Hi there.

Hello sir, what would you like to have?

One macho coffee.

Macho coffee sir?

What do you call coffee with dissolved chocolate here?

Oh. Mocha coffee sir. Or Macchiato

Macchiato sounds good. Sounds like a machete. That’s good, right? Are they both the same?

No, Macchiato is black coffee with chocolate. Mocha is milk, coffee and chocolate.

Ah. No wonder Macchiato sounds manlier. I’ll have that then.

Sure sir. You can scan and pay.

Cool. Cool. Wait. If you’re giving me the bill now, how will I know when it’s appropriate to leave?

We aren’t pushy like that sir. You can stay as long as you want.

So I can stay all day?

Er. No sir, but you can stay as long as you want, within reason.

Ah. Within reason. That’s sort of subjective right? What all do you think is within reason?

Come again, sir?

Do you think it is reasonable to elevate certain mass delusions to absolute truths while newer ones are condemned?

Er. No?

Great. Neither do I. We have common ground then. I’ll stay for a couple of hours.


5 minutes later

Everything ok sir?

No. I can’t find a good seat.

That one is pretty good sir. You get a full view of the street through the glass.

Why is that good?

Well. Look at that guy who almost fell into that pothole. Or that lady trying to shield her eyes from the sun.

Yes, so?

Well, this reminds you of how lucky you are to be inside.

Ah. That is good. Thanks.

7 min later

Yes sir?

You were right about the view, but the seats are no good.

Why sir?

That one has this weird straight back that cuts into your spine, and the armrest is strategically curved to bite into your elbow.

There’s an upholstered chair at the next table sir.

Yes, but that one leans too far back. And the table is too low. I either have to bend over to type, or I can lean back to enjoy the cushion but can’t type.


I have to type, you see. I have a MacBook.

Right sir. Well, how about these tall chairs?

Those are better, but the seats aren’t cushioned. You can’t sit there for long.


Did you design it this way deliberately?

I just work here sir.

Right. But you see what’s happening right?

What’s happening sir?

Everything in this place is designed to be a countdown timer.

Er. How so sir?

Well, the WiFi needs a log-in which gets refreshed every 30 min. The coffee is hot, but not too hot. I estimate it has a half-life of around 10 min before it becomes shitty room temperature liquid, leaving you around 2 min to drink the remaining half quickly before it gets worse in the AC. And the chairs, every damn chair is designed to make you get up after around 35 minutes. Isn’t that terrible?

Sir, I don’t even have a chair.

Exactly. Why are these counters so tall? Why can’t you be sitting at the counter?

They told us sedentary jobs are bad for health sir.

Bullshit. They want you to stand up so that everyone else gets a subconscious signal to get up.

I never thought about it that way, sir.

Look around this place. All kinds of shit on the walls, but not a clock. Why is that?


Because people think no one is asking them to keep track of time and leave. But they feel physically uncomfortable and make themselves leave. And then they come the next day to try again.

Sir, you’re the most depressing customer I have ever met.

The truth is bitter but better.

Is this what you’re writing about?


How does it end?

As you can see, I’m still trying to figure that part out.

Does it ever end, sir?

There there. Don’t cry. It doesn’t.

Aren’t stories supposed to have a silver lining somewhere? Some kind of fucking moral?

If you want to make money, yeah.

So why the fuck are you writing?

Me? I told you. I have a Macbook.

You got a MacBook to write, or you’re writing because you got a MacBook?

Neither. I got it because it looks good in coffee shops.

What kind of a fucking reason is that? What’s the damn point?

Well, what’s the damn point of driving to a coffee shop to drink coffee you have at home for ₹250?

To drive me crazy?

You were already crazy. You stand here and sell people a lie.

That’s it you asshole. Get the fuck out.

Don’t push me. Ouch.

Crash. Wood cracking. Plate glass splintering. 

Hey. Bro. Are you all right?

Yes. Ha ha.

You have blood on your teeth.

How about that? I do.

Somebody call the police.

Nah. I don’t mind.

But he threw you through the glass.

Yes, but the glass is transparent.


Yes, it doesn’t make complete sense, but pardon me, I just got thrown through a window.

What the hell is going on?

Look inside that coffee shop. Do you think you’re lucky to be out here instead?

After this, hell yes.

Fantastic. I’ll go home now.

Your laptop is lying there. 

That’s ok. It only looks good in coffee shops.


Who Am I When I’m Not Me?

I walk around the block several times a day. In the mornings, I enjoy it. I usually have my daughter with me for the first round. I push her toddler bicycle while she holds the handlebars in front of her and pretends to control it. She looks for Bow Bow (dogs), Kitta (cats) and Ka Ka (birds). I look at the leaves rustling in the wind. They are attached to plants that are neatly ordered behind straight lines made with bricks, but the leaves sway in the wind like they know a freedom that is unknown to the roots, although they remain bound to them. 

A few hours later, I come back down on my own. I still enjoy it, but only if my mind allows it. Early in the morning, nature forgets that it is bounded by the walls of a city which hasn’t woken up yet and so do I. A few hours later, the world intrudes. I use the noise cancellation feature on my AirPods to block the honking and the angry engines, but then I can no longer hear the murmur of leaves in the wind. 

Every day, it’s the same choice. The blunt instruments we use to be ‘productive’ take a meat cleaver to things we love too. The borders we draw in our minds to make sense of the world also kill that stray daydream that was beautiful. 

But daydreams need a place to be born, kept safe from the world, ironically by the labour of people who live in that world. Those bushes I love are tended to every day by gardeners working in the sun, breathing the polluted air. Do they like their jobs, I wonder, or do they not have the luxury of wondering? Do I?

I went to a much more beautiful place than this a few weeks ago. Where trees didn’t have to fight for space with concrete. Where you didn’t need noise-cancelling headphones to play birdsong. But to get there, you need to pay with the hard cash you earn in this noisy world. The irony struck me when I called them up to book a room and they talked me through all that is on offer at the resort. The nature walk I can join if I arrive on time. About the fish feeding opportunity at the pond at 5 PM, and the price for it. I almost laughed. It’s like someone bottled up the real world and offered to sell it back to you.

It’s not their fault. At least they keep a bit of it.

I wondered if the workers running the place think of how they live in a place hundreds will dream of when they are sad, the happy place they try to keep in their minds while they look at fluorescent screens with their backs to the windows. I suspect they don’t.

There was a time when I did not need to pay someone for a walk in nature. A time when I slept on beaches, or passed out in a pine forest. A time when we saw a nice little stream rushing to meet the ocean and just jumped in, fully clothed. No one checked if it was time to feed the fish. I assume the fish fed themselves fine without a watch. So did the fishermen who asked for our help to push their huge boat in.

But that time was as ephemeral as the mornings in Bangalore before the traffic wakes up. It did not last, as it could not last, because they bottled up our world, and now we have to look away from the window till we have enough cash to beg for a bit back.