Resident Bohemian

I could not sleep well at nights. Every important thing was off of the to-do list, but things that stay at the back of your mind don’t really go away; you do not even have to put them on a list. It felt as if time was running out.

Stranger old man who had become my friend was sad when I was moving to a new town; he was sad that we would not be meeting again. I told him that I would be having a house-warming, and would invite him for that. It lit up his face like it would a child’s. He jotted down his name and number on a piece of paper quickly. That’s when I knew what his name was. He handed it to me and said that he would come all dressed up for the house-warming party. Cute.

The party never happened, and I never called him. It was always on my mind. Six months went past. A couple days ago, I took out the piece of paper he had given to me. I messaged him on the number reminding him who I was, in case he had forgotten. I apologized, and told him that I hoped he would give me a chance.

He called me and I came to know that he was not driving anymore. He had lost his sight in one eye after a routine operation. I did not mention a single of my problems, or the reason why I had not called him. There was no reason really. We decided to meet.

We met on the day the sun was out in full glory. It was melting all the heaps and mountains of snow around. There were puddles reflecting a lot of sunlight. I jumped, splashing. I ran, pranced. When I reached the place, I called him up. He was at the wrong place. He took a train, a bus, and reached the wrong town. In all the excitement, he bungled up. He apologized and said that he would make it to the right town. He took a bus, a cab, and we met at my favourite cafe.

The hugs and kisses felt like we were long-lost friends. We shared a lot of stories. He told me about the time Aerosmith was not even a band and used to practise alongside in the basement where he used to work as a 20-year old. He told me about the first girl he kissed and went on to marry and then divorce after five years. He told me how losing sight from an eye sucks, as an old man who has nothing much to do, and whose favourite thing in the world is reading. He told me about his daughter who works at a coffee shop. Then he asked me about me. He asked me if I had met anyone in these six months. I told him a little bit about what was happening, and that made him really sad. I told him not to worry, because I was happy and single-not-ready-to-mingle now. He laughed a lot and told me about how after he had his daughter he never had any relationship and how it liked it that way. Then we somehow reached the topic of smoking and he could not believe that I smoked. He said that he loved smoking a pipe and showed me his fine quality tobacco that was coffee-flavoured. He then told me about his daughter’s drug addiction and successful rehabilitation.

We then looked out at the beautiful day. He said that it was a harbinger of good things. I could not agree more. My best friend landed in the US today. She did not give me her flight details, and we had an argument. She did not want me to receive her at the airport. She wants me to go to her place and stay with her. Spring break is going to be with her. She had to say that she would slap me, to shut me up, as usual. She does not miss a chance to make me feel like a teen-aged idiot. My other best friend, well, I don’t miss a chance to make him feel like a teen-aged idiot. That probably is working though. He seems to be on track with things with his lady love.

My old friend is going to trace back his ancestry, and go to London this year. He then said something that completely changed the way I look at things. He told me that I inspire him. That he dabbled with a lot of things when he was young. Now, he wants to find a passion, and stick to it. He said that I made him think that way, and that he would not have otherwise thought of it. I had a lump in my throat, and I could not say much for some time. I told him that it meant a lot to me. You know, I am a lazy narcissist who does not care much about the people around. I just could not believe what he told me. Yet, it was humbling somehow.

When we left, he booked a cab for me to go to college. His friend came to pick me up. He told me that Bill was a nice guy. And that among the friends, they have a special name for him. It’s…

Spin-off

As a person, and as a writer of any class that I am, I have some quirks that I am content with, and some that I need to work on. I may write some day about those quirks, or about writing, but today I want to talk about a quirk in particular that I need to work on. The more I concentrate on my writing, the more I am getting aware of where I fall short. I also realize, that it is just a projection of my personality. My writing.

I need closures. Which can be a good thing. But with me it’s not so great somehow. I am not talking about “open to interpretation” stories. I love them. I love that the writer, or the creator of that art has given an opportunity to the watcher, to give it an ending/interpretation as they would like it. That is a closure in itself. It requires brilliant yet humble thinking. You do not want to overpower the audience with what you think. You want them to make their own choices. That’s how you watch the girl walking away with the sun setting in the background. You watch the guy take off in a plane. You watch an old lady sleeping on her soft pillow. You watch the old man trotting away with his stick. You know that these characters are content. They have got their closures, and you have got yours. So what’s the big deal?

