Please Call Again Later

“Your call is waiting…the person you are trying to reach is speaking to someone else…”

I have heard this recorded voice so  many times over the years that it’s almost as if I have formed a strange kinship with the woman saying it. I saw her today, in a little cafe. No, I didn’t recognize her by how she looks. But by her inimitable voice as she ordered a coffee. And I think, a sandwich.

So many times I have found the line busy, her voice my only companion. So many times, as I heard her repeat the same lines over and over, I have thought of her. Wondered how she looked. What she liked eating. Who all were there in her family. So many times, being unable to reach my friends over the phone, I have poured out my heart to her. And only her. She seemed so distant. So nonjudgmental. So mechanically comforting.

And there she sat in front of me. Having a cup of coffee. Probably waiting for someone.

It was an early wintry morning in Calcutta. A slight drizzle, a bit of fog.

What I really wanted was to sit down with her over a cup of coffee. But she was on her phone, trying to call someone. Over and over. Not getting through.

What fun! She must have been hearing her own voice, over and over. Telling herself to wait. Like we all often say. Just that we don’t get to hear it in our own voice.

There was a slight drizzle outside, a bit of fog.

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