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A Cynic’s Chance Encounter with Community


April 2023

By Aditya Chaudhuri

Creative Nonfiction

I am a contrarian. I will offer tenderloin to a Hindu. I will offer bacon to a Muslim.
I will joke about transgenders when I am with liberals. I will joke about god when I
am with conservatives. I will defy easy classifications like misogynist, racist, bigot
and be an equal opportunity prankster. Having the humility to respectfully disagree
with what one vehemently opposes is a prerequisite to decency. So I play devil’s
advocate wherever I go. People find me indecipherable, insane or idiotic but I
don’t mind whether one thinks I am a joke or a jerk. I will hold up a mirror to
reflect all hypocrisy I uncover. I would not know where to start about community
because I have never been part of one.

I am a dreamer. A few years ago I quit my job to write. I watch movies, read
books, play with my cat and live on a diet of beer, bourbon and bhang. Relax it’s
legal because of its religious associations. When you are still getting stoned and
drunk writing the next interesting thing in your thirties you are either on a journey
of profound self-discovery or complete self-destruction. There are days when it
feels like all dreamers are disillusioned and only the delusional dream. Dreamers

are misfits as far as I am concerned. They struggle to belong so they hold on to
their wacky ideas it’s how they define themselves. Community as a concept is
inscrutable, alien and esoteric to a loner like me.

I have an attitude problem. I have nothing but contempt for my country, culture
and family. I love my parents but don’t respect them. My culture is not fond of
individuality; it is befitting for sheep but unsuitable for iconoclasts. As far as my
feelings about my country - India's identity as world's biggest democracy and
epicenter of spirituality is essentially a marketing gimmick. It is a third world
shithole, this is not a political statement it's a fact of life. Tragically most Indians
refuse to accept this truth, comically everyone who refuses to accept it will gladly
accept a one way ticket out of the country. I can’t write about community because I
made my peace with the hard truth - I don’t fit in anywhere and neither do I want

Don’t get me wrong I am not a tough guy. I am a harmless eccentric. I have the
soul of a poet and the work ethic of a parasite. I am doubtful of decency and am
suspicious of sanity. I might be a louse, a lush, a lowlife, a loser but I am proud of

my ways. I might hit rock bottom soon but it won’t be a turgid record of self-pity,
it will be a joyous celebration of not fitting in. I believed the only community
where I might fit in would be made up of desperate drunks and irreverent court

I had nowhere to go but the bars. I preferred heading to them after the lunch hour
crowd has disappeared and the party revelers had not yet come in. When human
conversation was plausible, when the music did not intend to deafen you, when
every building in the street was not decked up like it was Durga Pujo and when
everyone did not pretend all dreams came out of conveyor belts. Maybe I was
getting tired of the platitudinal conversations with the bartenders but I needed a
new place to hang out and I had heard of Chaitown. Figured it’s a place where rich
spoilt brats and talentless hacks pretended to be aspiring artists.

In spite of all my misgivings, I told myself if nothing else Chaitown would have
good looking women. I was right. There were a couple of beautiful coeds from the
city’s biggest liberal arts college who seemed like they would have something
smart to say on a lot of subjects. Then they saw me and I knew I wasn't going to be

the one they would have those discussions with. I still went back to Chaitown’s
writer group. This time my excuse was free food. Beth - the matriarch of Chaitown
was a shrewd business woman. She always offered tasty food, that’s the best way
of building customer loyalty. During that visit a teenager read a corny poem. He
had a fake accent, a made-up stage name and he wrote about love too reverentially.
It was devoid of truth and personal experience but he had a hint of potential, a
touch of the sublime. And when his reading was over everyone clapped. A
conscious, spontaneous decision to applaud that spark of talent, that whiff of
promise. I went back to Chaitown a third time. This time I did not need an
extraneous excuse. I still didn’t think I could write about community but the place
was growing on me.

Next time I read a poem. Everyone there seemed to write about love, I read one of
my angry young man poems. I was not bad but I was not brilliant either. The claps
however were deafening, they enjoyed that I was different. The audience was
supportive, nurturing and eager to celebrate each other’s successes. They did not
judge but encouraged you to be unequivocally you. If you were pretentious they
understood you were just covering up your insecurities. If you were trying too hard
they understood you were just looking for a kind word. It became a place where I

felt safe to express my unpopular opinions, a place that welcomed me and accepted
me for who I am. I came for beautiful women and free food and stayed on for the
people and the environment. Maybe that’s what community is. They sure made me
grateful enough to try penning my thoughts on community, a subject on which I
hardly had any knowledge before I discovered Chaitown.



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