The Squirrel Chronicles – Part 1 by Shivani Bail

30 Jul

Shivani Bail

Presenting another offering in our series of guest columns. This one is by Shivani Bail, who will shortly be leaving to do a Masters Programme in Government at Pune. Her view of the café at Chamiers is from a different angle…

Living in a tree can get dangerous at times. Once, at a family gathering I dozed off while being lectured by my uncle on the virtue of being able to identify superior almonds and how with such a skill I was sure to find a perfect bridegroom, when I fell off my branch and almost knocked my dad into a bowl of spaghetti. Thankfully, my uncle is shortsighted. All I had to do was scamper back up and stand in front of him. He hadn’t noticed that I’d been missing for ten minutes and droned on ‘it isn’t enough to have bright eyes and a bushy tail, one must learn the art of gathering in order to be a responsible provider …’

Why I talk of trees is because I live in an almond tree overlooking a charming café where I get to see very interesting people everyday. I’m a squirrel. For the most part, my life is hassle free. As long as I finish my work in time, I can spend hours watching all the people who visit the café and the shop that adjoins it. Of all the people that visit, my favourites are the children. All they need is a few morsels to keep them active for hours.

Once there was this little girl, around 3 or 4 years old, who wanted the most exotic sounding thing on the menu. After the dish arrived she took one bite, took a large sip of water, dramatically patted her stomach and said ‘I’m stuffed’ after which she quickly slipped off her chair and disappeared to the rear of the café before her mother had time to notice her treachery and argue with her.

Even the older children are a delight to observe. When in their senior year at school, they meet up in groups and spend hours gossiping and laughing over a cup of tea or fries. Dressed in colourful clothes that seem to have been chosen with casual ease when in fact they have been decided upon after hours of deliberation. They never lose the shine in their eyes. Speaking to one of a time in their lives purely to be enjoyed. On one particular occasion, I had gone down to the lowest branch to be able to listen to what was being said at one particular table when the almond in my mouth slipped out and landed on a girl in an orange shirt. I was so embarrassed I ran away as fast as I could. Even amongst squirrels it is considered rude to drop ones breakfast on another’s head.

The adults do not escape my scrutiny. Although not as carefree as the children, they match them word for word in their colourful clothes and their laughter. In fact most often they talk about very interesting things. Of large ships from far off lands that carry thousands of people, of strange and exotic recipes, and of love lost and love gained. From my recent observations I learnt that a large ship had visited our city and had dropped anchor 2 miles off the port. Apparently the ships arrival wasn’t well received by many who felt it was a threat to the peace of our city. Invitees to a grand reception party got stranded ashore when the seas proved to be too turbulent for them to be ferried across. At least some of the crew came to the café and gave me some target practice for runaway almonds!

Everyone who comes to the café interests me. They each have a different story to tell. Some come to drown their sorrows in tea, others come to find peace, while still others come to talk their hearts out. All of them beautiful in their own way, all of them as much a part of the café as my almond tree and me.

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