Monday, January 16, 2006

Cafe Serendipity - behind the scenes

unbelievable aesthetics glanced at me
across the murmuring tables, she seemed
cinnamon to my latte lips
with a hint of sugar that her companion
could not recognise; tumbling dow jones
defined his frame of mind and her silence
a pertinent question that hung in their air
like the in-house jazz tunes
no one else but the lonesome
bother to listen.

like ocean deep her eyes looked, blue
as the crying thought that often wails
like a saxophone and watery translucent
like a thought yearning to express; as if to say
life really needs to be more decaf sometimes,
an idea so alien in this place where we sat
like formless steam that disappears from quenching mugs
into the nether world of casual glances
and the paradise of what-ifs.


I would have been a prodigy but I ended up being lazy. I started writing poems when I was 16 and was relentless in my poetic output for almost ten years. I wrote all manner of poems (even a poetry play) and some even got me awards, and recognition. Teachers, friends, grown-ups thought I had a promising future, and probably I did. But then, I stopped writing all of a sudden. No poetry, no plays, nothing.

This famine lasted almost ten to twelve years during which the only thing I wrote were advertising campaigns, brochures, press releases, corporate film scrips, radio jingles and other forgettable corporate communication materials. However, in the agencies that I worked I had a brief stint as a "Cyranno-for-hire" when colleagues asked me to write 'love-poems' for their girlfriends. I must have written quite a few such poems and I have no idea whether or not those poems achieved their goal. But they did help me exercise my poetry writing skills and for that I am grateful.

Now it wasn't as if I was totally off poetry. I wrote one or two poems but since these were a handful I don't think they really count. There were others that I began writing but didn't finish. In fact, my folder has many such unfinished poems that just lay there because I wasn't satisfied with something or the other in them. And since I wasn't very poetically motivated at the time, I did not work on any of them.

But then, two or three years ago, I began to feel a little guilty about neglecting poetry and creative writing, and felt that I had to be more serious about returning to this old passion. I was at Starbucks with some friends and while drinking coffee and chatting with them, I noticed this couple sitting across at the other end of the hall. They didn't speak a single word to each other but the way they interacted spoke volumes about their relationship. I pointed them out to my friends who thought I was a little crazy to make assumptions. Others agreed with some of my 'conclusions' and added their own assumptions.

Later that night I thought about what I saw and felt compelled to write about it. I knew only a poem could do justice to what I experienced and began the onerous task of writing a poem again. I was so mesmerised by the Starbucks experience and wanted to write a poem that would captivate what I felt that evening. It must have taken me ten to fifteen or more drafts (they usually do anyway), and finally I had a poem that I felt happy about.

I may not have returned to the prolific writing of my earlier years but "Cafe Serendipity" did make me return to writing poetry all over again. Since then I have written quite a few poems and some I haven't finished - and maybe I won't - but it is unlikely that I'll ever return to the famine again.

Moral of the story: going to the mall can actually be very good for your poetry.

By the way... My first title for this poem was "Starbucks" but then I felt I didn't want to use my poetry to publicise some coffee company for free, and so came up with "Cafe Serendipity".

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