I feel like you should know that while writing this column, I was not wearing any pants. That’s because I often use an ancient writing technique known as ‘working from home’, which is also what Rahul Gandhi must feel like every time he’s in Parliament. (Although he must keep his pants on at all times, unless there is a secret deal with the DMK that stipulates otherwise)
However, this work-from-home business gets weird after a while, especially when I start hearing voices in my head, all of which are telling me to go shower. That’s when it’s time to head to the refuge most favoured by nomadic professionals – the coffee shop.
Except that there’s no damn coffee to be found.
OK, I’ll rephrase. I can’t seem to find coffee that tastes like the stuff I used to drink years ago, i.e. in the pre-coffee chain days, when people thought ‘Macchiato’ was some Punjabi swearword.
Over the years, I’ve tried to make my peace with the mud-flavoured bile they serve in coffee shops, simply because I need caffeine like Kamran Akmal needs catch practice. Without caffeine in my system, I’m just a life-sized paperweight (Like Sohail Khan, who also doubles up as a door-stopper)
But this means having to deal with a bunch of flavours and add-ons that I’m sure are intended as a ‘happy’ distraction, sort of like your stalker having the courtesy to wear your favourite cologne.
So there I am, in line at a coffee shop, with a deadline looming large and my brain functioning at the speed of Andheri traffic.
Me: *hnnnzzz* Want… coffee… I… do.
At this point, the Universe unleashes upon me an attendant with extraordinary morning cheer, the kind that is acceptable only if your mornings involve waking up next to Scarlett Johansson.
Attendant: Sir, what kind of coffee would you like? You should try out the Grande Muchas Frappacino Hazelnut Ethiopian Ninja Nitrate Mpumelelo Mbangwa Blend –
Me: Don’t you have regular coffee? Y’know, just coffee, milk, sugar…
Attendant: No Sir, but I’ll throw in some coca leaves picked by Columbian midgets and top it off with fresh cream derived from Angelina Jolie’s breast milk.
Me: Sigh. Yes, whatever. I’ll have that.
Attendant: Sir, what size do you want? It is coming in Small, Medium, Large, Extra-large and Holy Mother of God, What Are You A Buffalo?
Also, if there’s one thing that fuels creativity apart from caffeine, it’s food. The right food does wonders for the imagination. In fact, the great sculptor Michelangelo was inspired to create David after devouring a sausage platter. (However, as you can tell, the portions were quite small)
In that respect, one of my favourite writing haunts would have to be the erstwhile JATC at Bandra. It scored over most coffee shops simply because it offered options other than ‘chicken-flavoured rubber strip between two slices of sandpaper’.
Of course, now it has transformed into the fancy EATC, boasting of a lovely, gulag-style boundary wall, and a management that wouldn’t take kindly to writers sitting around for hours, refining their anatomy-based punchlines.
With no other options in sight, I guess coffee shops will continue to be my workplace for a while. So if you’re out at one, and notice a convict-type fellow hunched over a laptop, feel free to come up and say hello. In fact, get me a coffee while you’re at it. Home-made, please.
(Note: This is my HT column, dated 13th March 2011)