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Conversation With A Stranger


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“They put us lone diners in a corner”, I tell the lady sitting across the table from me while I wait for my Yasai Katsu curry. “Oh no”, she is quick to defend, “I asked to be sat here, away from the children.” I can see her point. Year ago, before I became a mum, whenever I used to travel long distance by train in India, if I found my compartment ridden with children, I would ask the ticket-examiner to move my seat to a quieter, child-free zone.

We exchange details of what we are eating and conversation invariably moves towards what we do with our days. She is an expert in antique natural pearls and works with a jeweller in London. “I play with beautiful things all day. I value them, restore them, some times even turn them into special pieces of jewellery”.

She loves what she does and has been with the company for almost three decades, commuting to London each day but doesn’t mind it as she gets to read and meditate in those hours.

My co-diner (for that is what she is now) asks me where I am from and remarks that for an Indian, I have a very Westernised face. She tells me about her love of India and her upcoming trip in March to Goa. She plans to go to Kerala from there. We talk about women’s issues, our diets (me 100% vegetarian to her 85%) and dining alone. She has finished her bowl of noodle soup in coconut broth and thanks me for my company.

She has to leave as she is off to watch Jools Holland and Friends (including K T Tunstall and Ruby Turner) at The Royal Albert Hall that evening. I finish my lunch, pay my bill and leave the restaurant singing “Well my heart knows me better than I know myself. So I’m gonna let it do all the talking.”

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