I don’t start a painting that I cannot finish off the same day. Half-baked stories bother me; haunt me at nights. I am very comfortable with binning an idea that starts off brilliantly and then takes a weird turn. Also, very comfortable with ambiguity. Which are both good things. The problem lies with my patience. All the while I thought I was a patient person. But I have been apparently using my patience in all the wrong places. I need to be patient with my paintings, my writing. To let the story brew, and the characters mature. That’s only how I can become better.

Now about spin-off. I have just begun watching two spin-off shows – Joey, and Better Call Saul. I am really excited about these shows. Joey obviously did not turn out so well as Friends (according to raters), and Better Call Saul may never beat the success of Breaking Bad. That is beside the point. It’s about closures. Joey is more of a sequel, whereas Better Call Saul can not be even called a prequel. It’s more like a different story altogether. There are reasons why I am so glad that they happened, though. And not just because Joey and Saul happened to be my favourite characters in the show.

In Friends, they started off with these bunch of little dumb friends, who have no clue what’s happening with their lives – career and love life. They make mistakes, they learn stuff, they mature, and they become better versions of themselves. They all have found amazing jobs and/or the love of their life. That one person you want to spend the rest of your life with. You heave a sigh of relief. But what about Joey? He just accepts everything as a change. He has neither become a good actor (well, in the show, as Joey), nor found a soul mate. That’s a nice thing to have when you want to make the audience laugh. But that’s not how I want to see Joey grow old, in the guest house of Chandler and Monica. Nothing is left open to interpretation in Friends. Joey as a show, was needed.

Better Call Saul. I love him. But who the hell is Saul? Why is he the kind of lawyer he is? Why does he take the risks that he does? What’s in it for him? Nothing, if you go to see. He is just a nice guy who bends the rules. Why? I really needed an explanation to that. Breaking Bad gave an explanation to every fucking thing they put in there. Even if it was a sapling sitting on the window sill. But where did this guy, who later went on to save every good guy’s ass in there, come from? When he is so rich, why does he have columns and pillars made of thermocol or whatever in his office? Why is he so tacky? What’s the background? You cannot just get in a character and throw him out like he is some leech. Better Call Saul is a good salute to the character, I would say.

Let’s see how these stories get baked. In the meanwhile, I will work on my writing, for better stuff, and well-baked closures.

Chai Time

A small breakfast break from work is sometimes needed not so much for food, as much as for some change. Movement.

I ask for one spinach croissant. She asks, “Anything else?” I say, “Mmm..tai chi..tai…sorry. Chai tea.” Though I smile, I am irritated. Not because I got it wrong, but because “chai tea” is ridiculous. She asks me if I want it with spices et all. Oh yeah, that’s what chai tea is. The one with milk is chai latte. I say that I want it with milk.

I then give a voice to my irritation. I say, “Back home, chai means tea. It just comes with milk, and you tell them if you don’t want milk.” She laughs and agrees. She says, “Oh yes! It’s the same where I come from. Chai is tea.” She is from Iran. I chip in some more, “Calling it chai tea is funny. It’s like saying “chai” twice.” She widens her eyes, “Oh yes! I never thought about it!”

I get my chai tea latte or whatever. It’s not bad at all. Especially after drinking the tea from the coffee/tea machine. She starts explaining the chai tea thing to her friend. They look at me and smile. I really wish people knew better about tea. Right from how to make it.

1. Chai tea means tea “Indian” way, here in the US. But they seem to add more spices than an Indian would. Cinnamon? I would say “for God’s sake!” but I am not a believer. Also, if one wants to get it Indian way, one needs to add milk. Though India is diverse, tea is the same throughout India. You may find variations, but they are called by different names. Eg. Pink tea, namak wali chai (salty tea), etc. Normal tea can be prepared differently too, as per your liking – more spices, no spices, more boiling, only brewing, more water, more milk, etc.

2. Normal tea is either without any spices, or with just ginger and/or cardamom. Some people may add lemongrass during summers, but this is only in the hot regions, and quite uncommon.

3. People are not really crazy about flavoured tea. You add your own flavours if you want them.

4. Masala chai comes with more spices. You prepare masala at home, or buy it, and add it as you want. I have never liked masala tea. Also, a lot of chai puritans like me believe that only people who don’t know how to make a decent cup of tea add masala to it.

5. Tea is either brewed like British do it, or boiled. A lot of Indians get it all wrong. They over-boil it and make it extra sweet and a little bitter. A lot of other people get it wrong as well, when they think that they are letting it brew with the tea bag in the cup. The tea bag has no business in the stupid cup after a couple of minutes. You have to remove it and bin it before you start drinking it. That kind of brewing is just as wrong as boiling the tea for too long.

