“Anne French, Lakme Compact, Colorbar lipstick…” he murmured as he squinted his eyes in concentration looking at the toiletries section of Reliance Fresh. Reading was difficult. The letters were difficult to frame into words, and the words weren’t exactly making sense.
‘And so much of variety of items in a single store…! Humans brains weren’t designed to handle so much data. What has the world come to… the worlds brains won’t be able to take so much data and will just go kaput. Maybe that’s what Pralay will be‘ His thoughts drifted away into a far flung territory, not very frequently explored by average humans.
“…Revlon Nail paint, Elle18 Nail Paint Remover… Wait, what was the first thing I saw?” He went back to Anne French. What he saw from the corner of his eye told him that a female, who had been looking in the same direction as he was, had moved just a fraction of a second before him in the same direction. Before his brain could register what that meant, he heard an exasperated sigh.
Turning behind, he came face to face with the female standing behind him.
“WTBF!” her eyes seemed to scream at him.
And then he realized it. He had been looking up and down the same rack of female essensuals, thinking about human brains and their capacities for almost the past three minutes.
“I’m sorry, uh, I was looking for face cream.” mumbling something like that, he walked away, away even from the line of men’s toiletries displayed in the next rack. He had been lucky. The WTF expression on the face could have as well been verbally expressed. The exasperated sigh could as well have been a kick on the ass.
The Mary Jane + rum and coke he had had last night was still having its effect. He was alright when he left home for shopping. The five minutes’ walk in the sun had caused him to dehydrate. His eyes were burning now, even in the air conditioned store. He wanted to go home. He felt like shit.
“No,” he told himself. He couldn’t give up like this. “Whatever happens, I will finish shopping against all odds.” Although he knew that in his present semi comatose situation, the survival instincts he had learned in his harrowing Himalayan adventures had to be stretched to the ultimate extent to achieve his goal.
He went and stood before the frozen foods section. The refrigerator had no door. The cool waves wafting from it soothed his eyes, and what seemed to him, his soul. Consciousness returned to him.
He picked up a packet of frozen Afghan Parathas and checked the price. Hmm, 60 bucks. How many were there in the packet? Can’t be more than six. The Afghans were huge people, with very little money. Six parathas would be nothing for them. So, to feed the Afghans, the parathas in Afghanistan would have to be cheap. Here, people were making money in the name of Afghans. Imagine how would an Afghan feel if he came to know that 6 parathas are selling for sixty rupees, an amount he feeds his entire family for a day on…
He realized that his thoughts had drifted again. ‘WTF’ he mouthed to himself. The next moment his brain registered that the female he had come across in the cosmetics section had been standing beside him. And that his ‘WTF’ had been loud enough to be heard by her. And that she was now staring at him with her mouth popped open.
He felt it his duty to make the situation somewhat normal. ‘What to do, what to do…’ his mind raced as fast as it could given its situation.
‘Um, would you know how many parathas come in this packet?’
“Four.” She pointed to the number written in large font on the face of the packet.
“Oh, I didn’t see that. Thank you.”
Dumping the packet in his basket, he turned around. He wanted to get the hell out of there as soon as possible. As he was turning, he could almost feel the female shaking her head in disbelief. “Wake up Sid,” he could make out a feminine whisper behind him.
He wanted the floor of the store to part, so that he could disappear inside it. He wanted to bolt out of the door, climb his bike and roar away into oblivion. But his Himalayan instincts told him otherwise. Grinding his teeth, he went back to shopping.
Standing at the beginning of a passage between two closely cramped racks, he was concentrating hard. ‘Wake up Sid’ was still echoing in his mind. “Plain Kellog’s corn flakes, 70 bucks for 300gm, Mango flavoured ones, 85 for 250 grams…WTF 15 bucks extra for just a mango flavour. And it won’t even be real mango, just some chemical which smells similar to mango…And gosh! What all have I bought?’ He looked at his stuffed basket. ‘Can I pay for all this? ‘ He tried to recall how much money he had in his pocket.
He could swear no ‘excuse me’ was uttered.
As he stood there, confused once again, he felt something brush against his back. Something round and pointed and soft and wonderful. That something was joined by another something. Both the somethings were there together, and pressed against him for an instant. Then the first something brushed by his back. The second something followed suit.
In a second, all this began and got over.
He saw the female he had encountered twice walk from behind him to what looked like her husband at the end of the rack. She never looked back. Her gait had been natural as ever. They began what looked like a husband and wife conversation and disappeared into another line of shelves.
He had bought 720gm potatoes, 5 apples, 3 packets of slim milk, 2 packets of frozen parathas and a dozen eggs. All these would together cost 308 Rupees and 28 paise. He did not need corn flakes although he could pay for them, and more through his credit card. He had been in the store for 20 minutes. It would take him two minutes on the checkout counter and another five to walk home. It was 10:30 now. He had one hour before he had to be in office.
The words “Wake up Sid” kept ringing in his head all through the day.