Bombay Cafe: Reading

    by Trisha Dhar Malik

    Bombay Cafe: Reading

    Alone in the cafe I page through twenty pages of Elif Batuman’s The Idiot and it takes me an hour. This cafe is vast and green, and I like to sit on the tall chairs by the window facing the outdoor portion where the smokers drink beer and coffee—like we’re in a dusty, poor, France. This way when I’m bored of what I’m writing I can look at people and wonder what they’re talking about. There are plug points where I am sitting and a lot of the staff are charging their phones here and come and go often. It takes me so long to read the twenty pages not because they’re pretentious or uninteresting, but because I am just too aware of my body and being—out in the world. It’s exhausting, really, this hyperawareness of the self. Probably it is narcissistic even though it feels deprecating. 

    I take this long to read the twenty pages because I am annoyed by many things—and these things seem special and specific to India. A loud bearded man on the phone walking back and forth in laps right behind where I sit like he owns this joint. An impatient man trying to open my bathroom door so many times. Shouldn’t he know that someone’s in when the door resists opening or does he think if he is strong enough he can break it open and embarrass the both of us? Shouldn’t he know that the girl who was sitting there has left her piss-looking tea and neon book unattended? The logical understanding of such a disappearance is, of course, the bathroom—especially when put together with the jammed shut door. But the twenty pages were beautiful. Selin has reached Hungary and has spent the day with the boy she loves, Ivan, who doesn’t precisely love her back. At least not in the ways she wants him to. But the openness with which she deals with the ache of this, and with her feelings for him, is what makes these twenty pages for me. Her love is so profound to me, because it doesn’t beg a loving back. I suspect Selin is very beautiful—just from the way she talks about life and thinks about love. I bet she would find me quite stupid and young.

    Moroccan mint looks like dehydrated piss and doesn’t taste too far from it. Every next cup is more potent than the last though, which I find to be a sweet teller of passing time. Speaking of sweet, the aftertaste of this tea is better than the present taste of it. 

    Apart from me the only other solo diners include an old man drinking (what must be) milky tea and smoking a (what must be) sneaky cigarette; a couple of filmy people here and there—the lone ones must be either writers or editors I think, which are the lonely professions. The bearded man is also alone because, fuck, who could ever want to be with him? There is one actor who sits with someone, and I know this actor from something my mom’s edited. A lot of people who frequent this cafe are the genre of filmy people that I almost know from being born to filmy parents. They’re old, they all smoke and walk around the cafe on phones like only men can. I wonder if Selin would be interested in or exhausted by my Indian metro or both and if so in what measure. I wonder if she would find my appetites interesting or exhausting and how.

    Indian Feminist

    I would love traveling alone if it wasn’t so lonely. I would love living alone if it wasn’t so much. I wouldn’t need friends if I knew how to be alone and fulfilled at the same time but I think my brain computes that as some kind of conundrum. Maybe I am a bird in human form. A girl or maybe I am a mother. I kiss my lover and it highlights the emptiness that exists in the world. He is ugly as man. Drink doesn’t fill the empty. Neither does sex with eyes open or closed or with drugs. I travel but I am scared. I love but I can’t bear the other. Maybe my college education failed me. I think of all the rich white grey haired professors who I want to skin and shame. Maybe the problem was a father. I stab my lover with a knife—I think this is the first time he has looked so beautiful. Then the cook who looks at my chest. Then a father—I don’t even know if he is my own. I sit in a pool of the kitchen guy’s blood like a playing child. I travel alone and kill every he who scares me. I go to my mother’s college and cut away the fingers of her older writer friend who was always too drunk but meant well. I shave the head of her best friend who says that’s true. In the mirror, I shave my own. I travel alone till I feel free. 


    Trisha Dhar Malik is a queer writer and theatre artist based in Mumbai, India, and has a complicated relationship with her Mumbai, India. She has acted in several plays during her time studying in Canada, including “Water, Baby!” which she also produced and wrote. With a combined Honours in English and Creative Writing, she is now back home in Mumbai, navigating what it means to be twenty-three and know nothing.

    Trisha Dhar Malik

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