Dinner Table

Sometimes you happen to witness something so mundane but yet so disturbing that it leaves you with very few words to describe the situation. There is something invigorating about that whole thing that catches our attention and is sometimes worth giving a thought. There was something similar that I happened to witness today or atleast it was peculiar enough to provoke me to write about it. It was a Sunday eve before Diwali and me and my 3 other friends started off for dinner from our hostel while militating against the lonely roads of the college and arguing about the most insignificant things of the world. We were in a rather light mood when we entered the restaurant. We took a table of four, placed our order and amidst our usual derision of each other while waiting for food, we started inspecting our surrounding. On the right side, there was a guy sitting alone on a table for 4 but was later made to sit with another single person on a corner table, a rather rude way adopted by the restaurant to increase their business. On the left, there was a family of 6 who probably came for their weekly Sunday dinner. The close proximity of their table left us no choice but to pry over their discussion. The members of that family and their behavior during that whole time captivated the attention of all four of us, to which we all conformed after the dinner. The family had two small kids, a girl and a boy, probably 4-6 years of age, their young parents, and their grandparents. The grandmother was a thin old lady with wrinkled face, skeletal hands, oily hair and wearing an old saree. The grandfather was a spectacled man who chose to remain silent all throughout the dinner. His appearance suggested that he is a confident man whose commandment in his family has rusted with his age and it was clear that it bothered him. His silence was a choice he made to sustain the changes that he was witnessing in his family. He tried to seem occupied with the menu but that too failed to entertain him for much time. He gazed at us a couple of times (which was probably because we were noticing them too much). The grandmother (his wife) was sitting just opposite to him who seemed to understand the reason for his silence and did not need words to talk to him. Though they were sitting with their son, their daughter-in-law and their two grandchildren but their eyes uttered of solitude. The young father of the two children was a tall suave man with a dominating voice. His proactiveness in asking for the menu and his willingness to inquire about the choice of others suggested that he was the earning member in that family. He had a heavy tone, or maybe in the presence of his senile parents, his wife and two small kids, his voice sounded more domineering. The tone of the daughter-in-law commensurated with her husband’s conduct which cleared our doubt as to why there was not much channelizing of thoughts between the two generations.  It was more than apparent that the grandparents came to the city to live with their son’s family thereby giving up their village life. After a couple of minutes, we heard the first conversation between the two ladies. The mother of the small children was defending her style of raising her small kids flaunting that she belongs to an aware and more technologically equipped generation. The grandmother was pressing on the point that they should use ‘daliya’ as it is very good for kids. The father of the 2 children pitched in to say that they use a much better and nutritious food. They added that their children are much better than others who eat a lot of fast food at an early age. This was the last and the only conversation that we heard in which the grandmother cared to speak. It was as if her own upbringing of her son was being challenged with the knowledge that the young lady has acquired over Google. She was not merely suggesting some basic eating habits for her grandchildren but she somehow seemed to have a deeper motive behind her unsolicited advice – she wanted to be a part of the family only later to be deprecated by her son and daughter-in-law. In an attempt to adjust herself while shifting the small child, the grandmother bruised her elbow with the table edge. The wrinkled skin easily succumbed to the strain and bled a little. She wiped that away soon after noticing the lack of concern about her well-being. Again, the grandmother and the grandfather did not need words to empathize with each other’s situation. Their son was busy chatting with his wife while devising new tricks to get the children to eat the food. It was followed by an occasional Hi5’ves with his children as a way to celebrate that his tricks worked. The grandparents had probably got accustomed to those modern gestures since they were hardly perturbed. In a nutshell, their presence or absence would hardly make a difference in the events at that dinner table. The young man had probably spent all his childhood with his parents in the bucolic neighborhood of his village where his parents raised him. His parents got old while he moved to the city. He is modern with a beautiful wife whose charm made his mother look even older. He had a cushy job and held a tone which was condescending enough about the fact that he belonged to a modern society which is way better off than the previous generations. There was a subtle but boisterous exhibition of modernist thinking. He was unaware of the fact that his new life has distanced him from his parents but the strangers like us could easily sense it. The couple’s attitude somehow intimidated their parents who responded with their silence. The grandparents had long accepted their son’s life has long diverged from their own. It would be my incompetence if I could not portray the uncomfortable situation in which those grandparents were. There was something unsaid and yet so obvious about that whole plot which was disturbing all of us.  It is hard to captivate the whole essence of that dinner table but the tensed face of the grandfather and helpless gestures by the grandmother were screaming with a hope to claim back their son who has been engulfed by the modern society.

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