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Write Every Day

Vanilla bean yoghurt


Perched on my living room couch, a tub of vanilla bean yoghurt in hand, I realised how much my mid-day snacking habits have changed. I’m turning thirty-something this year. Geez! Has it been that long?

There was a time, and I kid you not, when slices of bread, pan-fried in butter, and a cup of hot milk was my go-to evening snack. Just good old white bread.

None of the bloated “millennial loaf” bullshit — no traces of gluten-free, non-GMO or hints of digestive seeds, which make one shit as if they were an ice-cream dispenser, were found.

Devoid of the Whole Foods luxury, back in India, we had good old “real” local bakeries. There was one in the market down the street from our place.

The bakery was always warm, smelled of freshly baked bread (duh!), hot potato patties, ketchup, water on bricks, biscuits in a gazillion varieties, flour and the smelly kids who’d stop by after school, still in their uniforms, for the hot patties and bottle of Thums Up.

How much I loved Thums Up. Oh, boy.

At the hint my mother planning a visit I’d run out the main door and position myself at the gate and look busy (as if expecting a package from the bank). Who was I fooling with the mustard-stained wife-beater top, torn shorts and flip-flops?

Not mom.

On arriving at the bakery in question, I’d point at goods in the glass cases and turn to mom for approval. “Mum! Let’s take some cookies with the chocolate in the middle, please.”

The gentleman behind the counter, sporting handlebar moustaches, on getting a nod from mom, placed a dozen cookies in a brown paper bag and handed it over to me with a big smile on his face.

Proud of my little victory, I’d carry the bag of cookies home as if it were a trophy I’d won for scoring well in art class. Yep, art class. I’d always run up ahead of mom and sneak two biscuits in my shorts.

They had pockets!

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Write Every Day

The lonely nose hair

Tell me you haven’t looked someone in the eye, noticed a single strand of hair poking out of their nose, and been a) sick to your stomach or b) made attempts to stare without getting caught or c) imagined not one but a hair flower. Nose hair extensions, anyone?

I don’t like to stick my nose in other people’s business but to let one’s hair down shouldn’t be taken literally. Sure, one could argue the merits of nose hair – they’re the first line of defence against bacteria and smelly farts.

By that token, the renegade strand dangling dangerously out of one’s nostrils echoes Tom Hanks (remember Apollo?) trying to save humanity from extinction.

It’s worse when the person in question appears well-groomed from afar and, BAM! You’re in for a rude shock once you lock square with them. Maintaining eye-contact at this point induces deep psychological, character and personality changing pain. Why do I suddenly feel the urge to clean my nose?

To be fair, in my mind’s eye, I see nostrils flaring, large volumes of air moving in and out of the nasal cavity (like Bullet trains from a tunnel) while a fruit fly is trying to escape the gravitational pull of the black holes. Yes, two of em.

Shaving your face? Doing your upper-lip? Scrutinizing the pores on your chin, post bath? Do humanity, or the likes of me, a favour and get a little tweezer action up them nostrils.

Give Tom Hank’s some respect, please.

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Write Every Day

Elevator pitch

In the nooks and crannies of a corporate workplace lurks awkward silence, small-talk (also the bane of my existence) and the half-ass smirk/smile one is subjected to while crossing paths in (carefully designed — very — narrow) corridors.

If you already haven’t pieced it together, the writer of this nugget works a corporate job. Nothing fancy about that, one would conclude. The struggle and temptation to make conversation ensue moments into your ride up the elevator.

Oh, look! There’s Timothy from accounting! You lock eyes, and just before you launch into a smile, he looks away. Sheesh, buddy! I thought we had a moment last week at the water cooler. I had to bear witness to your struggle of preparing an instant espresso, the whole 25 seconds of it.

Only inches away you spot the girl who farted in your cubicle while you had stepped away to meet Timothy in accounting — to confront him about his behaviour this morning. Your flatulence has gone a long way, madam.

And what about the over-friendly folk who can’t seem to take a hint — not sure when they’re going to bring up the Linkedin request they’ve sent you. Ah, no thank you. In this sea of pretence, one is expected to get their work done, on time.

Working from home, then?

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Write Every Day

Landing into bed

When you’re a morning person like myself, you commence your evening descent by 9 pm. Here’s how I mastered the art of landing into bed, turbulence free.

Taking off, early, is all about planning your night before. Daily rituals, people. I’d be a terrible Batman if you know what I mean.

