With an eminent bounce in my energy, I get up, get dressed and head out. The duo welcome me at the entrance. She looks sharp in her crisp white shirt, and he carelessly alert. Graciously, they find me a seemingly comfortable spot, away from the rest of the crowd. It doesn't take them much convincing for me to get dreamy eyed. The spread, the colors, the tang, the varieties, all too consuming. That mix fills the air in my brain and engages every cell. Almost instantly, I begin to calculate the permutations and combinations to accomplish the enormous task that lies ahead. There's a finite quota to fill with little room to expand. Should one of each be considered or should I leave the less appealing ones for the next round? And if I end up loving one or more from the first round, how will I accommodate it with the untried ones in the second round? Choices choices.
With slightly wobbly hands, I hold a thick white plate and put my decision making skills into high gear. Being a vegetarian, half the options attractively laid out on the Indian Buffet stand are of no use to me thereby making it easier on the conclusion. A small serving of saag paneer rapidly spreads itself out on the plate like lava and takes over a significant area. I squeeze in chole, pakora kadhi, dal makhani and aloo bhindi with no aesthetic arrangement whatsoever. I look at the plate through the corner of my eye and it looks ready to induce a heart attack. I ignore that threat and the very creamy matar paneer and walk towards the Salad stand to pick a few slices of red onion. The greens on that stand make a mockery of me but I ignore that as well. Firm pink sliced strawberries catch my attention and happily I reach out to them. Identifying the color of my plate has become quite a challenge at this point and all I can do is switch off my brain much like the process of watching a signature David Dhawan film. I begin to walk towards my chair which I honestly wish had dark curtains hung from the ceiling on all four sides so I could hide whilst I indulge but an unknown overpowering feeling makes me take a u-turn. I watch in helplessness as my right hand pours some matar paneer on those innocent little strawberries for lack of any available spots on my plate and instead of chocolate covered ones, I now have gravy covered ones. I walk in shame and take my seat not looking up even once.
Before I could even settle down on my table, the skinny girl who looks like she could be surviving just on those tiny peas from matar paneer appears out of nowhere with my drink and a plate full of steaming crisp garlic sprinkled naans and puts them on my table. I half smile instead of verbally thanking her and avoid eye contact but I know I've been exposed. She's seen my plate and already judged me in one fleeting second. I've probably been categorized as "one of those" in her minds. One of those who take the expression and their offer of "all you can eat" at face value. One of those who probably skip dinner the previous night and wear loose pants so they could shove all that rich food down their throats like there's no tomorrow. One of those greedy souls who eat until they explode putting aside one dirty plate after another. One of those who act all urban and polished at work but let their uncivilized sides out when tons of food is in sight. Honestly I think she's got a wrong sense of judgment because I don't belong to either category. I'm usually on some crappy no-grain, no-oil, no-sugar diet and couldn't care less about the food she has to offer but like any other social being, dine in heaven once in a while with family and friends around on special occasions. I feel like getting up and giving her an explanation but she's already walked off to munch on some more peas or make more people fat.
For lack of viable options, I do what everyone else in that distastefully decorated 30x40 feet room with colorful chunris, taj mahal paintings and tiny LED lights adorning the walls is doing. Keeping their heads down and eating. I finish what I can and get up to treat myself with some desert. What's another 1000 calories when you've already had 4000 in the past 30 minutes? I feel gross at the end of it all and vow never to eat another buffet until I've celebrated the year end. But we'll see. Bon appétit.