Sunday, August 31, 2014

Where can I find Condoms?


I’m at the super-market talking to the sales-boy. It’s a huge store and I can’t find the item I’m searching for. He’s a young lad…tall and lanky. Tired eyes! Sleepy! I’ve just bunked office, and am gleefully enjoying an afternoon’s freedom-- window shopping, reading from books on display…and I can’t help but wonder at this boy’s situation. Does he enjoy this job? Does it fulfill him or crush his soul? What money does he take home every week or month? Where does he live, in this big mad city? Where is he from? Why is he sleepy? What motivates him…where does he drawn his inspiration to work, to live…and to talk to a customer amidst his never ending activity of dusting shampoo bottles and arranging them neatly in the aisles?

I would’ve been a bit sad thinking about him, long back, but now I’m plain curious and amused. Before I can think of drawing him into a casual conversation another young man walks up to the sales-boy and asks, ‘Where can I find condoms?’

 The sales-boy looks at me once, turns to that young man and points down the aisle. We both watch him stride down, look up and down the racks…and kneel down at the display of a variety of condom packets.

Maybe I’d have ignored him but two things happened. The young condom guy peered across and gestured, and a young girl half emerged from across a rack, looked at him with a smile, then suddenly looked at us—curious onlookers-- and her smile turned to an embarrassed look before her face disappeared. I turned to the sales-boy and saw a medley of expressions ….amusement, suppressed glee, shyness. The bored look had vanished.

Yupp…it’s shameless to watch a young couple purchase a packet of condoms in a super-market…but I’ve always been shameless in a wide variety of ways. And this lovely drama of a confident young man, his super shy girl and an amused store clerk….when again will I get to bloody witness it? To hell with decorum, I’m sticking around, pretending to be searching for something in the same aisle (prayer sticks!!!) and trying to be as invisible as possible while watching the super dynamics of this ‘tense’ situation.

The young man must be around 25…he tosses and turns the various packets, weighs his options, turns around every now and then, requesting his girl to walk over. She must be around 19 or 20. She’s faking anger, inching towards him trying to muster courage and overcome her inhibition, and the moment another customer walks nearby, she turns away, pretending to be searching for something else. The store-clerk dusts the bottles…his eyes towards this couple every now and then. What’s he thinking? What’s that curious expression on his face? And would he be bothered if these two were buying a bottle of shampoo? (Would I be there, voyuering the three if they were purchasing shampoo?)

The Young man gets up, walks over to his girl, and whispers something. Her face turns red. He’s within earshot and he says, a bit aloud, as if revolting at the shyness that’s evolved around condom-purchase--- ‘this one’s ribbed…and its for enhanced pleasure. The second one…its super slim…and they say, it’s also for enhanced pleasure. Eh??? Which one shall we choose?’ She smacks him with her bag and flees, while he laughs and follows her.

I’m smiling to myself without reason, at the checkout counter, recounting the whole episode—his assertion, her shyness, the store-clerk’s amusement. The couple are walking out of the store, hand in hand. A whole lot of thoughts are ready to gush in….the curiosity that’s always there around sexual expression and anything connected to it (condoms), who are these two—they didn't look married, and where will they consummate their passion, hiding away from prying eyes? Maybe he dragged his unwilling girl to the super-market, making this condom-purchase a nice little adventure in their evolving love story. Maybe, the weary store-clerk has a girl, working in the same store or elsewhere, and watching this small episode might have given him the muster to talk to his girl. Maybe maybe…and the young couple vanish out of the doors…she punching him and he evading her hits with a boisterous laughter.

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