Amidst all the chaos in the cafeteria, a strained silence settled over the table in the corner where the team in question was seated. Their plates were filled yet untouched as they continued to stare at one of the two empty chairs in the table - one that was supposed to seat the gregarious ~G. Of course, the cynical ~C was not present but nobody seemed to miss him. Fixed to the wall, close to where they were seated was a huge flat screen screening the match between India and Zimbabwe.
Just when the silence reached a crescendo and had to disseminate itself into a sound of some form, our equanimous ~E looked at every face - "Any news from G? are his parents OK". Officious ~O immediately placed on the table the entire history including the demographic details of the disaster, the precarious location of ~G's home in chennai, the lack of any news either from his parents or from any of his relatives and the restlessness that's plagued the otherwise composed G. Just as he was about to read the epilogue of his detailed report, cynical ~C landed on the table, wished everyone a good lunch and started nibbling his food. Everyone in the table incredulously looked at him as if he lacked even the most basic of empathy.Discreet Ms.~D whispered her anguish into the evil eyed ~E's ears and by the look in their faces, you could see that they weren't too happy.
Our balanced ~B took the chance to ease the tension by explaining how one of his friends had been to Andaman for his honeymoon and had a really close shave with the tsunami, spotting the rising waves from his resort chipping in a second-person account on the ferocity of the calamity. The Academic ~A, who incidentally had done his masters in geology, interjected on how islands are inherently dangerous anyday and thanked everyone's stars that it happened in an ocean "Had it been inland, for something as intense as 8.9, the whole of india must now be in ruins". Of course, no one believed him but didn't dare challenge his learned opinions. Just when an uncomfortable silence was about land on the table, our usually-reserved, religious ~R chipped in, in an almost unintelligible gibberish, that the whole thing is probably because the head of the state, some fat lady who's name he couldn't recollect, had defied the sacrosanct sanctity of a mutt, the house of god, and jailed a saint. "Of course, nature is just a way of expression of the omnipotent!". "Now, don't start this nonsense" snapped C, who had been enjoying his lunch till then staring at everyone else's untouched plates. "What did guys in maldives and indonesia know about this saint of yours. they don't even know to spell his name". This was just too much to take for evil eyed ~E who had been keeping her anger at C's inhuman behaviour in wraps for a long time. "He believes in it ok. And you have no right to judge someone's belief. Look at you, acting as if you are sitting in someone's marriage".
"~E, it's not that I am taking it any lightly. Just that I understand that me abstaining from food is not going to affect the fate of ~G's parents. I am sure they are going to be fine and are quite far from the effects of your morsels of rice" he winked. She didn't find it the least bit funny. "You will realize when such things happen to you". Just as ~C was about to retort, they could spot ~G entering the cafeteria as if out of a cinema hall. He waved at them, didn't bother to take a plate, just filled a cup of coke and started walking towards them, eyes fixed on the TV, whistling a tune that was lost in the chaos in the room. Just as he reached the table, his expression changed to one of grave shock as he looked at the screen and then at his colleagues seated in the table.
"Did you see that! 130 in the 30th over. If bangaladesh could do this to India, where's our team heading to!"
~E was the first to enquire about ~G's parents. "Oh they are fine. Seems they suddenly decided to go to Tirupathi without informing anyone. They reached only today morning. Everything is fine including my brand new playstation. They were giving me all this shit about how Venkatachalapathy saved their lives. look .. look at that cover drive!".
A couple of eyes immediately shifted to the screen while ~E and ~A started discussing what relief measures were initiated in the company to help the needy. Evil eyed, ~E and discreet, ~D went onto blame the guys for their addiction to cricket and moved onto what happened to their leading ladies in last night soaps. ~C finished his lunch comfortably and asked ~G for details of damage in Chennai. ~G apparently didn't bother and was relieved that his parents were fine.
They finally finished lunch and were on their way out when they spotted a box where donations could be dropped as slips of papers with one's signature and the cash amount. ~R and ~O didn't even turn, ~A and ~B found the queue too long, ~D knew someone in the redcross whom she had promised to help, ~E didn't want to trust the company wondering how many of them were forging others signatures in the queue, ~G was still on the phone making plans for new year's eve ... right at the end of the queue was ~C smiling cynically at his colleagues walking off the doors and disappearing out of sight ... just like their concern and resolve.