9 PM tonight at my residence. The lack of cartridges in the printer leads to much uproar and I decide to walk down to the nearby photocopy/printer/cyber cafe shop, a 5 minute walk from my home. As I enter the shop there is a young lad in his mid twenties who is manning the shop. Apart from him 3 African students are cooped up in the confines of a cubicle huddled in front of a computer, speaking loudly a language I cannot understand. On the walls are mounted small shelves that hold little figures of Lakshmi and Ganesha. The dhoop has extinguished, a small electric colourful light blinks on and off, lighting up the silver-ish paint of Lashmi's figure. On the walls are plastered old calender pictures of other Gods and Goddesses, on a overhead ledge holds two small speakers. Even as I look at them, Lata Mangeshkar starts crooning, 'Najane kya hua'..
The young man takes from me the rather big bundle of worksheets that need to be photocopied and starts the process. I idly look at the walls and then outside, suddenly I hear a voice speak in Hindi, different from what the Africans are murmuring, I look around and realize the young man speaking on his hands free set. I look away. He speaks again, this time I listen to the one sided conversation and a slow smile creeps up..
'Kya kar rahi hai?'
(pause)..a bit slowly then..
'Arre aunga kaha hai na..mera man nahin karta kya..par kya karun..'
'Hmm..arre aise na kahiyo..humari toh jan chali jayegi..mar na jaye hum'
( smiles to himself) I look away
'Dekho..Shukravar ko agar hum ihan se train pakad te hain..to uske baad ke din pohunchenge..phir toh do din hai na hamare pas..jitna man kare dekh lena...'
'accha naraj kyun hoti ho..chudi karidein hain na tumhare liye, aur ek libstick bhi'
'chal ye bata..sapne mein hum aaye ki nahin..toh phir tune kya kiya'
(smiles to himself..laughs a bit too..ruffles his hair)
'humko bhi dekhna hai na tujhe..bohot din ho gaya na..ye sala kam itna ai yahan'
'Tu aise bolegi toh hum kaam kaise kar payenge..kal hi train na le le hum'
( Pause..rather long one now..I turn to look..he is staring blankly at the wall, his back to me..I shuffle my feet..walk towards the door a bit)
'Aaaj sapne mein ayegi na..main intezar karunga..abhi rakhta hun..man nahin lag raha kam mein'
( A click and his voice addresses me) I am jolted out of my reverie.
'Mam 15 Rupees huye.' I look at him side ways..he doesn't look at me, already busy with something else..there is no smile however. As I come out of the shop, he sits down with a sigh on a small chair..I am the last customer, the Africans have left.. the song stops, changes..something inconsequential starts playing. I'm tempted to step back, say something..but I leave..nothing less than poetry what I had heard..some nights are beautiful..they are also painful I guess.