Here’s a simple recipe for some nice ginger tea:

One third water, or even less, as you like it. Add a spoon of sugar, or as you like it. Grate a really small piece of ginger. Keep on gas. Once it starts to boil, add a spoon of simple tea (not leaves, or flavoured one, but the black tea version). You got to make sure that this tea is for tea with milk. Once there is enough dark colour to the water, add whole milk. If you add hot milk, still better. And if the milk is fresh, nothing like it! You don’t need to boil it if the milk is already hot and you may just switch off the gas when the colour of the tea is the right amount of brown! Neither light nor too dark. Colour is what will determine the taste to a large extent. Strain.

If you ask me, English breakfast tea is pretty good for the above preparation too. But in that case, you add two tea bags in the end, after removing the entire boiling mixture off the stove. Once you reach the right colour, you remove the tea bags. Pretty please remove them.

Now drink it as you do nothing but look outside the window.

Love and Life

I talked to one of my closest friends after about 1.5 years. She has not been much happy in life. She told me never to get married, because marriage is all crap. We used to talk about life’s goals and a lot of other things, when together. She always used to say that she never really saw a goal in life, and went on with it, as it took her. She is amazingly talented and smart, and it broke me to see her like that. She was not married then. She finally gave in to the necessities of life as others deem it. Now, she has emerged out of it. She says she has a goal, and she knows what she wants. She asked me how life was, and I mis-typed – life is not easy, but it is easy. She really loved that line. I wanted to say – life is not easy, but I guess that’s the best part of life.

One of my other very close friends has told me almost the same thing – Never get married. Marriage is a sham.

My best friend got married recently. We used to say – boys will come, and boys will go, but you will always stay. Our relationship is rock solid. We are in boats sailing in the same current. We sit at the bank once in a while, to share stories. It’s been a while though.

My other best friend is in love, and I guess, lost too.

I talked to my family recently, and as I had expected, my bro broke the news about his girlfriend. My dad wants me to get married first. I told my dad that if he waited for me, my bro might never get married. I put it across very nicely though, so as not to exasperate him. I told him that he would be making my brother’s girlfriend wait too, and that would not be fair. She is really sweet, and I have met my bro’s ex-girlfriends. I had predicted his break-ups and been through his cry-baby turmoils, and this girl is really the best.

My roommate asks me to become a love cupid and wield some magic on the guy she likes. I tell her that I would not, even if I could do something stupid like that. She asks why. I ask her – have you watched The Arabian Nights? Sad thing is she never watched TV. Genie always used to tell Ali – fikar not, Ali! (Hindi for worry not, Ali). But three things that genie could never do were 1. Not kill anyone 2. Not bring back a dead to life 3. Not make anyone fall in love with him. Jasmine is hard-earned. So are his friends Genie, Iago, Kaalim, Abu.

Marriage in most probability got invented as an agreement to have a secure future, than as a sanctimonious beginning to love. People get married for all the wrong reasons. If I were to love someone, marrying or not marrying that person should not make a difference to me. Also, I should have the grace to accept only what is mine, or what I deserve. I have accepted what was not mine, many times before. I quit it afterwards. Every time. There’s just too much at stake.

That’s the thing about love. We think it works in mysterious ways. We think that it does not exist, and if it does it’s complex. The thing is, we want too much of love, and we forget all that we have around us. All we do is cause hurt. We see it where it does not exist. We miss it when it is right in front of us. We think that we need to be ready for it. We think that it can be controlled. It makes us do crazy things. It makes us jealous, free, happy, sad. It makes us do things we would never have imagined. It makes the heart squeeze out all the blood, it makes the hair on skin stand up. It makes the same skin callous. Love exists between a child and his father, between a brother and a sister, between friends, between lovers. It’s simple. You may plan all about your life. But you cannot plan shit about love.

The other day, while walking through aisles of star market, I saw some pretty plants. I decided to gift myself with a plant this valentine’s day. I saw the cheapest and the prettiest plant. I don’t know what it was but it looked like a bulb. Green long grass-like leaves and bulbous yellow flowers. I had set my heart on that.

I came home after 12 am today and started checking for my mails. I saw an abandoned plant right on top of the mail box. Believe it or not.

image

I got a green thumb. It’s half dead, but I am going to try my best to bring it back to life.