I don’t know why this happens all the time.
It appears to me that sometimes, the entire cosmos brews a special conspiracy so that I hear all kinds of stories, even those that I don’t like.
Why can’t I peacefully sip my coffee in a Starbucks? Why do my ears, pretty much like a dog, eavesdrop on everything I hear? And why on earth, do all these hobnobbing teenagers, complaining about their love life happen to sit adjacent to me.
Every f*****g time that I go to a Starbucks or a KFC or a CCD, I am surrounded by people who aren’t happy - either their girlfriend or boyfriend is breaking up with them or it's a post break up meet up or there’s something else that has transpired. Reasons fall short, but not their agony.
This makes me think – where are we, as a society, heading towards where no freaking adolescent is happy!
And for the youth – who are nothing but adolescents mired in the corporate web, with their energy being syphoned off by fat bellied carpetbaggers – the situation is even dire.
The youth of this country work for more than 60 hours a week, while their bosses, the so-called business masterminds, erect skyscrapers and call it a home for their family of three.
Injustice, inequality, and ambiguity scrutinize the mettle of this writer, who is falling short of words to describe his country's hypocrisy.
Look what this country has done to him! Think and think hard about it.
Meanwhile, I entered a Starbucks again. It’s Wednesday and I had three research articles to finish in office, but I decided to take the day off. The clock affixed above the entrance had just struck 11.
The city had picked up pace after a period of maniacal peak hour traffic. Cars and buses were moving faster, making the commute slightly easier.
But what was the reason for my untimely Starbucks visit? Well, it was for my unending love of story.
I cannot go to sleep, can’t eat or drink if I don’t write. Quoting Salman Rushdie – “If I could do anything but writing, I would have done that, but unfortunately I can’t.”
My life is more or less the same minus the talent that Sir Rushdie possesses.
I too happen to be an engineer turned author, which by the way is a very common phenomenon in India. Because here you become engineers first, then decide what you actually want to do. So, there were no surprises for me.
I studied science after high school, toiled hard in those scams called coaching centres, managed to get a decent rank in the national entrance examination, and secured a seat in a premier college.
As soon as I joined college, I realized that engineering wasn’t my thing.
So I began to ponder, what was my real calling? And after thorough contemplation, I recognized that writing, which used to be my favourite pastime, of which I only have a faded memory - as my mind had then been galvanized by books like H C Verma, M L Khanna, S L Looney, Halliday, and others - was pretty much my passion.
I did not remember much of what I had done in the seventh standard. But I did reckon my reticent self-writing a naive poem or a story. That was my eureka moment and I decided to pursue a career in writing.
Nevertheless, I completed my engineering, and then expressed my desire to my parents and boy, were they furious! My father thought it was an attack on his ego while my mother noticed my gel clad hair and blamed hair gels for my mental aberration.
I was astonished at how a creative career is always belittled in a country that worships Bollywood actors.
“No one in our family has done anything like that. What is your worth as a writer? How are you going to feed yourself?” my father roared. Well, I am happy that my father was wrong that day and I did find a job in a magazine as an Assistant Editor and followed my writing journey.
I still work there, it has been three years, and within that time I published my debut novel – ‘A Story of Conflicts’.
Although it received a mild response, it pretty much satiated my quest of becoming a published author.
Just after my quite unsuccessful stint with ‘A Story of Conflicts’, my colleague Rishi suggested, “Why don’t you write a romance novel? They sell like hot potatoes.”
“I don’t have the elements to write a love story,” I sighed.
“Nobody actually does. Visit CCDs or Starbucks, and I am sure you will get a story idea,” he remarked.
Initially, I paid no heed to his comment but now, I can absolutely relate to it. But his words stayed with me and I started frequenting all the coffee joints and at times KFC because I love chicken.
I observed everyone but mostly heard crap. Nothing could excite my mind enough for a story.
And then I came across this couple, in their mid-twenties.
It was a Sunday afternoon and I was on my story hunt at a Starbucks when I saw them enter and sit on the table adjacent to mine. They ordered and the food was served. The facade of the guy changed every moment as he gorged on a burger.
They seemed to be a happy and content couple – a rare commodity, I must tell you.
But not for long as the girl said, “How long can I wait for you? I am a girl after all. My parents will pressurize me to get married.”
The guy seemed indifferent. He certainly didn’t construe what she was about to say next.
“My parents have already fixed my marriage. And I have capitulated,” the girl said. Horror surfaced on the guy’s face. He was stunned and unable to fathom how to react.
Anger, displeasure, exasperation, annoyance – which weapon should he unleash – he didn’t know.
“Are you nuts? How could you agree?” the guy scoffed. “How could you do that to me?”
“You promised me you’d get a promotion in two years and then cajole my dad for our marriage. Nothing of that sort had happened. You are still an average employee with no scope of promotion in another zillion years. How can I spend my life with such a loser?” she burst out.
“B****,” I mumbled under my breath.
“As if you have been promoted to CEO,” he quipped. “These things are not in my hand. Moreover, even if we get married, we won’t have much to worry about as both of us are working.”
“I don’t know anything. I am getting married next month. I came here today to break up with you. Find yourself a working wife!” she remarked sarcastically.
“B****,” I mumbled again.
All this while, the guy had been acting tough but he couldn't hide his vulnerability any longer.
His eyes brimmed with tears. He took out his handkerchief and wiped his eyes. The girl dashed out while he sobbed quietly for a while.
He dialled her number, and I eagerly tried to listen to the words being said at the other end. Finally, a deal was struck. They agreed to meet on Wednesday at 11 in the morning.
Having been a part of this daily soap-ish drama, it was a must for me to see it through the climax. Therefore, I was in Starbucks again. I spotted the dysfunctional couple and occupied a chair near them.
Surprisingly, there was a vibe of cheerfulness. Both of them were laughing.
The guy said, “I let you go because I love you,” and she looked at him with adulation.
I quote from the book Phil's-osophy by Phil Dunphy – "If you love someone, let him/her go unless it’s a tiger.” They broke into uncontrollable laughter again.
Never had I been astounded by a love story but this one surely did puzzle my grey matter.
I was taken aback by the indifference of this guy who had previously cried like a baby but was now enjoying the break-up.
The epiphany of writing about romance disappeared in a split second.
“I have umpteen things to write about. A love story isn’t happening,” I muttered and decided to move out.
In the meantime, a neatly dressed Starbucks waiter came to me with a microphone in his hand. He started, “Today we are celebrating the 5th anniversary of this outlet. So we are playing a game.
You have to recollect your sweetest memory about this place and connect it with the phrase ‘And then Starbucks whispered’,” he handed over the mike.
Everyone’s gaze was on me.
“And then Starbucks whispered,” I caroled a few times and said, “Probably a love story.”