Chapter One

Published on July 20th, 2013


Odd man out

What makes one person different from several others? A story about making a difference to one’s life by being different.
Shifaby Shifa Maitra

Yeah, that’s me. The odd man out. Maybe it’s because I don’t wear a watch. I don’t and most people don’t get it when I say I don’t like being bound by time. Am not yet Rajnikant who said in a recent film that he does not wear a watch because he decides what the time it is! I genuinely don’t like being enslaved and people find that odd.

Went to a school reunion last Saturday and had such a great time. People my age, who had grown so bloody old, kept wondering why. Unlike the stuffy boring uncles they’d become, I was still a dude. A dude at 36 who still had dreams to fulfill. Well, these guys had a lot too, I must say. Someone mentioned ulcers, a pent house, a BMW, divorce, one guy even had a farm house. Another one had a blind child. Each one of them had a ‘can I kill that lucky bugger’ look on their face. What did I have, they asked. Freedom, two cats, a book that’s going to be a bestseller, money in the bank from the last crappy TV show I wrote, and stories to tell. That’s it?, someone asked. I like to travel light, I offered. No car? No sir, and a carbon print that I am proud of. Okay, I must admit that at times I do exaggerate my point of view just to see the look on someone’s face when I tell them that I love eating raw eggs, or that I cycle to work.

I know a whole lot of people who disapprove of the way I live. Largely, because they are just plain jealous. I don’t chase trains, buses, deadlines and stock tips. Agreed, I don’t have a huge bank balance or a hot babe on my arm, but guess what – that’s not what I want. All right, I know you think I am a loser. I will prove to you that I am not, maybe you are, but that’s for you to decide. Sure I wasn’t like this, all through school and college; actually till I was about 23 I was as clingy, insecure, unsure and unhappy as you. It’s nothing personal, maybe not you but the guy sitting next to you.

Since we are friends I can be honest with you now – I had issues. I felt like I was the chosen one…chosen by the bad luck guys. I was the only child of clingy parents, I was fat, I studied guy travelling alonein a sidey school, my parents were always broke, I stammered.

I got laid, I got drunk, I got stoned…and just felt worse. I think the turning point is when I got jealous of a guy at work who spoke wrong English. I mean that guy was competition to me?!

I walked out of the ad agency and never went back. Instead I went home, packed a few things, withdrew all the money I had, bought a note book and pens and took a train. For one year I travelled and wrote. It was the best year of my life. I learnt so much about myself. About my biases, my conditioning, my narrow-minded way of thinking. Ugh, I really didn’t like this guy, so how could I expect anyone else to like me?

So I worked on myself and decided I would be the guy i liked. To hell with what anyone else thought…

Shifa Maitra is a creative consultant with Balaji Motion Pictures. Reading scripts is what she does for a living and writing is what she does in life.

(Pictures courtesy Torrie Smilie,,

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