It is little after ten in the morning. The early birds have left and the regulars have settled in. The café is quiet except for the usual sound of the espresso machine and a grand piano being played at the far end. There is discussion about Trump and the presidential election happening on one of the tables.  A charity event is being strategized on another. A few people sit huddled at an oblong table, fixated to their screens and typing away to glory. A group of women, in hiking gears, are engrossed in a late morning breakfast of croissants and latte while discussing all things in life. 

She enters though the large swinging doors of the café. The doors creak loudly, at the sound of which heads turn in union as if to welcome her. She is wearing a white sweater with denims, a beautiful turquoise silk scarf and a large tote bag on her shoulders. She quickly scan the café and identifies a seat for herself while placing the order. Everyone else pretends to get back to what they were doing while periodically watching her through the corner of their eyes. She is aware that she is being noticed. She is aware and slightly conscious as well, but she tries her best to conceal it. 

She grabs a spot on the oblong table and settles in with her large mug of coffee. She pulls out a macbook from her tote bag and rummages in the bag for something else. The table that was discussing the charity event is now talking softly, the discussion on Trump’s presidential endeavors has died, the women hikers are done with breakfast and the pianist has left the cafe. It is awkwardly silent in the café now. As she continues to search in the bag, the little sound it makes is audible to all. 

She looks up once in between her bag search because she knows she is still being watched or perhaps the sound is disturbing others. A girl at the table smiles at her, she smiles back. A gray haired man, gestures hello while trying to read the logo of the school on her mac book. She smiles back at him and returns to diving into the tote bag. Everyone else returns to trying hard again not to watch her. She finally finds her power cable, plugs it in, adjusts her scarf and begins to type something while being acutely aware that she is still being noticed. This is not new to her. The stares and the glances follow her wherever she goes. Most of the time they are unintentional and simply conditioned by the events happening around everyone, all around the world. 

She tugs on to a corner of her scarf, readjusts her hijab slightly and gets up to refill her coffee mug. 

In the days and times we live in, we are mostly respectful to other people’s choices. But there are times when we appear to be judgmental even when that is not intentional. The circumstances surrounding us condition us to act in a manner that could seem unwelcoming or biased. If not for the Hijab, the presence of the young lady would not even be noticed in the café. And those who were watching her were by no means being disrespectful or offensive but sometimes our mannerisms are greatly influenced by things beyond our control. 

Story By : Piya Mukherjee Kalra. Read more of her posts here