As one nears towards the end of the night, take your foot off the gas and let your engines cool. I begin by eating the last meal by 7 pm, leaving room for a cup of tea. Coffee helps me wake up while tea relaxes my nerves.

I flood the room with Spotify tunes, read an article (on an arbitrary topic) and fool around in Photoshop (never Sketch). Minutes later I feel calm. With time the routine manifests into an autopilot response.

I switch into uniform, comprising of loose clothes (or was it “lose”) and rinse my eyes with cold water. Your final boarding call entails a cup of tea, bedside and any last-minute phone check-in on social media.

Time to join your doppelganger at the sink, young man.

Back? Once you’ve taxied off the runway (navigated back from the kitchen where you went to drop off the mug), you arrive at your gate (the bed). With the lights and screens off you’ve arrived at your final destination.

Sweet dreams, captain.

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Write Every Day

Brushing with your doppelgänger

I stepped up to the sink and there he was. The guy in the mirror. My doppelgänger. One wouldn’t describe their reflection as another being. Heck, I just did. Some might call this behaviour narcissistic. Let them.

And just like that I was able to write words and put a sentence together. Call this heroic or just an attempt to pat me on the back for starting to write for the millionth time.

Where were we? Right.

There I was, in the bathroom, holding my toothbrush in one hand and the faucet handle in the other. I turned the handle to hot and placed the bristles of my brush at the foot of the waterfall.

“You can soften the bristles if your gums feel sensitive,” my dentist added after finishing the seasonal cleaning job. Ah, the memory of being at the dentist. Don’t know why I get flashbacks every time I commence the process of brushing.

I lifted the brush and pressed my thumb against the bristles. Satisfied with the tenderness, I reached for the paste. This is no ordinary tube, honey. “DANT KANTI” is an ayurvedic paste I had flown in from the holy land — India.

Thanks, dad.

I squeezed out the magic formula onto my brush and paused to stare at it through my doppelganger’s eyes. Bit of a staring contest going on over here. I might as well be on a podium. Participation certificate, here we go.

The smell of this paste can only be compared to the likes of a trip to the Good Earth store at Khan Market. Oh, how much I love saying, “I told you so.”

A kick of dopamine (imagine SuperMario coin sound) later my pupils look dilated. Wow, seriously! Never imagined brushing was a sensual experience till I wrote about it.

I began with the right side of my mouth and slowly worked all the way around, applying a thin layer of paste across my teeth and gums. Building up a lather is nothing short of foreplay. The gentle art has taken me years of practice.

And now, repeat for the inside of your teeth. Don’t tell me you never tried this? Seriously? Get some tongue action in there. Careful not to trigger your gag reflex. Unless that’s your happy place (clears throat). Let the excess foam drip from your chin. Yeah! Just like that.

About thirty-five seconds later I stare back at my doppelganger with a big smile on my face. Satisfied with my work, I put the brush away. Only after rinsing it. I’m no animal, mister.

I prefer to rinse my mouth with warm water and gently dab my face with a towel (as if my chin was a breast full of milk). And it doesn’t end there. No — this isn’t amateur night.

I conclude my performance by flossing stubborn corners and rinsing off the debris with mouthwash. Carpe-fucking-diem baby! And, yes, I am single. Would you believe it even if I told you?

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Write Every Day

Her Secret

earth

“Why am I not surprised?” I said unperturbed by Andrea’s confession. “Did you and Jean hookup on a web cam?”

“Ha! You’re so funny, Dr. Hon!”

Andrea appeared amused. But I’m sure it was the wine.

“How did the two of you meet? Jean propose…”—”…did he?” I pressed.

“Okay, but tell me about the porn episode.”

“It was around the time I had wrapped my contract with Vanity Fair. I got a call from some ‘Ex’ ‘Vivid’ guys from LA.”

Andrea was up in her seat, waving both arms up in the air, animating her words.

“They wanted a brunette for an episode depicting a broker and buyer.”

“Like a house listing scene?” I asked.

“But I wasn’t interested becoming a…”—”so I declined.”

I knew, all along, Jean had his friend Vinny, an income tax lawyer from Vancouver, make the call. Vinny and Jean work together with clients in Asia.

Andrea was street smart, well spoken and one of the better writers I knew. But not for Jean, a hard-nosed negotiator, who reads people to the bone. She was an easy target and the love of his life.

Hell, no one could beat those odds.

Here’s the catch. You never know what Jean is going to do next. He’s serious about his work. But, this is his way out.

And, as you heard our conversation, he hasn’t told Andrea the truth, yet.

