It was another usual grand outdoor party. It was just the right combination of warm and cold. Nobody was sweating, and everyone was wearing only one layer. At least the weather was pleasant.
Floating all around the party was the usual air of fake sophistication of people who’d want nothing more than to go crazy and di stupid stuff. But they didn’t. Because it wasn’t expected of them and also because it was unseemly. So naturally, whenever they saw an unrestrained soul. They were usually taken aback in equal parts shock, horror, discomfort and longing.
They couldn’t believe their eyes or ears and tried to disprove their heart when they saw somebody smiling heartedly, or having a hearty laugh, simply enjoying themselves with no pretence.
At this party, there was this huge magnificent beast of a man, whom you’d see from afar and prejudge him to be one of the most solemn, grim men to pace the Earth. A bulking 6’2, beat hair and beard. You’d expect him to shoot you a look if you so much as made a joke around him. A proper grown up, in terms of the air of false sophistication possible for a person. Somehow, we just couldn’t be more wrong.
There he was, talking like it was the single foremost and greatest pleasures in life. He had a glass of coke in his hand, which spent more time in the company of other people, because that man was too busy jumping around and waving his hands in the air and making everybody laugh. He said the craziest and most random of things. There was one man, trying to make banal small talk and try to show how popular and well connected he was, went up to this structure of incredible energy and said, “I think I’ve seen you somewhere. Now where was it?” He tried to act important and that structure responded, “I think I know where. I do a lot of hard-core gay porn movies.” The man was taken aback. “Always a pleasure to meet a fan. Can I interest you in an autograph?”
I was standing a couple of feet away from where this happened. Everybody there downright lost it, and started curling their mouths inwards to stop their imminent bursts of laughter. The more shameless like me walked away and let out our bursts.
Mind you, this is a party where people thought laughing except a fake and low one meant you were uncivilised. So, this is how people lost it.
I was standing next to the man again after some time. He was speaking about this book, “The Fault in Our Stars”, a novel by John Greene. The way he spoke about it, with so much passion and love. I couldn’t remember the last time I talked about anything like this. I simply remembered talking as a means to an end. A forced activity to pass the day till I could enjoy some silence and quiet. Had I, and most of us here, forgotten what the art of talking?
What struck me most about this man was his almost infinite quota of energy. He just wouldn’t settle down. It should be illegal for anybody to possess so much energy. Then again, I think all his energy came from the simple fact that maybe he didn’t need to expend any energy in trying to be sophisticated.
I actually want to go up to this man, and talk to him. But a certain fear has gripped me. I don’t know what it is, but it is pretty strong. I’m obsessing about whether I should go or not. Or you know what, maybe he’ll come here for a drink and then I can casually start a conversation like, “Hey! What’s up?” That should work right?
Great. Now I’m obsessing how to talk to a guy who literally talks all the time. I’m like, that awkward little boy again who never spoke to his crush in high school because she was the popular one and he was always intimidated.
Okay. This is getting way out of hand now, this guy is awesome and everything, but it’s not worth fretting my sexuality over. I’ll just take my drink and sit down on this lonesome looking chair. The next few minutes I thought of myself and forgot all about that man.
It’s so weird, to see something like him. Like this weird prank he did. He fake yawned and on purpose, hit the guy next to him with his elbow when going to cover his mouth, then, he acted like it was a mistake. He made it obvious it was a joke and didn’t even mask the humor. Then, he hit another person while he said the sorry when he took his other elbow backwards. Within a minute, everyone had lightened up and was laughing, or simply smiling heartedly.
This man had this mystical ability to make anything comic. Eve between his passionate tirades, he let in a quip to make you smile. He wasn’t a comedian, but he had the heart of one.
I came out laughing when I thought about it and then saw him. The man, flesh and bones sitting diagonally in front of me. I was like, Wow! This was my shot. SO I mustered up all my courage, pushed down any feelings of latent homosexuality I may have had, and just said, “Dude! You are crazy awesome!” Crazy Awesome. A phrase I never thought I would ever use in my life.
He turned around, all stiff and solemn, his coke in his hand. He looks me in the eye and says, “You talkin to me?” In a crazy western accent. I was a bit taken aback. All I did was let out a little uhhhh and then he said it again. “You talkin to me?” A completely different, heavier tone this time. I gulped.
“Yeah,” I said meekly and awkwardly.
In a heartbeat, all of a sudden, he dropped the whole act, turned sideways to face me better and said, “Cool man. What’s up? “I let out an incredulous laugh at his charade. He had a knowing smile. Just like that, I realised he had lightened me up.
“Seriously man, you’re insane,” I said while laughing. He let out a laugh himself. “Thanks,” he said.
“No really. I mean, you’re a breath of fresh air,” I said with so much excitement at seeing such a person.
He laughed. “Thank you again.” He was almost shy when he said it. Humble like almost.
