The Beautiful Indians
(observations over dinner)

Part I

I was doing my habitual Friday night thing. Occupying the usual table in Sri Ananda Bahwan Indian restaurant along the Jalan Tanjong Bungah, waiting for my favourite meal, chicken hariyali kebab, aloo gobi, two garlic naan’s and a tall glass of iced tea. I was alone, having a Friday evening date with my book, titled, The Sympathizer. Great company, since my favorite woman wasn’t with me. She doesn’t live in Malaysia.
Before the meal arrived, I took my eyes off the pages, to survey the people in the restaurant, and the family directly in front of me, caught my eye. They were four Indians. Husband and wife. Son and daughter. The father and his son faced my way. His wife and daughter had their backs to me. I guessed the adults were in their mid 30’s, the kids under 10. They were beautiful to look at. Arresting to watch. Eye catching indeed.
My attention bias was towards the wife. I couldn’t see her face properly, merely getting glimpses as she turned sideways to talk to her daughter, but her profile suggested she was attractive. I liked her thick black hair, a little wild and ruffled, tied back in a clasp. She sat upright with a tapered back, had slender arms, and rested on a shapely yet firm butt. Frustrated I purposely walked outside to my bike, feigning a key check, just so I could walk back to my table and look at her more carefully. She was foxy alright.
Their daughter I guessed was 10 and possessed her Mothers beauty. With her cropped, silky black hair, tufting out a bit around her ears and the back of her neck, with a fringe and sides framing her pretty face and toothy grin, her cheeky animated boyish ways and gangly frame, had me think of Mowgli in Jungle book. Her effervescence was a joy to watch. She pulled little rabbit ears with her fingers behind Mum’s head when she was distracted, much to the amusement of little brother, all the while Dad pretended not to notice.
Her brother, a few years junior, dressed in matching orange, had big bright eyes, thick eyebrows and long eye lashes. He was a good looking boy, and almost, but not quite, as boisterous as his sister. Dad meanwhile sat scooping handfuls of rice into his mouth with his right hand, looking content yet bashful, certainly not gloating over his beautiful family. He had a calm, protective, attentive yet unassuming demeanor. His shaven head and 5 o’clock shadow gave him a rugged swarthy appearance. They were a good looking couple. All of them together, a picture of family bliss I thought, as they talked and laughed and looked at each other intensely. It was evident they were genuinely happy. In unison. Altogether in the moment. Engaged with each other. They were a joy to observe. There was not a smart phone on the table.

My food arrived. I tucked in.

And then my attention shifted to a Chinese family sat at a table to their left. Again four of them, but this time teenage kids.
They sat motionless, speechless, with pale, waxen expressionless faces, staring blankly at their phones. They were by comparison to the Indians a depressing sight. A table of zombified humans allowing their very existence to take a back seat to an on-screen reality that is not their reality at all. Merely squandering their lives flicking past photos and videos of other peoples lives. Of other people’s content about other people’s content.
What a travesty
I thought as a slurped on a spoonful of aloo gobi. There’s was no fun in watching the living dead so I let my attention slip back to the beautiful Indians.

Part II

Then in walked the Europeans.
A man with a troop of 7 kids. He had a youthful boy scout leader look, his fair hair pulled into a pony tail. From his appearance one might think he was 35 but from the age of his eldest I guessed he was probably closer to 45.
I studied the faces of the children and given they all looked similar to him I guessed they must all be his. The eldest probably 15, the youngest, 7. There was something about their pale complexions which suggested to me they were Scandinavians. Humans who don’t spend much time in the sun. Possibly this was their first day in Malaysia and they’d wandered in from the hotel across the road.
I wondered whether the absence of their mother might be that she’d exhaled her last breath upon delivering the 7th child. What a tribe I thought. He looked out of kilter with no woman beside him.
They sat at the table to my left, with double bench seating like mine. In two rows. 4 either side. They began to study the menus.
The youngest kid, a boy, soon got up and began running around the table giggling, pulling his coat hood over his head. It was only a matter of time I thought before this hyperactive child connects badly with one of the upright pillars supporting the restaurant roof.
He reminded me of a classmate at primary school, who would regularly do odd things, like stand in the middle of the playground and scream his head off for the duration of break time. So while this one ran around blinded by his hoodie, the parent and siblings ignored him.
But not the two beautiful Indian children. They were transfixed by his antics.
The daughter, her head turned left and right back and forth, while she watched the raucous boy, and passed her observations back to Mum. Her brother was grinning and tugging at his father’s arm, urging him to look. Both Mum and Dad, showing Asian reserve and respect were not going to get drawn into gawking at the Europeans.
Then the silly boy ran into a post, and let out a wail.
The little Indians seemed briefly perplexed by this incident, and looked away, while the Scandic siblings took no notice of his cries at all. Dad calmly stood up, and led the tearful child back to the table. I think they’d all seen his falls, bumps and scrapes before.
While the Europeans ordered meals, the Indian family had wrapped up theirs. The zany kid was soon back up dancing around the tables, only this time the two little Indians decided to join him. They began to jest with the hooded, unseeing pale faced juvenile, playing hide n seek with him from behind the pillars. It was interesting to note the dynamics between the two tables, while the two beautiful Asians and the strange pale Scandic lad ran around them.
On my left where the Europeans, seemingly fixated by their menus and oblivious to everyone in the restaurant, including their half demented brother prancing about the place. Two of the older kids had their smart phones out but the rest were sort of engaged with each other. I say sort of, because there was an oddness about them. Hardly a smile, merely an indifferent demeanor hanging over them, like a cold Nordic winter.
The handsome Indian couple opposite by comparison emitted a warm and sunny radiance while they murmured to each other and glanced occasionally across to their two happy children. They presented to me a relaxed and contented manner and I could sense they were reluctant to be conspicuous in their pride in their cheerful children’s rather forward but respectful interaction with this unhinged white boy.
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