By Arpit Chhikara Apr. 13, 2018
My friends work their bums off to get a house or a vehicle or a ration card registered in their name to feel like independent adults. But independence to me is the general compartment ticket of Indian Railways that doesn’t have my name on it, but still allows me to commute between two far-off stations.
Once upon a time, there lived a boy named Popo.
Popo was a strange boy. Unlike children his age, Popo was not interested in finding the cure to bone marrow cancer. Or driving a huge-ass plane in the gigantic blue sky. Or buying a soft-top Mercedes.
This lackadaisical attitude of Popo bothered his teachers and parents. They began to brainwash him into dreaming big, and then bigger, and then even bigger than that. They didn’t get it when Popo told them about his interest in cooking food for himself when nobody was at home, repairing his cycle when the chain or brakes were loose, and also refilling the printer cartridge without his father calling home an IT mechanic.
But Popo only did what he wanted to do – he never became anything or anyone. Before he died, he gathered enough skills to build, paint, and shine his grey-coloured coffin. On his tombstone, nothing was written because he never wanted to leave a legacy. All that could be said of Popo was that he lived and died, and while he was alive, he did things. The End.
In my school, a lot of kids wanted to be the pilot of a NASA rocket and the designer of Burj Khalifa 2.0 but I simply wanted to look outside the window and think weird things. I used to develop theories with my primary-level-educated brain. According to one such theory when birds spit a fireball in the sky in the evening time, there is an orange colour glow around the sun. This act by birds gives the mighty sun a message that it should now move to the other side of the sky and disguise itself as the moon.
The non-admirers of my art are my parents and their parents who desperately wish on every Diwali that I get enough Lakshmi in my bank account
My dress changed from half pants to full pants and my face went on from being a hairless piece of skin to a hairy mass of meat. But what remained intact were my theories that progressed along with my taste in cartoons. In those years I used to watch Mowgli – now I watch the Minions.
Irrespective of the fact that my parents consider me a lazy young man with no capitalistic ideals to look up to in life, I do a lot of things. Just like Popo. I have taught all the young kids in my locality to draw a fish with hair tied in a ponytail, a cow with the face of a pig, and a scooter that has a steering wheel. I’m their hero and they are the admirers of my art. The non-admirers of my art are my parents and their parents who desperately wish on every Diwali that I get enough Lakshmi in my bank account, so that one auspicious day I am eligible to pay income tax.
Instead, I am more than delighted to wear the pair of shoes that my older brother discarded after two months of irregular use. I don’t waste my money on buying materials that I have to later keep in a closet. Popo and I have so few personal belongings that we can pack them in two normal-sized rucksacks and there will still be vacant place in our bags to adjust an umbrella, a big bottle of homemade mango panna, and a self-woven woolen cap.
Satisfaction to some people comes when they sit in an office and work for a certain number of hours to get a specified salary at the end of every month. To me, satisfaction comes when my large intestine feels hollow after taking a huge steamy dump that stares back at me to say bye-bye before I flush it down the drain. When I am advised by elders to settle down in life, I spontaneously relate settling down to the motionless Fevicol trapped in that tightly capped bottle which lies on my study table.
A lot of my friends work their bums off to get a house or a vehicle or a gas cylinder or a ration card registered in their name to realise and show their sense of worth as an independent adult. But to me, independence is the general compartment ticket of Indian Railways that doesn’t have my name on it, but still allows me to commute between two far-off stations and that too in any train of my choice.
If you, the reader, is assuming that I am one of those soul-seeking, #wanderlust folks from Instagram, let me tell you I am not on Instagram because I don’t find posting pics meaningful. I spend my tiny bit of money and ample available time on learning, experiencing, and doing things. That is what Popo taught me.
Not everyone is interested in amassing wealth and fortune that would help them get a partner for marriage with whom they can share orgasms for a lifetime. Some people are genuinely happy in wasting their time lying on a mattress and thinking about managing the expenditure of their coming week rather than making five-year goals for their career after watching a motivation-smeared TED talk. I am very satisfied with looking at the quantity of saved and earned money that assures me of a comfortable and manageable life for the next four months.
In this world buzzing with manic entrepreneurial energy, especially this generation that spends all its time trying to find its métier, I know I am a big fucking anomaly. Ambition does not ooze from my body’s orifices and by the end of my life, I don’t want to become something. Or anything. Simply doing the things that I have never done and practicing the things that I am already good at, is enough for me to survive and thrive and live a life before I collapse into my coffin.
For some of us, being frugal and contented is good enough.
Arpit writes to make a living and his mango man life is full of novel experiences and stories that he shares when he sits with people over a mug of coffee or alcohol or juice or tap water.