I didn’t get it. Here he was, somebody who did what he loved, who obviously didn’t care how he was perceived. Here he was, being somebody everybody in parts wanted to be like, and he had no streak of arrogance at all.
“How often is it, you come to a party and see somebody jumping around like crazy? Answer that question and you just might feel how I feel,” I continued then paused for his answer.
“Well, everyone I’ve been to,” he said with his coke glass raised and a smile.
It was a second before I got the joke. He smiled and waited for me to get it and then we both laughed.
“Why does the fact that there aren’t people jumping around at parties tick you off?” He asked me with concern. Like he genuinely cared about it.
“Well, because, you know. Ever since birth, you’ve always been told not to do certain things. At parties, at other people’s house. No matter how much you wanted. And if you did it by mistake, you would be reprimanded whenever your parents caught you alone. I mean, so many people here want to laugh and tell jokes and not fake laugh. But can’t do it, because it’s not the proper thing to do.”
“What is the proper thing to do?” He swiftly cut me in between. There was a pause in which I looked up at him. “The only proper thing to do is what you feel you want to do. Anything else is the improper thing to do.”
It made sense.
“You’ll realise that when you do the proper thing, the right thing as I call it, you’ll do it for much longer, with more energy and more zeal. Simply because, it comes from right here and you feel like doing it.” He pointed to his heat as he said that. I could feel his talking coming from the heart, otherwise he wouldn’t be talking like this. “And it’s not only about doing what you love. It’s also learning what to do it while still being kind and respectful to other people.”
“Yeah,” I replied. “That’s why nobody loves parties like these, except little kids. Because we are conscious and act so much energy trying to act a certain way’ kids never have to, because they’re excused because they’re kids. We get bored. Because we aren’t doing it from the heart. We realise we could be at home doing something we actually love. That comes from right here,” I pointed to my heart.
“Precisely. All this conditioning. To act, speak, walk a certain way. To be a certain way. To live life a certain way. It all comes from right here,” he pointed to his head. “But we can’t fault our parents or anybody else for that either,”
There was no hate or indignation in his voice. Instead, I found a slight hint of understanding there. A keen understanding and acceptance for why we were conditioned. “It’s because we aim to be better. But without ever knowing it, it’s ingrained in us to be better because of the fear that if we aren’t good, we’ll be left behind.”
He has me hooked. Something in there made sense. Something felt similar, like my mom who always told me to study more otherwise I would be a stupid and not smart.
“We’re told to study more, get better marks. Because if we don’t, we’re termed as failures. So we study not because we love it and want to be better. We do it because we’re afraid of being left behind. Just like this party. We’re all acting a certain way, afraid to go crazy or act out of it in fear of how we might seem to a colleague or a superior. If we act out of the streamlined way, we might not get the next big raise or the net big promotion. So, we act like this out of fear.” His voice changed, becoming more emphatic, as though he was about to make appoint. :We all become so accustomed to always not failing, we see ourselves as people trying to defeat failure, rather than as people wanting to get better.”
“Yeah,” I said as I had a moment of enlightenment. “Everyone wants to do better because they don’t want to fail.”
He shook his head with a smile and approval.
“But I still don’t get one thing,” I asked him.
“Hmmmm,” he responded, indicating me to ask the question.
“But how does it all add up? I mean, people being afraid of failure, and the ability to have fun at parties and what we do from the heart? And how do our parents come into this?”
He gave a knowing smile, as though he had been a recipient of such questions. “Because you see, when we’re not afraid of not failing all the time, we tend to not end up thinking about it. So you don’t expend any energy thinking about what how you might fail. So, you’re free to do anything with that energy you have. I want to joke around and have fun. While somebody else might just want to sit and have a great chat. Whereas somebody else may want to sit in a corner and observe the party. And someone else may want to leave the party and sit at home and read. But at the same time, while doing what you love, you must never shy away from doing new things. Who knows, that new thing could be another thing you end up loving! But you can do this only if you’re unconcerned with how you might seem or what people think about you.”
“And our parents were conditioned with a similar thinking, all of which they couldn’t shake off. So, some things they shook off. The ones they couldn’t, they passed down to us.” I don’t know how I reached that conclusion as I cut him in between. ”They believed telling us to behave a certain way, to get better marks were the right things to do,” he responded.
“Cant’ blame that,” Isa di as I raised my glass. “To parents. Who always try their best!”
“Here here!” He responded, raising his glass of coke. Diet, on closer inspection. “And to trying to do the right thing. What our heart tells us to do, without fear or restraint.”
He said that one with an entirely new accent.
“Aye,” I responded.
He gave an accepting smile, making a pug like face, pushing his face downwards and lips upwards and nodding his head. “I approve. Cheers!” And then we drank from our glasses.
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Published by Shrey Ahuja