Why I Don’t Talk More: Ready Reckoner For Everyone Who Plagues Introverts

IntrovertIt is becoming increasingly difficult to feel quiet. To cherish and celebrate quiet. Everywhere I look, the world is getting noisier, and an acceptance of the fact that some people might like to keep to themselves is thinning every second.

Away in Vienna, I thought it was beautiful how people knew how to respect someone’s privacy and not breathe down their necks just because they were together in a supermarket queue or lining up outside a tourist attraction. In R’s workplace, he came across people who were vivacious and gregarious and people who were reserved and silent. As long as both kinds of people were good at their job, the workplace did not make anyone uncomfortable. There was no “you should tone yourself down” or “you should come out of your shell”.

It’s not that I never enjoy conversation or lack any conversational skills whatsoever. Introversion, social awkwardness and a fear of speaking are NOT the same thing (surprise!). But whenever someone, looking super-pleased with themselves, tells me I should “try to talk more”, a nerve in my forehead seems to snap. I feel infuriated, and make the mental resolve to stay away from this person till all the rivers run dry.

But you see, I am a genial person. So, all you guys who have been guilty of doing this to me, here is a ready reckoner. It has the answers to some of your most vexing questions. The next time you want to plague me – or a fellow introvert – with your ill-considered interrogation, check the answers here.

Why don’t you talk more?

Because.

I talk when I feel I have something valuable to say. I talk when I have professional commitments. I talk when I am with people I love, or those with whom I want to make a connection. You haven’t heard me talk? Perhaps you didn’t make the cut. (By the way, if you need tuition on how to get into my list of favourite living beings, consult my cat.)

Also, I don’t think every silence needs to be filled. Silence is rare. It is okay to be quiet in the elevator or when I am with you in the pantry only because I need to use the microwave. Why are you so scared of silences, anyway? Not enough thoughts in your head to fill the quiet with?

But you come across as anti-social.

First – please check the dictionary entry carefully. An anti-social person is someone with a criminal streak or someone in violation of societal laws. I am not a criminal even though I do sometimes feel like thrashing you. The word you are looking for is unsocial.

So, I am unsocial because I don’t like to fill every day with random conversations, trying to make new “friends”, and pretending I am excited about going out for drinks with a bunch of strange people I have zilch in common with? So be it. Every person in this world doesn’t necessarily need to connect with 5 million people like you do and then not be there for a single one of them in times of need.

Are you trying to say I am a bad person because I talk more and have friends?

No, you are perhaps a bad person for trying to project your personality onto mine and insinuating that introversion is a personality flaw that needs to be cured. Or wait, maybe you are just shallow and incapable of understanding how people can be different in a multitude of ways.

If you like talking to people and making friends, that’s great! But if I like sticking to the few friends I have and not talking throughout the day, that’s fine too. I am not bugging you; why are you bugging me?

You will only end up feeling left-out and sad.

How well you do know me.

*shakes handbag subtly to see if the paperback and the bag of chips are both in there, my light of the evening, my quiet friends who demand – and deserve – my attention*

Picture: slowrobot.com

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I Love, Hence I’m Insecure

I had read in a psychology journal long ago that the insecure at heart also tend to be defensive. When we lack conviction in something – a project, our beliefs – we compensate by being extra stubborn at standing up for it. Around me, increasingly, I see this in action every day. 

R went last week to get our Aadhaar cards linked with our new phone numbers. He was told there’s apparently a “drawing of lots” that happens, with only 20 people getting through at a time. It was the only day-off in the week that R could get this done, and turns out, it all depended on luck. When he spoke about the incident to some acquaintances, he was given the full dope about how “India was a large country with millions of people, and things took time”. India’s “large population” was also the reason we didn’t have better traffic management, better waste disposal practices, and better-behaved people.

India was a great country, and everyone’s heart was full of goodness, but the abuse, pushing and groping you encountered in public transport or the streets was because of “population”. Or, “geography”. Or “people like you who leave the country and then don’t come back”.

