"A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life"
- R.K. Narayan

It began as a distant voice outside my window - on a relaxed Sunday morning, while I lay on my back, half-asleep, half-watching the interplay of sun beams on my wall, feeling the surreptitiously drifting in morning breeze and wishing that my room was somewhere in the hills right now. Initially, the uttering was muffled. As it got less vague, i think it went something like..  "Life.. is just a cause to live. Nobody knows where it leads, yet people live! A few aimlessly, a few blissfully, a few passionately, a few scornfully.. they all make their way through the uncertainties of life, where only one thing is certain. Everything will live, and everything will die."

I got curious to investigate. It was strange my folks were not up yet. I walked to the front gate and found the street garnished with a dressing of saffron robes. A wave of seeming volunteers had washed up like those crabs that sea waves bring in. Their dress was plain albeit with a face sketched on each of their chest. They seemed youthful, walked all over the street, gesturing and greeting the bystanders - like one of those holiday parades.

One of them with a coarse looking face walked past me. The sketch on his dress showed a face with long hairs wore in a bandana, quite like that Che Guevara guy. He waved a 'Hi' at me, I waved back. Another one across the street had the sketch of Fidel Castro look alike on his robe. It was no-wonder these guys were walking together. Following them were two very composed youth. One was younger than the other and he had a similar young looking face sketched on his robe. This face had cloth wrapped around its head and broad cheeks like Swami Vivekananda. The older youth had a sketch of a bald headed face with eyes half-closed and in a meditative pose. Now, this guy bent down, picked up a leaf from the pavement and handed it over to me. I gave a questioning glance but couldn't interrupt as a strange hum seemed to be emanating from within him.

A volunteer wearing a turban walked up to Mr.BB. I could not see the sketch on this guy's robe but I heard him proclaim rather loudly, "Ab jaldi hee meri shaadi hai. Meri dulhan azaadi hai!". Mr.BB gave the usual nod signifying he didn't hear a word of it, and the volunteer gaily moved on assuming quite the opposite.

Coffee Annan, the man who didn't recall his own origin, stood in his balcony, eager to know the origin of these guys. "Ahoy! where are you from? what is all this?". They answered him in unison, "We are dew of the morning rays, We come from the valleys, We are smoke that rises from the tormented back-alleys". With this, they created a formation and started walking down the street. As they got to the corner, the coffee shop boys greeted them and they filed into the cafe one-by-one.

A voice summoned me from behind, "Beta! looks like the milkman is late today. I need some milk to make coffee. Can you buy some milk from the cafe please?". I stood there wondering if the cafe would have anything left today..
n.b: This is roughly a continuation of the fiction from previous two posts.

Nobody knew his antecedents. Gossip made him smell like a drifter; like he had a family which he left behind and now lives anonymously. Apparently when asked he would give wayward and inconsistent details. Some felt he was trying to hide his past while some said he was having a bout of Alzheimer's. He visited the coffee joint almost daily and precisely took the corner table overlooking the busy street. He always ordered a refill and kept peeping at the street like he was expecting someone. Strangely though, he never looked at the people entering the cafe! His accent was heavily southern so the waiter boys called him 'Annan'. I whipped a dash of pun on it and called him 'Coffee Annan'.

Coffee Annan had a class about him - his trimmed peppery grey french beard, throaty voice, thoroughbred manners while ordering and always a cashmere shawl wrapped around his neck pointed to some noble ilk that he was brought up into. Though he took two extra spoons of sugar in his coffee, he always stirred it without clinking. If there was a stray leaf being blown around by the street wind, he would watch until it flew out of sight. Excessive honking irritated him, but calm would return on his face with the next sip. Occassionally he would appear in the company of Mr.BB, the almost deaf retired bank manager who would plainly nod at whatever Mr.Annan said to him. It was hard to picture Coffee Annan as a person trying to hide his identity, maybe he was just not sure of it or maybe he was still searching for it... like a wandering cloud that keeps changing its shape and never sure if it is supposed to rain down or just whiff away with the wind.

This morning I had got up with a feeling that I had a task yet to be accomplished. Even after breakfast, the thought would not leave me. Coffee sometimes made me remember things in a flash so I headed straight to the cafe. At the cafe I saw Mr.Annan and Mr.BB again. As usual, there was nothing animated about them. I had to kill this yearning inside me so I decided to seat myself next to Mr.Annan's table so I could hear them speak and hence, forget my nagging thoughts.. 

Coffee Annan spoke in his baritone, "Our minds are our biggest weakness. Though we blame our five senses for distracting us constantly, the mind is their driver, their epicenter. As long as one is a slave of the mind, one will succumb to irresistible thoughts. We cannot live in solitude because our minds are so attached to civilization. Detachment is so required precisely to tame our minds. With the pretext of social living our minds start interconnecting with other minds and create a web of collective intelligence, which keeps our individuality entrapped. I sometimes feel our minds have a life of their own and we are mere puppets. But then if my mind is not me, then who am I? what exactly is my identity then? Do you know Mr.BB?". BB felt Annan was offering him another spoon of sugar and he nodded. Annan continued, "I had recently read a nice article on the three holistic levels of our perception. They called it Intelligence Quotient, Emotional Quotient and Spiritual Quotient. Did you read yesterday's newspaper Mr.BB?"

Alas! At that very moment it flashed right across to me. I was supposed to sift through my newspapers to read the article on Buddha Gautama. I gulped down my coffee and darted back home. While running back I  noticed Coffee Annan looking at me.. with the same look that he watches those leaves drifting aimlessly in the wind!
With the excuse of an evening walk, I hovered around the nonchalant coffee shop again today, using the aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans as bribe to convince myself that a-Cappuccino-a-day does not qualify for caffeine addiction. Just when I was looking for a stronger reason to walk into the cafe, I noticed this new poster stuck to their glass wall facing the street. I couldn't read much from that distance, yet through the shimmering glare of the glass I saw in one corner of the poster the stately picture of a saint figure with half closed eyes and an orange halo around his head. He had a beckoning smile and before I realized I was walking towards the shop..

The closer I got, the stranger the poster began to seem. Even after multiple glances I could not figure if it was an advertisement or an announcement, until I decided to go ahead and read everything there was in it.

It read.. "It took me just one trip to realize all this world is just an illusion. And then an entire lifetime to see that truth and its realization are hidden so very far from our reach. I stumbled yet I have reached there now. How many trips are you going to need? Signed B.G."

I walked inside the cafe to inquire about that poster. They asked me to go upstairs and check with the manager. The manager said they introduced a new version of Tiramisu recently. They had a poster for it the whole week and it was removed just that morning. He was sure nothing else was put up in its place. I dragged him downstairs and surprisingly there wasn't any poster in sight. The glass wall was spotlessly clean. The manager joked that maybe I have been overworking and a 'cuppa coffee' would help.

I didn't order any coffee that evening and while I walked back home a strange bell started ringing in my head. That morning I had seen an article on Buddha Gautama in the newspaper. Somehow I was getting an urge to go and read it now...