The Freelancing Content Guy

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Things usually aren’t that good back home. They were fine for some time so I had stayed. Now I’m back here. He said that with a smirk, as if hinting at another episode of dysregulation: fights, silent treatments, money troubles, health issues, who knows what? I had seen him in this café quite a few times, glaring at the buzz of the Tibetan market through his round, old-fashioned glasses, arms propped over the parapet of the balcony, all this while balancing a lit stick of kretek between his lips. I confided to him that this place is my getaway too and he eased up. We talked about how this place is ideal to chill. I described it as non-judgmental to which he replied, Not always. The other day I was sitting here on the floor of the smoking area when a couple walked in. The guy, with his ego boosted due to a female companion, mockingly asked me, “dude, didn’t you get a seat inside?” I knew it was his moment so I allowed him that, smiled, and told him I like reading a book out here. The girl laughed.

Being a guy, I could relate to the ego-boost theory, but the way this guy observed it and chose to respond with maturity, was quite impressive. Men generally find it difficult to express such vulnerable moments where they were embarrassed by another man. I thought to myself, “this guy seems to have shed all traits of toxic masculinity and knows himself well, his strengths, and his shortcomings.” He must have been five-foot-six, had buzz cut hair, and quite a regular demeanor that allowed him to pass through a crowded café, unnoticed. So, what do you do?, he asked. I told him about my recent career shift from being a musician to a creative writer. “What about music then?” Being a content writer himself, he knew how crucial the presence of passion in work for a creative person was, so he suggested that I continue making music somehow. Money is very important, no doubt about that, but don’t let your music die. He said that in a concerned tone, with a smile that testified his optimism, selflessness, and his love for art.

His work, he said, allows him the luxury to work from anywhere in the world. He comes here every day, but never books a table. He straightaway goes to the balcony, opens his laptop, orders his coffee there itself, and smokes. “I was never happy doing fixed-time jobs. Freelancing is my thing now. Abhi toh sab sahi chal raha hai”(everything is going fine as of now). His present reminded me of what I aimed for my future when I became a writer. I’m going to a music festival on the third of December in the Himalayas. I went there last month too, but there wasn’t anything cultural going on there at that time, so I thought why not go again for this gig. The words knocked on another one of my passion doors with the zeal of a teenage extrovert. For a moment I wanted to switch our bodies. Freelancers are like travelers, ones without an itinerary. I told him I aspired to do all that he’s doing now but haven’t been able to do so. People like the idea of freelancing, but it doesn’t come easy bro! You need contacts for that. I agreed.

My admiration trance was interrupted, cut short by one of the servers who came out to hand me my herbal tea. At least I’m following one of the routine things a freelancer does – ordering a light beverage to go with. The freelancer content guy seemed to have moved on, attention-wise, from the conversion. He took a step back. I could only stop him for one more minute. “Buddy, do you live nearby?”, I asked him. No, I come from the far west side of the city. Told you, it’s a getaway, so yeah, anyways, it was nice talking to you. The content-with-life smile reappeared, and a casual hand approached me midway for a friendly handshake. “Same here buddy.” He picked up his backpack that didn’t have his hiring company’s name or logo over it, but it looked expensive. Off he went back in, and then disappeared behind the thick wooden balcony door, that supposedly segregates the smoke outside and the air inside. I saw his head pop up once as he slipped through the servers, the brewing coffee gazers, the selfie obsessed teenagers, and the decorative prayer wheels. No one knows about impermanence more than a free soul. Full time jobs provide security, benefits, peace, and social status. But in these unprecedented times, these challenging times, when Covid-19 variants are appearing as quickly as one leaves his/her office on a Friday evening, no job can guarantee you any of these. I pulled out another cigarette, and began watching one of my old performance videos on the phone, inspired to mend the severed ties with my passion.

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