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 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

The One Threat That Lurks Unnoticed Inside Our Homes

“Oh, you’re from Delhi! How on earth do you manage to BREATHE in that city?!”

This was an acquaintance, sipping coffee while sitting in the chair opposite me, airing her views on everything about the world around her. She had lived all her life as “an international citizen of India” and really wanted nothing to do with the “filth that lurked everywhere” back in the country where she was born.

She displeased me – oh, a lot – but somehow, I couldn’t think of an appropriate response. What she said wasn’t untrue. Over time, Delhi had become this potboiler of dust, chemicals and grime; it had achieved notoriety as the home of all things evil – from air pollution to crime. And yet, it didn’t seem all that long ago when the air in Delhi had been fragrant with shiuli flowers on Durga Puja, chicken cooking deliciously in the neighbourhood, fresh leaves sprouting in spring.

I came back home that evening and looked around my home. My conversation with that irritating acquaintance had made me feel unsettled. But now I was home. And home is where nothing can get at you, right? Not the monsters who lurked in drains, not the smoke that lurked in Delhi’s air and triggered hateful diseases. Home is safe…

And yet, every other day, I hear of someone suffering from a disease triggered by pollution, when many of these people spend most of their time in the safety of their homes. Women, little children, senior citizens. Scores of people coming down with an eye irritation or a nose congestion every now and then. Nursing an allergy or a flu. Getting hospitalised for bronchitis, pneumonia and even heart problems. People who don’t walk around in traffic and on crowded streets, or inhale the smoke from factories. Continue reading

This Is Why I’m Giving Up Scrolling

Keep scrolling

Tap, tap, tap.

Scroll, scroll, scroll.

A friend checking into a shopping mall. A marriage. Baby’s first birthday. An advertisement for an Indian restaurant in Vienna. Random philosophical quote with a spelling error. New brand campaign, meme or GIF on the latest trending subject. Some food that’s bright red. A shocking video or two. A dozen pictures clicked with the same background and people starting petitions (oh, not for the dozen pictures). Continue reading

Poison Pen Writing

“We call this kind of thing ‘poison pen’ writing, when the writers are grown up, and they are held in universal loathing and hatred, considered the lowest of the low.” – Miss Potts

I grew up on a staple diet of Enid Blyton books – a new title purchased every week of my summer vacation – and this was among the little lessons I picked up from there. Anonymous letters were just not done. They were, I always thought, sent by people who hadn’t the courage to say what they wanted to your face. And courage was important.

Turns out, things have changed and how. Anonymous writing is now not only acceptable but even favourable. Recipients of such letters don’t burn the notes or throw them in the bin but publicise them on their ‘wall’ for everyone to see. Many do this even when the contents of the note are not complimentary – and this, it seems, is the new definition of courage.

In the past weeks or so, the Sarahah app has befuddled, puzzled and upset me. In case you have been fortunate enough to miss out on these notifications on your Facebook or Twitter timeline, Sarahah is an anonymous messaging service that lets people leave you ‘constructive feedback’. The recipient can then showcase these golden nuggets of feedback on their social media profiles.

Sarahah

Continue reading

Top 3 Tips to Survive an Awkward Phone Conversation

First, some creds. What makes me an authority on phone conversation tips? Just this – I am the queen of awkward. Many conversations with me are awkward, but phone conversations top the lot.

There’s something about not looking someone in the eye, not catching their facial expressions, and the very theme of talking on the phone (small talk) that just lends itself to awkwardness. Strange silences. Throat clearing. Repeating questions about the weather and “what did you cook for lunch/dinner?”. Asking whether “you can hear me?” a few times. Trying to sound chirpy and charged because hey, look who called. So, I have several years of experience in trying to evade, whine over, and eventually endure phone calls.

Awkward Phone Conversations

Here are the three valuable tips that have held me in good stead. Sharing this at the risk of personal offence to people I have tried these on – but hey, those times were genuine, I swear. Continue reading

In My Brown Skin

When I was in school, we didn’t have modern ideas about equality across communities, race and colour. (It is another story that equality was there anyway, without any of us talking about it much). So, it used to be fine and non-offensive to make personal remarks about someone’s hair-tie or school-bag or curly hair. It was all in good fun and nobody held it against anyone.

One afternoon, in the school bus, a classmate started a discussion about skin-colour. I think we were in class VIII or IX – that time when you start lingering in front of the mirror for longer moments than usual. She was a rather chubby, loud girl who loved airing her opinions about everything from the food at the canteen to the school song. Continue reading

No, Depression Does Not Just Mean Sadness

“I am depressed.”

It seems like such a simple thing to say, really. We are human beings, capable of feeling a vast range of emotions. So, when it starts raining just on a morning you had wanted to picnic, you can say it’s depressing. As is the taste of the food, the colour of the walls, your mood after watching a TV series. We are all ‘depressed’ about something or the other, almost every day. Continue reading