Meeting people by chance in strange situations are encounters worth recounting.
You share with someone an umbrella and walk along on the street when it showers suddenly, or you land with someone interesting in the two seat cabin of a giant Ferris wheel – or you get stuck in an elevator and get into conversations that help lighten up or destress.
In my life, I have gone through such situations.
I present to you today two interesting encounters with women – that I never met again.
I wish I had more such encounters to write about. Do you have a story to tell?
Arya Bhavan in Matunga is a place worth a visit if you want to savor authentic south Indian food. There is always a beeline of food lovers outside this cozy restaurant run by Muthuswamy.
It was a Sunday morning. I went to Arya Bhavan for my breakfast. There was a long queue outside. The Chief told me to hang on and wrote down my name.
“Five minutes Sir”. He said in an assuring tone.
But it took almost 15 minutes of waiting that I got invited inside. There was a two-seater table in a corner and one woman, probably in the age group of 30 to 40 was already sitting there. The Chief asked me to take the empty seat opposite her.
In places like Arya Bhavan, you have to follow what the Chief says. I was alone this time and so I was quite indifferent to where I sit. In the busy times, if you go in a group, you may have to split and occupy different tables to get somehow “accommodated”. Idea in places like Arya Bhavan is to eat and not to chat.
Arya Bhavan provides an authentic traditional south Indian menu . Many of the items they serve are not generally seen in the menu cards of standard south Indian restaurants.
Menu Card at Arya Bhavan
I started looking at the menu card and was a bit lost in deciding what to order.
The woman sitting opposite on the table was watching me. She was having Brahmin Idlis. When I looked at her I saw that she was smiling.
“I know it’s so hard to choose Mr.” She said.
I said “Well, I am looking for a dosa. Can you recommend?”
“Oh, easy then. Ask for a Moong Dal Dosa. It’s a Sunday special at the Aryas” She smiled. “I am sure you will love my choice”. She spoke in an enthusiastic tone.
Her recommendation was perfect. And I did enjoy the Moong Dal Dosa.
We started talking. She told me that she had just dropped her son in the tuition classes right above Arya Bhavan and was having her breakfast, waiting for the son to return. Today was his last tuition class. Her husband was a sailor and away on the sea. They lived in Chembur.
“My son doesn’t like to eat here. He feels that this place is too crowded. So, I have asked to parcel Appam with coconut stew lavil. He will eat at home.” she explained.
I ordered for filter coffee and we chatted more. She recommended me places where I could eat good south Indian food and finally summed up saying – but nothing to beat this place Mr.– Muthuswamy’s Arya Bhavan. She had a tam bram (Tamil Brahmin) accent.
“Oh, I must step out now. Please enjoy your coffee. See you – may be another time in Arya” The Woman got up looking at her watch.
I liked chatting with this strange woman on a Sunday morning. She was a like a fresh breeze to me. Her enthusiasm was so charming.
I asked for a second round of filter coffee and thought more about her.
When I went to the counter to pay, the counter manager said, “Sir, your bill is already settled by Mrs. Iyengar”. I was surprised.
The Chief gave me the menu card while exiting. “Madam asked me to give you” he said
I took a look at the Menu. It had a few dishes underlined.
Oh, those were the recommendations of Mrs. Iyengar for me.
Sometimes I go alone to watch a movie at the PVR Cinema in Lower Parel’s Big Bazaar in Mumbai. I had booked tickets for the Friday evening show of “Magic of Belle Isle” staring Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen.
I was a bit late. I picked up a large cup of buttered popcorns from the foyer and reached my seat. It was already dark, and I couldn’t clearly see the person sitting next to me. Probably there was a lady– Looked like she was alone like me as seat next to her was empty.
I placed my box of popcorns in the “cup holder” in between our seats.
The movie was great, and I was enjoying every bit of it. I was sampling the butter popcorns and watchful that I was not making too much noise.
There is a lovely scene in the movie when Virginia Madsen and Morgan Freeman are sitting next to the lake at night. Virginia Madsen asks Morgan Freeman about what kind of woman charms him. Morgan Freeman says that he loves a woman who walks into the room like her.
When Virginia asks “describe how does she walk in” then Morgan Freeman explains that he finds her walking in like a breeze of hot air – streaming in – after the rains. A piece of Pathetique (Sonata No. 8 of Beethoven) is played on the piano in the background and that makes the conversation so emotional. [Do watch this video clip to experience]
My neighbor on the next seat was so engrossed and touched by this scene and the conversations. While her eyes were locked to the big screen, she put her hand in the popcorn cup and picked up a handful of popcorns to eat, oblivious to the fact that “the cup belonged to me”. And for the rest of the movie she continued sampling “my popcorns”. I refrained eating and let her.
There was an intermission and the lady realized the mix up she did with the popcorns.
She apologized “Sir, I am really sorry. I was so carried away. I did not realize that those were your popcorns! I was so engrossed in the movie”
I said, “Never mind Ms.”.
The lady was wearing spectacles with a chain and a Mizoram shawl. There was a nice aroma of a musky perfume. We got into a conversation.
She spoke about Morgan Freeman, his movies and how much she loves his acting. I enjoyed her analyses as many of her views aligned with me. It was nice to have a conversation with a strange and sophisticated woman – and sharing similar views.
She kept talking although the intermission ended, lights faded, and the movie resumed.
“The best one of Freeman’s is the Bucket List. What’s your view? ” She whispered.
A man from the row behind said “Ssha…” showing his displeasure; asking the lady to shut up.
She shut up and continued to sample “my” popcorns.
When the movie was over, we came out of the theater.
“Can you hang on for a moment please? I have to get something” She said.
The lady took couple of minutes to return. She asked, “do you have a car?”
Was she asking for a lift? I thought that this would be great opportunity to continue more conversations with the lady.
I said “Yes”
“and are you driving yourself or do you have a driver with you?”. That was her next question.
I said “I have a driver with me”
She opened up her Mizoram shawl that she had draped around her and passed me a large cup of butter popcorns – like a treasure that was hidden.
“This is for you Sir. Enjoy eating the popcorns that I owe – Eat when they are hot while your driver takes you home”
I was surprised by her interesting and wonderful gesture.
For a while I thought she resembled Virginia Madsen in the Magic of Isle Belle – as she breezed away fading in the crowd and waving at me a good bye
And I thought someone was playing a piece of Pathetique in the background
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