What Really Goes on at a Dhaba – A Timeless Short Story
‘Dhaba at 5’
I look at the wall clock in front of me. It’s 4:30. Talk about short notice. I lay on my bed for a while thinking about life and my unproductive existence. After dedicating about 10 whole minutes to this pondering, I decide that it’s about time I get out of bed, fix my hair in front of the mirror (basically run a hand through my hair which takes less than a second), and rush out in my pajama pants and a T-shirt that I hadn’t changed since last night.
I spot them as soon as I pull over. Their laughter louder than the traffic noise. Their poses replicating each other; a foot over the other leg with a worn-out slipper dangling on to the tip of the toe, just like their ambitions for the night. I get out of the car eager to know what was so funny. They were indulging in a healthy banter which would not be considered healthy at all because of its zero nutritional or intellectual value. But for this setting, it fit quite well.
So I walk over to the table, pretending I am in on the joke, laughing and slapping the back of the guy nearest to the empty spot on the table while flopping down on the chair, blending in to the crowd. Nobody notices my failed attempt to understand the joke. Thank God.
I order my Chai as soon as I get there. At a Dhaba there is an unspoken language that exists between the workers and the customers. You don’t need words, honestly. A flick of the wrist is enough for them to understand that you need something, or them. Or just more tea, or the bill… Sometimes even eye contact works. It’s incredible. Next time maybe I should ponder on this too before leaving for places.
We talk about things. The cars honking past us; some speeding, some screeching. And it gets worse when it rains. But we laugh. And sometimes we see each other clearly for a split second because some genius decides to turn on their headlights full on. Honestly, they remain the same. It’s just like an ugly moving picture. Well, not ugly, just not what I call pretty.
We are frank, all the Chalbeys and Kyun Bhais come out. There is also a lot of obscenity but I think I should leave it out. I wonder if someone could read my thoughts I would probably have to put out a million disclaimers. A warning for age-appropriate audience will probably be a priority. Well, this disclaimer would also sit well with my current setting too, not that there is an empty seat for this. No. We leave all formalities at home, and our Sharaafat to some extent too, but we never move from our spots.
We leave out some topics during the day just for this time. We say ‘Shaam Ko Milna Phir Bataun Tafseel Se’ . This means that you will get to know the unfiltered version of the story with every raw thought. And that it will remain with the boys at that table. It almost never crosses over to the other gender. We boys are pretty good at it to be honest. We also love to gossip. And this is the time when we decide to pour it all out. Yaar Wo Aisa Hi Hai, Usnay Yeh Kia, Tuney Kyun Kia… all the complaints and the news come up.
I don’t know how we do it, but we make the girls believe that we don’t like to gossip. Actually, we love it. We do it, and it is here, on these very streets that we do it. And when we are done we say: ‘Chal, Okay’ and do something in between of a clap and a handshake and leave. No glorification; nothing extraordinary.