Calvin and Hobbes

Today, it is only “traitors” who criticise their country. A true patriot lauds his country, rapes and all, even if that means trampling on the feet of all other “Western countries devoid of any culture”. People who date in high-school are uncouth and animal-like, but rapists who assuage their animal lust on babies are extremely civil. Continue reading

The Shocking Red Soup

The other evening, I took home a Chicken Hot and Sour Soup. I have been suffering from a bad cold and cough lately, and Chicken Soup is extremely comforting. Mom would make it for me once, along with all the other hot foods in her collection – khichdi and kadha. I was thinking about her as I unpacked the soup and got ready to slurp. The soup was hot – and I don’t just mean the temperature – and it was delicious. But when I went to rinse my mouth later, a shock awaited me. My lips and tongue looked bloodshot. Continue reading

The Gawkers

Koregaon Park, Pune

I wonder he didn’t fall off his bike. He had stopped it an abrupt motion, and his pillion rider was also falling over in excitement. It didn’t matter that the two of them had on civil clothes and were riding an expensive-looking bike. It was not beneath them to gawk at the foreign girl walking on the pavement – shamelessly, if you please.

The two guys ran their eyes all over her, and, as she hurried past them, burst into guffaws and would-be cool jokes. They had met a foreigner that morning, thank you very much. A foreigner wearing jeans and a tee and carrying a bag of vegetables was naturally a bizarre sight, because, hey, Indian girls don’t do that! Continue reading

A Spitting Image

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Spitting habit in India

I love my country, they say. Bharat Mata Ki Jai. Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan. I will beat up anyone who criticises this country. And then, they spit. They make the streets of this country they love one big, dirty spittoon.

They spit while walking on the pavement; they spit while driving their car. They spit near the neighbour’s gate, never mind how they completed all their ablutions two minutes back at home. The roads are littered with disgusting, gooey spit, right outside a flashy shopping mall or a fine dining restaurant. There is spit lining the walls of a public monument – some of it is even paan-coloured. You walk two minutes in any direction, and your shoes are sure to encounter someone’s spit. Actually, forget the walking, you can be showered by spit even if you are peacefully riding your bike. The spitters don’t see who’s ahead of/behind them. Continue reading

Of Snow and Doggy Wisdom

Snow from the window

It is snowing outside.

I remember when I was small and used to think snow was thermocol – that lightweight thing D and her mom used for school projects. But now I am older and wiser, and know that snow is that cold but beautiful thing that paints the world white. It also makes people want to stay indoors, cover their feet in fleece blankets, and drink hot cocoa. Continue reading

The Wind in the Willows

Oberlaa Park

I always loved secret little places as a child. An alleyway going down to somewhere I had never been before. The dark cupboard in the terrace room that anyone hardly opened. The makeshift tent I made in my playroom with umbrellas and dupattas.

Part of my fascination with secret little places was Enid Blyton, in whose stories the kids always found some sort of secret passage in the most unexpected ways. I stayed on the alert whenever we went out, hoping to tap some floorboards or panels or walls and find a secret passageway emerge. Continue reading

Let’s Order Indian Today

The eight years or so that R and I have been together, trying out new foods has been a thing. Both of us enjoy trying out new cuisines, new ways of preparing traditional dishes, and cooking with spices we haven’t tried before. Before we got married, exotic restaurants – European, Mexican, Chinese, Vietnamese – would be our date-night idea. And we spent as much time analysing the menu, or maybe more, as we did looking into each other’s eyes. We ate out at a lot of Indian-food restaurants too – from Bengali to Gujarati to Maharashtrian and others. Ever since, though we don’t eat out as often, we keep experimenting on our travels.

Indian food here in Vienna is very curious. Continue reading

Little Red Chillies

Red chilly plants in Vienna

I recently saw these adorable little fruits hanging in a bunch from their mother plant, their colour a brighter red than my new winter cap. From a distance – chillies or berries or cranberries. They fluttered a bit in the wind and felt soft to touch. I stood and stared at the plant for several minutes, my thoughts going back to a restaurant called ‘Cheetal’ on the Delhi-Haridwar highway. Continue reading

The Clocks Just Changed

Daylight savings

They went an hour backwards yesterday, on Oct 29. Who says time can never go back, or that we can never reclaim what’s once lost?

Daylight savings has ended for the year in Europe, which means we are now 4.5 hours behind India. This is a big situation for the families back home. Many members of R and my families can still never remember how it’s the wee hours of the morning for us when its noon for them.

Continue reading