It is past midnight.
The only busy places at this time are highways and the trek route to Vaishno Devi.
However, I find myself on top of the night- traffic-volume pyramid, the international terminal of the Delhi airport.
There are lots of other business travellers like myself. You can spot them easily enough, boarding passes peeking out of their breast pockets, and demeanours ranging from confident to weary, to the ones who are downright sick of globetrotting.
My flight leaves at three thirty, and I have finished with my visa formalities and a not-so savoury sandwich from the food court; I park myself at my favourite spot, on one of the recliners bordering the spotless glass facade that overlooks the aircraft parking bays. This part is relatively less crowded; the glass is not enough to block out the collective roar of the jet engines outside.
There is nobody around, except a morose man on the next chair.
Bhalo. Good. Far better than the bawling baby plus the cooing mother package.
I prop my feet up and sit back comfortably. There is a Virgin Atlantic 747 right in front of me, getting prepped for the long haul ahead. Jostling for space (and competing for size) are a British Airways A-340 and a Gulf Air A-330. Yes, I take pride in those details. I love airports, airplanes and everything to do with them; and I hate crowds. This spot included all these perks. I could live here.
"Did you have dosa?"
I shut my eyes. I sigh. Morose Man is a talker; in my parlance, that means indulging in pointless small talk. In my world, you don't do that, especially when there are more exciting things to look at.
However, I wish to bring this conversation to a speedy end, so I smile and shake my head no.
"The menu card in your pocket?" He persists.
There is a miniature version of the Dosa Plaza menu poking out from my shirt pocket. There is a buck toothed boy hired by them in the food court who thrusts this piece of paper to anyone who dares to tread within twenty feet of that kiosk. I took the menu, and did not eat there, as I wanted a sandwich. I told as much to Morose Man, albeit far more briefly.
"Oh," He sighs, "They're good, but there was one person who made the world's best dosas."
We relapse into blissful silence.
"Aren't you going to ask me who he is?"
"I have a feeling you're going to tell me either way."
"Heh... He made great dosas."
He repeats too. Cool.
"He owned a Maruti Omni van in which he put his cooking stuff, and every evening from six to nine, he would drive down to Ashirwad Chowk and sell those fluffy brown and white wonders."
"Inspiring." Strobe lights aglow, the Gulf Air plane is reversing,nay, being pushed back by one of those amazingly powerful tug vehicles. Morose Man yammers away, I stare at the outgoing aircraft until it leaves the bay for taxiing before it takes off.
"........The LPG cylinder exploded in the car. His body was not even discernible in the mess. He was on his way back home for the night..... Happened in the street right behind my place." He shakes his head slowly.
"Oho." I hope my expression is suitably sympathetic.
"But the story doesn't end here," He suddenly brightens up.
"Does it ever?" It is not a sin to hope.
The moron is too thick skinned to get my jibes. "My dog does his business at night. Around a month after his death, I took Toto on his regular pee-poo-late-night walk along that very alley. The street lights were not working, and it was quite dark. Soon I came across a little boy sitting by the roadside, sobbing softly. Toto is a brave dog, take my word, but he goes into a frenzy and keeps yodelling at the very sight of the child. I bend over, and try to ask him about his problem. He doesn't look up and keeps crying. Toto howls and I am unable to manage him anymore, and let go of his leash. He dashes away. Presently, I feel a cold touch on my shoulder. Taps it thrice. I feel scared, too scared to turn back. Eventually curiosity gets the better of me. I turn around, and I...I..."
To Be Concluded here.