“Look at the time, it’s quarter past midnight.” I say it sounding like her annoyed older brother, “Let’s wrap up for the night.”

“You can either take the guest room upstairs or I can call you an Uber.”

“No! But you haven’t finished your story yet,” Andrea cribbed, “It’s the long weekend.”

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Write Every Day

Taking Flight

solipsistic

A WestJet flight descends from above and disappears into a concrete jungle. With it, recessing any solipsistic remoteness the city nurtured during day time.

Laying on a pool chair on my patio, washed in the evening hues, I was an audience to the view. Andrea nursed her sixth glass of Cabernet.

“Feeling fucking nostalgic,” I said.

She tilted her head towards me, lowered her chin and nodded. Without trying, she recoiled in one of her typical perched-on-a-Bauhaus-table-seducing-a-leather-bag poses. A handbag worth a year’s rent — a downtown apartment with parking and British neighbours.

Modelling for high-end fashion labels was everything Andrea didn’t want. A realisation she had early on in her short-lived career in fashion. And without ever speaking a word, we had come to an agreement — living out of a bag is impractical. Where’s the pretentious painting you bought at last year’s auction going to hang?

On a flight to Bali, Jean told me how our struggle was similar. A decade ago, we had moved to this city, not known a soul and pieced together our life like a Boeing’s engineer. One wing at a time.

We also learned the meticulous nuances of flight. From take off to roughing it out in turbulence, mastering the nimble art of kissing the tarmac. Landing at our destination was inevitable.

“I think it was a thousand rejection letters,” Andrea reminiscing her days living out of a loft. She shared it with 9 people and two dogs, meant for a family of 4.

Andrea had moved here with her then longtime boyfriend whom she left for an American guy. She was looking to score her first modelling gig. I brought only the essentials. A wireless Harmon Kardon speaker set, my MacBook and one thousand dollars. The path to becoming a writer seemed long and entertaining.

Unfettered by rejection, we kept moving forward. But people in Toronto were looking for very specific things. Doing our share of odd jobs we promised ourselves to not quit no matter the circumstances.

“Andrea is a resilient tank. I admire that about her.” Jean said taking a shot of whisky as he reclined in his first-class seat, all thanks to ‘clients’.

“Did Jean tell you about the time I got an offer for doing porn?” Andrea asked with eyes larger than usual.

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Write Every Day

The Back Room

progression

“I’m Jean, and you are…” with a tightly held back grin, the man introduced himself to me, while extending his right hand.

It was late, the long speeches were over, crowds of educational professionals and teachers had dispersed. We had made our way through a corridor, to a room, behind the stage — labelled ‘Media & Officials Only’.

In the room, at the time, were top-brass politicians, journalists, professors and lobbyists, like myself, there to discuss policy, business and education.

Putting my right hand forward, giving Jean’s hand a firm shake, I responded: “Hon, Dr Gul Hon” never dropping eye contact. Being an introvert I knew Jean wasn’t going to take me seriously had I flinched or showed any signs lacking social calibration.

“I’ve never heard that before. Are you Swedish?” Jean said drily.

“No, my father was Turkish and mother, American.”

Look at me, so eager to please and get validated by a man I hardly knew, I thought to myself. Jean was an Alpha male, with his deep baritone voice, muscular physique and chiselled face, dressed sharply in a bespoke grey suit.

In his deadpan looks, he was Brad Pitt meet Sean Connery and in conversation, spoke slowly, and had the wit of Russell Brand and Craig Ferguson.

“Are you gay for Jean?” Andrea, having finished 3 glasses of wine, commented, in her trademark poker-face. “For Jean, yeah!” sarcastically joining her little joke.

A regal air and dismissive attitude — typically found in billionaires I have met in the past — would fittingly describe Jean’s demeanour. Yet, his magnetism came from his ability to be approachable and humble despite the boldness.

I, heck anyone in the room, could tell you Jean only dated 10s or could have any man be gay for him. And, in a heterosexual variable, I wanted to be in on his radar.

Wanting some of the ‘Don Juan’ to brush off on me — to be cool and to date a 7 or 8 for once — I followed him around the room.

The President of ETF was ready to see a bunch of us and I followed Jean’s lead — walking closely behind, like a trained dog. I could smell cigars and scotch, and beautiful women who couldn’t keep their paws off of him.

“But, isn’t this way before the two of you ever met?” I asked Andrea, pausing the narrative. “Okay, hold that thought while I grab a drink for myself. You want another fill?”

