7-The Café- Meanwhile

The Café was boarded up.  The adjoining bookshop was now in ruins. The shelves and the books were now ash. The revolution was already 2 days old and the men in the café were speculating the end. The Café was bustling as usual. It was filled with people who refused to “sit this one out”. There were ex-spies, military men, doctors, businessmen, theatre owners, writers and teachers.

On the table next to the country sat the owner and his oldest friend, room mate and now a college Professor. Both of them were too young for their achievements.

“Sorry to hear about the book shop,” and he turned to the patrons in The Café, “We can arrange for a small donation for the bookshop can’t we?”

affirmations streamed from the customers, a few raised their cups in unison and a few jumped on their chairs with excitement.

“Thanks man, I mean it. Janu, 2 cups of some Mocha for me and the Professor.” ordered the owner.

“Khwaja sahib, I am paying for the coffee today.” the Professor insisted.

“‘Tis OK man. It’s heart warming to see all the regulars in today. It means a lot. the only ones I don’t see are the German and the Doctor.” Khwaja Abdi turned around to check the chairs around him.

“Don’t know, you don’t suppose they fell victim to the revolution?” The Professor brushed his long black beard with his fingers.

“I don’t know. It hadn’t been as bad as it could’ve been. There are hardly any casualties, mostly just the injured and of course my book shop.” his hand clutched the hot cup with anger. The heat loosened it up again.

“What now, you’re going to abandon ship then, go back to Texas?” the Professor asked.

“By ‘go back’ you imply that I came from Texas. I didn’t, I went to Texas from here.” Khwaja retaliated.

“My apologies, I got the semantics of my sentence wrong.” The Professor apologized.

“OK, but no, I am not going to the U.S.”

“I am surprised you’re so firm even after loosing your bookshop.” The Professor was genuinely surprised.

“I have much to lose here, because I live here, the U.S is where I have a small part of my business, that too involves cafés and bookstores.” Khwaja pointed at The Professor while holding his cup.

“All this at FarAwayDowns, it’s sad but it was expected. I am surprised you know, most of the people used to support the Red Revolution that came in this country. Well ‘almost’ came. I remember when we were all younger, they would rally in favor of Communism. They were vocal, they sang about it, wrote poetry and even made a few films. I remember that Hameed Chaudry of The Consortium,  he would tear down the ruling party’s flag in processions. I remember his father, Dr. Saeed Chaudry, he wrote the poems that were sung at every procession. And
Saeed Chaudry was a very active communist back in ’62 I think.  I for one liked them even if I was not into communism. They had true grit in their literature and their approach. Most of the people who own the factories today are in some way linked to those people who were a part of the Red Revolution. ” The Professor tabled his resolution. The café went silent. Most of the people in their had also taken to the streets in favor of the Workers’ Revolt of  2000. A revolt many current factory owners and company CEO’s joined as students.

“I remember the day. When you and I were in college, I belonged to the pro-American camp because of my father and relatives there, ” and he begun to laugh, “I was one of the minorities back then.”

“Abidi, what changed these men? They even went to jail for the Communist Cause back then. Why are they pressing on the workers now?” The Professor noticed that most of the patron of The Café were eavesdropping on their conversation. He turned back and repeated his question to his audience. He got many answers all of them made some sense.

“Hypocrites, all of them.” said someone.

“Money blinds and erases all ideology.” came another voice.

“The ideology died with the Soviet Republic.” came another calculated answer.

“They are lost souls, always yearning to belong.”

“That’s right, trying to belong to anything but this soil.” affirmed another angry voice.

“First it was communism, now it’s extreme liberalism what is there for us in the future?” the ideas from the café were getting angrier and angrier. The men in the café were also a part of the revolution, as it occurred to Khwaja Aabidi and The Professor, only their involvement was on an intellectual level. They wondered what troubled these learned men who were well into the retirement and who were somehow immune from the onslaught of the ruling upper-class. Most of them were in fact a part of the upper class. Most of them had also been a part of futile attempts at change. The only thing that was different about them was that they held on to ideology.

“They are idiots you know, they stood by Soviet atrocities all their lives, now they are up against everything Islamic and call it ‘extremism’,  pretending to be so pious and righteous!” came another angry comment.

The debate that The Professor had started incited their minds. The people who had gathered in solidarity to The Cafe had now turned against The Consortium too.

“They are right, I don’t blame the people who set my bookshop on fire, its ignorance, and they were kept in ignorance by them!” Khwaja pointed to the smoke stacks which for the first time since inception were not throwing out any smoke.

“This revolution needs a direction!” said a retired Colonel as he stood up, ” We wont sit it out!” he stormed out of The Café, a few of the men followed. Most however sat there discussing the vice of the establishment of the communists turned capitalists. Khwaja called the waiter and instructed him to clear his table.

“We’re going on a revolution.” he said calmly as The Professor finished his coffee.

The men who started speculating the end were now ready to be a part of it. What did they hate more? Savage treatment of the average worker, the blatant hypocracy, greed? Whatever it was they had an opportunity to vent their frustration and some weren’t going to miss the opportunity.


6 thoughts on “7-The Café- Meanwhile

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