I’m talking about a long ago India here, and I have no idea whether this exists anymore. Eating out alone in the US is not a big deal, indeed it is the culturally acceptable norm. It is perfectly okay to sit and eat alone at some place- in fact, it is expected in some of the café/bakery sort of places. Where one can sit, eat, ruminate, read, write or Internet surf endlessly. And nobody will blink an eyelid.
As I was eating my lunch today- alone, mind you- I recalled an incident that had occurred almost twelve years or so ago. Obviously, it still rankles, since that is one memory that I have never forgotten. Chinese (Indo-Chinese) food was new on the Indian horizon at that time and I absolutely loved it. There was this one Chinese place near my undergrad school that we would often visit, named Golden Dragon (what else!). Once, I was craving that particular place, food and taste so badly that I just could not stop myself and decided to go there without further delay. Most of my friends were out of town, so I went alone.
I sat there and ate the most wonderfully unhealthy MSG laden vegetarian hot-and-sour soup and Manchurian (dishes that nobody in China has ever heard of). I suddenly heard a really snarky voice at my adjacent table say loudly … “mujhe pata nahi log baahar akele kaise khaa lete hain” (I don’t understand how people can eat out alone). Spoken out loudly enough to make sure I heard. I still remember the disdain in that voice.
I’ve never forgotten that incident. Almost every time I eat out alone, I recall this. I wonder what was going on in that person’s mind as he said this. I wish I had said something. I wish I had not been hurt. I wish I could meet him again and give him a resounding slap! I was just satisfying a primal urge- to eat some delicious food that I was craving. I wish I had not felt bad about doing this one thing I wanted to do for myself.