The cafe on the first floor was deserted. The silence made it a different world from the ancient streets thriving with life that lay below a flight of steps. I had gone there mistaking it to be a part of the famous restaurant on the ground floor, where a queue of people were waiting to be seated. Here every table was empty, devoid of any sign of life. As I turned to leave, I heard someone call me and saw a young woman stir from the window at one end of the cafe facing the road. She came forward slowly, ushered me to a table, and fetched a menu. She said they were an independent cafe with no connection to the famous restaurant below that I had gone to visit.
I ordered a coffee, just to be polite, and sat making notes in a small book of handmade paper that I had bought for the fun of it. A regular notebook would have been smoother, the laptop would have been best. But there was something about scratching a pen across the rough surface of the paper, which reminded of the scholars and sages of ancient Bharat who wrote on palm leaf manuscripts, or inscribed their poetry on stone when they started to communicate through tangible mediums after several centuries of studying, teaching and practising the arts and sciences through verbal chants.
As I looked up to ask for the bill, I saw that another young woman had materialised at the cash counter. She looked away when I caught her watching me. There was something familiar about her thoughtful expression, which suggested a story. The story of a cashier in a near-empty cafe on a Sunday evening in a little Himalayan town. It must be an interesting story, I thought as I paid and made my way to the famous restaurant.
Later that evening, I was taken aback to see her face on my social media feed. At least it was a spitting image of her face, with the same expression in her eyes, calm and yet apprehensive. Except that this face looked out from a Roman painting dated to circa 1 BC from the villa of the mysteries in Pompeii.
The sense of interconnectedness of all humanity comes through when one considers that we are all main characters living in and writing our own stories.