Quit Playing It Already, Sam

by Ashish

Your author, keen student of social behavior that he is, rarely misses out on trends that pervade society today. He has not failed to notice, for example, the outbreak of lists that have taken over Facebook.

“36 apps that Julius Caesar would have wanted on his smartphone” for example, or “14 stains that my T-shirt acquired over the last weekend”. They fill my heart with never ending joy, these lists, and I often wake up in the middle of the night in cold, clammy sweats, fearing the waning of this joyous new thing in my life.

This is but one change in the modern, fast-paced society that we live in, of course. There are many such, tiny but ever so important, all striving to the utmost to imbibe in me a feeling of goodwill towards those kind souls who dream up these marvelous conveniences.

But of all these recent changes, the one that makes me makes me break out in a spell of prolonged giddiness, and positively gurgle with joy is this adorable practice that most restaurants have adopted, of playing music at ear splitting levels.

Gone are those days, these restaurants seem to be saying, when having a meal was also pleasantly complemented by conversation that fed the soul. What is the point of conversation, they seem to say with their techno-beats, when one can instead drown out all thoughts in one’s head by the simple expedient of playing hideously loud music.

These are, mind you, proper sit-down restaurants, not lounges or bars or pubs. These are places where one goes to carefully peruse the menu, choose dishes that herald a good meal, and then spend the wait in the company of close friends and family, chatting of this, that and the other.

Or that, at any rate, used to be the plan. Now, when you are guided to your table by your hostess, it is mostly by the usage of hand signals, for speaking is out of the question. You and your companions sit at your table in miserable quietude, listening to the unplanned offspring of Arabic music and techno wail on about something or the other. A waiter with more gel in his hair than existed on the planet in 1999 will eventually come up and watch you point at various items on the menu. He will nod importantly and return with items that were not even on the same page. Your larynx is worth more than the incorrect orders, and you’re past caring anyways, so you let it go.

You pay for your meal, the amount you fork out making your already sunny mood cheerier still, and leave, serenaded to the end by the incessant wailing that rings on in your ears until you sit in the car. At which point the radio jockeys take over, of course. It is a positive wonder that the suicide rate among restaurant-goers isn’t higher than whatever level it is at currently.

Which leads to ask the obvious questions, of course. Why? Why do all of them play music? Why must it all sound so wail-y? Why wear so much gel in your hair?

Maybe people want to listen to the music, I say to myself, as I chomp on the Perfect Punjabi Platter that I had NOT ordered. But then I cast a look around, and all I see are tables with faces as morosely quiet as the ones on my own. That cannot be it, then, I say to myself.

Perhaps it adds to the ambiance and the ‘feel’ of the place, I hypothesize next, as Hara Bhara Kababs appear in place of the Mutton Rogan Josh that I had planned on having. That cannot possibly be right, though. I admit my sense of aesthetics isn’t the best ever, but surely even I can see that all it does is provide for very virile seeds of migraine.

The only possible explanation, I finally decide as I dig into the Special Kids Jumbo Sundae, is that restaurants want  to make people leave the place as quickly as possible. That must be it, really. Rapid turnover.

And feeling quite pleased with my deductive powers, I finally leave the place, satisfied that at least some good has come from attending the local music concert that is disguised as a restaurant.

Given how much I like eating out, I may even end up liking the music that these restaurants play eventually. Don’t count on it, but it may just happen. And if ever you spot on Facebook a list along the lines of “43 Arabic Songs That Lend Themselves Admirably to Techno Remixes”… well, you can take it as given that the restaurants won.