In my older and less vulnerable years a book gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” it said, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
It’s why when I saw Jay do things with his life, I neither judged nor stopped him from doing them. Because in his younger and more vulnerable years his father had given him some advice that he hadn’t turned over in his mind at all. “When life gives you lemons,” he had told Jay, “make lemonade, son.” Since then, he had faced life head-first with this terrible piece of advice in mind.
So, when Jay was invited to an all-expenses paid* learning weekend at a prestigious institute in a neighbouring city, he decided to make lemonade and accepted the invitation without a second thought, or a first for that matter. He took a flight to the city, when he could have very well taken a train, purely so that he could post photos of clouds for the clout. He dressed up in a debonair fashion, well, suited for the debonair event he was in attendance for. Upon arriving at the destination airport, he saw a line of men, presumably chauffeurs, holding out boards for the attendees of the programme. What he did not know was that these men had been waiting for the teachers of the programme and not the learners. But life had decided to give him a lemon years ago when he had cultivated his double-chin that, now, would pass him off as a professor in the eyes of a chauffeur, who would later get fired for standing his passenger up.
He arrived at his accommodation – a hotel which we shall call The Elementary Hotel because 1.) legal repercussions (?) and 2.) the people in it were as ‘basic’ as its name. The hotel may have been filled with simpletons clad in expensive suits, but the hotel itself was clad in a waistcoat of thatched huts, embroidered with the despondency of their semi-naked inhabitants. But, hey, how is it anyone’s fault but theirs if they hadn’t made lemonade with the lemons they had been given?
Anyway, Jay checked in at the hotel. As he had feared, he had been assigned a random roommate by the institute as a cost-cutting measure, which was expertly disguised as a networking opportunity. His fears vanished when he discovered that his to-be roommate’s flight had delayed his arrival by a day, which could mean only one thing: Jay’s room now had a vacant bed, and hence, he set out to set out on an adventure to find someone to un-vacate it. He was terrified of sleeping alone.
He brushed his hair, sprayed deodorant, slipped into his loungewear, which would have been a lungi and a vest in more familiar settings, but was a cardigan and a tracksuit in this circumstance. On the way to the door, he stubbed his little toe on what seemed like a rectangular box and tripped badly. However, the bad trip didn’t last long as he discovered the box to be a mini-bar and his usually good luck outdid itself by giving him access to readymade lemonade. He took a bottle of it and headed downstairs to socialize and hopefully to bring someone to bed in a literal sense.
He flashed the elevator (not the lift, but the elevator) his key card so that it could take him down to the lobby where the other attendees were chilling. People themselves had never intimidated Jay. But he was intimidated by his own reactions to some people. For example, Jay dreaded the day when he wouldn’t be able to suppress his timely smirks at something pretentious or nonsensical that someone else had said. And to be present in the dead center of such a congregation aggravated the terror in his heart.
With his heart already pounding at the speed of sound, his eyes fell victim to God’s dissertation of beauty written in the language of flesh and bones. He saw what could only be the most beautiful girl to exist. She was the classic manic pixie dream girl archetype, probably like Zooey Deschanel’s role in (500) Days of Summer – soft eyelashes, dreamy eyes underneath them, blushing cheeks, ribbons in her hair and a constant display of her teeth through the window of her smile. If the world had cooperated, the frame of her existence would have been monochrome. She was the girl of his dreams, he decided. So, he abruptly rushed back to his room and contrived a nightmare of a dream.
The next morning, he awoke to the sight of a scantily-dressed chubby man staring at him. “Probably, the roommate,” he thought to himself, before he realized that it was his own constitution looking back at him disappointedly through a mirror. However, his roommate had also arrived. He lay spread-eagled in a deep slumber, his snoring came in bits and pauses and Jay, who was professional in Morse Code, deciphered that his roommate unfortunately didn’t share his expertise in the code. Not disturbing his sleep, Jay dressed up quickly and rushed to the dining area so as not to miss the “CompElementary” breakfast (the hotel had clearly taken inspiration from college teams inserting the name of their college into everything). The breakfast was, after all, a lemon shower.
Such were the proceedings of the weekend. Jay squeezed the pulp out of all the lemons that were thrown at him – he bottled the lemon-scented shower gel, he raided the minibar of its Limon, etc. However, as you might have guessed, thanks to your omniscient narrator, unexpected repercussions then occurred. As it turned out, the learning weekend had taught a lot of things to Jay, but it hadn’t taught him to read the fine print when signing up for stuff.
*Paid by the attendee
With that revelation, I end this narration of what might have been the craziest story I have ever told, for my mundane part in this drama called life is to scorn at the vanity of others and to be cynical of how their experiences have oft beguiled them. Well, as for the takeaway from this story, let me add on to what Jay has believed in since the day his father had read out a forward message from his distant cousin.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, but do not complain if it tastes sour.