It was my birthday on November 1. Nehru once said, “Birthdays are unpleasant reminders of advancing age”. I’ve thought about my response to this quote- I’ve realized that I really don’t care about the number of years added to my Iife, as long as I know that my spirit will never grow old.
This year, my birthday was unique as I had decided to pamper and treat myself with some bliss of solitude. Solitary moments are nothing new in my life, I love to be alone too! But having a party all by myself on my birthday and that too at Sohar in Oman has a thrill of its own. After completing my daily chores, I readied myself and drove to Penny’s Cafe. I chose this place over others as it’s in a not-so-open area, with less crowd. The ambience is snug and one really can be in one corner to oneself.. I have earlier been to this place with my family but never alone.
I reached the place feeling happy, excited and enthusiastic to begin this party with myself. I was welcomed by the Filipino waitress who knew me and was quite surprised to see me alone. “Hi ma’am, why are you are alone today,” she asked. I just smiled but couldn’t tell her that I was there to treat myself on my birthday in a different way. Whether it’s India or Oman, a woman all alone anywhere specially in a cafe or coffee shop is confronted with raised eyebrows.
Anyway, I went right ahead and placed my order. I ordered the cup that always cheers me up and some cream cheese sandwiches. I went to the area at the corner where the interiors were really well done with painted walls, a book shelf, mirrors and had brochures and images related to Oman all over.
I went in, plonked myself at the middle of the couch, leaned back and sat cross-legged. Nobody else was present inside. I was feeling really happy and amused at the fact that I was alone celebrating this day. I really don’t know why but there was this happiness glowing all over my face! Honestly I thought, it felt a little weird but I was completely engrossed in this solo venture of mine. Not knowing what to do next, I took my phone out and started fiddling with it while waiting for my most beloved tea!
To the rescue of my tingling unease — won’t deny it wasn’t there at all! — came a call from my friend in India to wish me. I started talking to her and her husband. They asked me where I was then. I laughed and told them about what I was up to. As my tea and sandwich had arrived, I cut the call short, assuring them that I’ll get back to them with the details soon.
Meanwhile I had messaged both of my daughters that I had checked in at the cafe alone. To this the elder one replied, “Awesome” and the younger said, “Great.” While leaving the house, I hadn’t told them about my plans. So, their encouragement boosted my confidence (as always) and I continued with my feat. But then I realized, I had forgotten to tell my husband! So next, I called and asked him to guess where I was. He came out with unexpected answers which dampened my excitement a bit. I had to tell him what I was actually doing and where. Even for a so-called ‘conservative husband but not a discouraging one’, the idea was a little difficult to digest. Without saying much, he told me to continue to enjoy my day.
I was relishing my tea and meal, when I was interrupted by the visit of two Omani men right across my couch. Though they were quite decent, I started feeling awkward. A slight peer at me from them made me feel that they wanted to know why this Indian lady (my dress said so) was alone. I know that maybe it was only my imagination, and maybe they never did think like that and only I felt uncomfortable. A call from my Omani friend relieved my awkward feeling. I finished eating my food and prepared to leave that place.
While I was paying the bill, the lady at the counter asked me from which country I was. I told her I was from India. She told me that she thought that I was from another country. She added that she expected an Indian lady to be in a dress which displayed her belly part (she was trying to describe a saree). I said, “Oh yeah, that’s a saree and yes, I do occasionally wear it.” I paid the bill and complimented both the ladies for their service which made me feel at home and so good. When they spoke to me, it felt as if they had wished me on this day without actually knowing anything about it.
I marched out of the cafe happy, recharged, content about my feat of accomplishment. Yes, I had a good, happy, solitary celebration! The time spent was worth cherishing!
About Ranjana Gupta:
After teaching for almost two decades, she is now a home maker and family driver. A die hard fan of Kolkata phuchkas, this proud bong takes life as it comes.