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The Zipper Incident

swag

“What’s with the open fly Mr Salmon Pants?” he said while pointing towards my crotch. Like Houdini, this man had everyone’s eyes in the audience transfixed to my open fly, about to reveal his next trick.

“Jean would never miss an opportunity like that,” Andrea chimed in, only pausing briefly to add, “He’s always looking to make people laugh and be the centre of attention!”

It appeared as we had this all planned out from before and that I was in on the act. Like in the movie, The Prestige, starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman.

“Have you seen it?” I asked, pausing the story to take a bite out of my donut. Except it was nothing like that because no one was going to jump out, on this set, and yell “CUT!” to my saving grace.

I didn’t even know this man’s name or what he was doing at the convention. Yet, we were standing face to face, surrounded by elementary school teachers, puzzled over an open fly.

In the moment, I felt time slow down as I watched all the faces in the room locked to my crotch hoping for a surprise. I mean, were people expecting a rabbit to miraculously appear from my pants? Or have me pull out endless pieces of ribbon, as they continued to cheer and applaud, to their dismay?

Andrea lets out her first smile of the evening.

As I stood there, laughing awkwardly, embarrassed and confused — whether to restore my zipper’s dignity or to let the peep show continue, I realised something. Had I spent all evening “networking” oblivious to what my zipper’s metaphorical teeth had said?

But before I lost my window, I decided to do something quickly but at the same time shift the focus back to this man. I took a deep breath, and with both hands in place, ready to pull back my zip, I replied, “A teacher’s pet would know!” closing my fly shut.

To which laughter erupted and I had, for the first time, caught the man off guard. Little had I known, the zipper incident would bring us together that night. And Jean would go on to become one of my closest friends.

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Write Every Day

We Bonded Poolside

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I pour a glass of wine and go outside; there, on my patio, a beautiful woman lays peacefully reclined in a pool chair. The evening sun has set the mood to Instagram filter “Crema.”

On seeing me walk over, in her typical hungover husky voice, she asks, “Where’s my coffee?”

“Look, I know how much you detest caffeine after 6 pm,” to which she responds with deadpan silence, taking the glass of wine from my hand.

“I can’t believe your husband didn’t come over last night and, instead, sent you over, without ever having to introduce us.” But that’s Jean. He can send his wife accompanied by a letter written by hand and get away with it.

I snap my fingers and pretend to make an announcement, “Hello! Earth to Andrea,” “You’ve spaced out again.” She isn’t showing signs off life except for the occasional hand bringing the glass of wine to her lips.

All he wrote, in the middle, of the white piece of paper with an ink pen, are the words, “Andrea is in one of her moods today. Jean.”

He never fails to humour me. We have a code, and I guess he just trusts me with his favourite person. Jean has talked about Andrea at lengths on most of our flights to Asia. I know his wife like a person I’ve to know for decades because Jean’s storytelling is Noble Prize worthy.

“If I were you I wouldn’t gaze too long into the horizon — not the best time to get reacquainted with overly melodramatic, sad and nostalgic version of Andrea,” poking the alligator.

“How did you know that? Did Jean tell you? He’s such a dick sometimes, you know…” she responds coming out her long silence.

Oh, look at the time. It’s almost midnight.

Where were we? Oh, yeah. I had inched my way into the middle of the group; at arm’s length from this man. Now, stay with me on this because I’m not repeating myself — even if you beg and plead afterwards.

I know about the look, okay. No wine-induced puppy dog sparkle eyes, please.

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Write Every Day

Meeting Your Husband

Smug

Don’t tell me you never think about it — a cheat day sanctioned by your beloved husband himself. Doesn’t the thought turn you on, the slightest? He wouldn’t flag that behaviour, knowing his past antics, would he?

I remember meeting him for the first time in Toronto at a convention. We were attending a dinner organised by Elementary Teacher’s Federation, a union representing seventy-six thousand elementary school teachers.

Till date, I don’t know how the two of you got involved. You’re what I call a polar paradox — head meet heart. But, your husband is an eccentric character I have learned to admire and respect over time for his efforts pushing education reforms.

And, we both know, you’ve allowed him a free pass and put up with all his “secretaries” over the years. By the way, for a 32-year-old woman, you look astonishingly fit, despite your fetish for sugary treats. Are you still the CrossFit nerd I met a decade ago?

You haven’t said a word all morning. I’m little worried and beginning to think you’re only here because you want to find out what happened that night. Are you not convinced with your husband’s explanation of how the evening unfolded?

