hw much better can here be compared to Egypt? :|

mrbherng said...

You are sorta like my bro, he brings a novel or just any book anywhere either is it english, chinese or even french. Best part is that a dictionary will be along that novel.

Anyway, it is a luxury to do absolutely nothing at all. I had never got the chance to enjoy such luxury ever since stepping foot on the land of rain and sheep - wales.