Posted by: cochinblogger | January 17, 2012

A Love Letter to Pimple Kapadia

Skill with language is a valuable asset. In college, my fame as a wordsmith spread far and wide, and my services were requisitioned for all kinds of purposes, from proofreading job applications to writing up SOPs (statements of purpose) for admission to U.S. universities. Sometimes, I was called upon to render unconventional language services. One of these was editing the love letters of my college mates. As a matter of principle, I refused to write them; I would only edit them. In time, I became the official campus love letter editor, and my services were in great demand.

My clients varied widely in language skills, and editing the letters was great fun. There were numerous amusing malapropisms. I distinctly recall changing “glorified hair” to “glorious hair,” “circumcise the circle” to “circumscribe the circle,” “alluring preposition” to “‘alluring proposition,” and “lusterless eyes” to “lustrous eyes.” As you can see, I gave value for money. That’s speaking in a purely metaphorical sense, of course, because naturally I didn’t charge for my services. It was a labor of love.

I must here mention a couple of reasons for my success. One, I took client confidentiality seriously. I would not talk about the letters, not even after a few drinks. My clients knew that their secrets were safe with me. Two, I did not presume to offer them unsolicited advice. Lives collided, shaping and reshaping themselves in my mind’s eye as I read the letters, but I confined myself to repairing and fine-tuning the language. I knew my place; I was just a word doctor. My clients appreciated this reticence; they were in a hormone-driven overdrive and in no mood to listen to anyone.

From my campus love letter editing career, one memory stands out. The client was a regular, loyal, satisfied, and long-standing customer. He had written to his girl in his hometown (which I cannot reveal, in the interests of protecting his identity) and sat nervously in front of me while I skimmed through his letter. It was supercharged with emotion, and included a lavish tribute to her charms. I had edited many a letter in my time, but nothing as detailed and passionate by way of physical description. He had written his heart out.

My curiosity was aroused. I just had to see what this girl looked like. “I’ll need a photograph of the girl,” I said in my most authoritative tone.

He looked at me suspiciously.

“You have described her in loving detail,” I continued. He blushed.

I drove home my point: “I need to check if the words match the description. You may have used a wrong word. I may find a better word. It could make all the difference between success and failure.”

He looked at me doubtfully. I could see that he had no intention of showing me the photo. Clearly, he doubted my motives. I let him have it.

“See, let me give you an example of the importance of word choice. Take ‘sinewy figure’, for instance. You’re calling her muscular! Unless she’s an amazon and proud of it, she’ll tear your letter up that very instant!”

“Oh!” Dismay was writ large on his face. “Please fix it.”

I was ready: “‘Sinuous figure’ is what it should be, I think. But I need to see the photo.”

I paused to let this sink in. I could see that I’d made an impression. But he was still hesitant. I unleashed my next missile.

“And here you have written: ‘I love the way your bottom wiggles when you walk.'” I looked at him pityingly.

He protested: “What’s wrong with that? It’s true!”

I spoke as though to a child who is slow on the uptake: “She’ll drop your letter and run to the mirror to check if her bottom sticks out.”

That shook him: “Oh!”

I pressed home my advantage: “Nobody likes the unalloyed truth served to them on a platter. Packaging is key. That’s what marketing is all about.”

“So what should it be?” he asked.

I didn’t hesitate: “Here’s one possibility: ‘I just can’t get your undulating gait out of my mind’.”

His jaw dropped in admiration and he caved in, as I knew he would.

While I pretended to re-read the letter, he extracted a well-worn photo from his wallet and placed it on the table. I studied the photo, handed it back to him, and asked him to come the next day for the finalized letter.

The photo was of an extraordinarily pretty girl, and I fell into a pleasant reverie. When I came to, I was still sitting on the chair and someone was knocking loudly at the door, shouting that it was late and we wouldn’t get grub in the mess.

The next day, my client came at the appointed hour. I handed over the edited letter to him.

“By the way,” I said. “You owe me a bottle of Old Monk for one amusing typo I discovered.” His eyebrows and nose rearranged themselves into a question mark.

“I changed ‘charming pimple’ to ‘charming dimple'”, I informed him with a smile. It was true; she really did have a lovely dimple, a curvy semicolon nestling in each cheek. I hadn’t seen any pimple, but I’m not the kind of person who looks for defects in rainbows.

His reaction was unexpected. I’d expected him to thank me fervently. Instead, he went: “That was deliberate.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “What??” I managed to stammer out.

“Yes,” he continued. “The colony boys buzz around her like bees around a pot of honey. She gets lots of letters from admirers. I’m seriously worried, especially about one creep whose only asset is a stand-out six-pack that he proudly exhibits at the local pool.”

I still didn’t understand. He continued: “Everybody praises her dimple! Everybody! I want to be different. And I got this wonderful idea after reading an article on lateral thinking. Nobody will think of praising her pimple.”

He looked pretty smug and self-satisfied at his ingenuity. “Besides, it’ll prove to her that I’ll not only overlook all her faults but will even consider them charming.”

I surrendered. I did try once to dissuade him by telling him she might not take kindly to pimply reminders. But he was unmoved. So I abandoned him to his Pimple Kapadia. I’m not sure what happened afterward.

Even today, I wonder about the correctness of his logic. Who knows, he could be right. I feel it’s an insoluble problem, like the unified field theory. Choice is a complex matter at the best of times. Even in a game of perfect knowledge such as chess, where the rules of the game and movements of the pieces are precisely defined and known in advance, decision making is an art. How much more complex then must be decision making in the game of life, where the rules are fuzzy, chance plays a big role, and people change like chameleons before our eyes and refuse to move according to the rules we had defined for them?

Whenever I’m faced with a difficult decision, I repeat to myself the following mantra: “Dimple or pimple? No, not simple.” I invariably lighten up and smile, and the hard knot of tension dissolves. It’s as though a burden has been lifted from my shoulders. I then approach the task at hand in a more relaxed frame of mind, which is when my mind works clearest and ideas present themselves that would not otherwise. The despised pimple has become my metaphor for creativity and outside-the-box thinking.

Pimple Kapadia, thank you, thank you: you don’t even know I exist, but I’m indebted to you.

Note: This is a work of fiction, not memoir.

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Responses

  1. beautifully simple,… dimple or pimple… being a wordsmith during those days must surely carved lives for many..cool

  2. lol..that shud have been one “really interesting task” and sure you had some nice time. ..being the wordsmith!(y)


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