Okay, I will tell you my side, and you can decide for yourself.

That evening, Toronto’s teachers were, for the first time, actively lobbying to repeal the controversial Bill 115 and oust Stephen Harper in the coming federal elections on behalf of national labour groups.

Your husband was doing a story on Sam Hammond, President of ETF, who was being cheered and applauded for encouraging unionised workers and voters across the nation to cast ballots removing Harper from office.

I was there representing a lobbying agency looking to make inroads with top brass and senior political leaders — a networking opportunity to get in on an insider office connection for the companies the agency represented.

Bored and looking for a chance to make it past the general public and into the inner-circle where all the action was I eased my way towards security.

The company had arranged for an “all-access” pass, leaving me no room to post-rationalise with my introvert self — volunteering my Saturday evening, in an effort, to get out of the house.

If it weren’t for these affairs, I’d be home, at my desk, writing.

In the crowd, beyond the reporters and top clergy, I could see a man in his mid-thirties with an audience. I could tell he had natural charisma — someone who routinely speaks in front of thousands and gets his way.

To avoid looking like a creep, I walked over and eased my way into the back of the group. I slowly began to chime in on the conversation, noticing others, who were like me, had joined in expanding the circle.

It looked like a hockey team, huddled around their coach, listening to words of inspiration and motivation. Except, the man was, at the time, talking about an ostrich stuck between the hind legs of a hippopotamus.

He had us all glued in on his African adventure.

Well, do you love him? He’s always rambled and professed his love for you after having had a scotch. Six large ones, to be accurate. Oh, look, the coffee has gone cold. Here, let me get you a fresh cup — plus, I need to pee.

Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.

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Write Every Day

Did You Bring Donuts?

donuts

I had a hunch you’d forget.

Can you recall last night? You left my place in an inebriated state. You were angry. Where did you end up going last night? Hopefully not the Trash Bar down the street.

Who knew expensive hipster hookers, yacht dealers, public school teachers and single parents are crowd pullers? Frankly, I don’t like the music volume, set to deaf, over there.

You can’t talk or hear a thing even if someone was kissing-nibbling-your-ear-close, yelling their sad life away or offering a lap dance in the bathroom.

Wait, that wasn’t a hipster hooker? Was she the English teacher? *Takes a sip of whisky, neat.

Are you’re hungover?

Did you take a bath this morning? Your eyes have an old sea captain’s saggy ball sacks latching on for life. I know you’ve been upset, with life, lately. And you don’t like talking about it.

But I’m glad you made it. That means a lot to me.

There’s freshly brewed coffee and a dozen donuts waiting on the kitchen counter. Double glazed and chocolate dip — your favourite. Grab your sugar and caffeine, and meet me outside.

Sitting, on the patio overlooking the city skyline, under the morning sun will do us both some good. This view never gets tiring — even after a decade, I’m left with a ‘first-time’ feeling every time I step out here.

The caveat of being on top, at this vantage point, is being swallowed by the scale — feeling small, knowing at any time, as a law of the jungle, the concrete landscape preys on the weak but also knowing it offers the world at your feet — to be a lion.

A cliche, my friend.

I know we only met a day ago, but it feels like we’ve known each other for years, even decades. I can’t quite pinpoint what it was that got us chatting and hooked, at my party last night, but it was instant ease and familiarity.

You ended up staying for hours beyond the party. If I remember correctly, it was 2:15 in the morning when I hailed an Uber for you. I had requested and pleaded with the driver, sporting a flannel shirt and long beard, to make no stops on the way and to escort you to your door.

Was he a lumberjack? Oh! That explains the axe resting peacefully in the co-passenger seat.

I only do donuts on Saturdays, my weekly cheat day, followed by pancakes for lunch and a triple meat patty burger for supper. A pint of beer to take it all down gently — swallowing calories like a newborn.

“Cheating on one day of the week” wouldn’t exactly be considered appropriate in any other facet of life. Could you imagine having “cheat days” in all personal and professional relationships? Boy, would that be a crazy idea? I’d leave these writing shenanigans and join a bank.

Okay, maybe not a bank. They are poor. An insurance company maybe? What do you think? You said what? “You don’t care about that and only want to know the subject and topic of what I’m going to write every day?” I mean, would anybody get married? Could monogamy become a thing of the past?

Hmmm…

Why the poker face? Are you serious all the time? Oh look, you haven’t touched your chocolate dip or had a sip of coffee, yet. How about we start there.