Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Art of Fine Conversation

The more malicious among you who know me, have just finished rolling their eyes and saying to themselves, “What does SHE know about conversation. She takes an hour just to finish a sentence, and it’s STILL not the best thought-out sentence.” To them I will only say, “You should hear the brilliant conversations that go on inside my head. So there!”
Now that I’ve furnished my credentials to write this post, I shall plunge straight in.
If you hope to impress and amaze all with your sparkling conversation do NOT:

1) Chatter away like a psychotic monkey when you’re with other people. For one, if you’re talking THAT much, chances are you’re thinking aloud -- gibbering on about shopping lists, train timings, and the same anecdote for the 20th consecutive afternoon because the smell of coffee always triggers that memory. For another, though the thought has never crossed your mind because you’re too busy trying to eat and talk at the same time, other people might want to talk too.

2) When you’re telling an anecdote which took place in the evening don’t start with what you did in the morning “You’ll never guess what happened to me last night! …In the morning I got up, then I brushed my teeth, then I switched on the geyser, then I read the paper, then I took a bath...” Everyone is burdened with their own banalities, they really don’t want to have to experience yours second hand.

3) I don’t know about other people, but I find self-congratulatory speeches annoying (even if delivered in a self deprecatory way). The auditor in the conversation feels harangued somehow, like it is being implied that she’s a piece of shit. And the ‘self-deprecation’ doesn’t fool ANYBODY. “ I wish I could be more like you…I’m such a workaholic, I can’t read a book if I know there are chores to do.” This of course invariably follows some confession by the other person that she spent the weekend with her feet propped up on a pile of unfolded laundry, reading a book.

4) This next point is a tricky one, it works both ways: your conversation shouldn’t exclusively be an indiscriminate outpouring of venom about other people. Contrary to popular belief, it can be dreadfully dull after the first flush of excitement that gossip brings. On the OTHER hand, it’s also disquieting when you complain to a friend about someone else and they remain non committal. One invariably makes a mental note later on not to share anything more with such a person.

5) Do not go ON about people unknown to your listeners. “And then Rachna said, boy is Rachna a HOOT!...she said that Richa is the biggest slut EVER, though in my opinion that prize goes Varsha, if you know what I mean” (much waggling of eyebrows). No I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU mean, who are these people, why are you telling me about them, why don’t you just shut up?

6) Also, if the conversation has taken a different turn (once you stopped to draw breath and lost your monopoly) do not keep breaking in with a continuation of your story. It can get pretty hairy if there are several people in the dialogue.
A: I went to watch a movie yesterday, it was…
B: That reminds me I was driving down MG Road yesterday and this man just dashed in front of me.
C: How does A watching a movie remind you of that?
D: That reminds me of an aunt I had who was totally deaf…
A: the movie wasn’t great… the hero looked like Raju from the next building.
B: …so he runs in front of me, and I veer to the left and hit the lamppost.
C: Which aunt are you talking about? The one with the moustache?
D: She had a moustache and an ear trumpet. She wasn’t much of a catch my poor aunt. My uncle developed incurable depression towards the end.
A: the person in the movie had an aunt too. She was normal though…a little on the chubby side maybe…
B:…So I was, like..”Dude…do you have to dart across the road like that?”

Of course after all these don’ts some of my readers with nervous temperaments might be tempted never to indulge in conversation again.
That might actually constitute my Dos list. Communicate only if someone’s standing on your foot or such like. I’m telling ya, after having all these types inflicted on them, people will call you to every party and hail you as the greatest speaker EVER.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A pearl a day

Today morning I was standing in front of the office restroom mirror and sulking about my life as usual; when a frightening thought struck me. What if this IS the happiest time of my life? What if this is the time I look back upon and say with a nostalgic sigh…”aah to have an office restroom mirror to sulk in front of.” (Which could mean in the future (a) I mightn’t have an office to visit the restroom of. (b) the office I’d work at in the future won’t have a restroom.© For some bizarre reason, my future employers would have no need of mirrors. (creepy))

Because really, if one looks at the broad outlines my life is fine (I wrote “near perfect” then changed it to ‘fine” because I don’t want the jinx pixies to get me). It’s the details that are screwed up, that’s the problem. What if, heaven forbid, the broad outlines go awry too? Then I won’t even be able to look at the details, things will be so bad, and I’ll be sulking something fierce on a pavement somewhere.

It’s a sobering thought, and quite robbed me of the simple pleasure of my daily sulk. While I look ahead for that elusive day when everything will line up just like they ought, my last few months in my 20s are fast running out. Then it’ll be my 30s and my 40s and very soon, I’m in a home somewhere telling a bored attendant for the 20th time that day,…”I had everything but I didn’t know it until now”.

I know this may contradict what I said last week…and I’m not saying I’ve changed my mind about that. Let’s just compromise and say we should keep one eye on the ‘daily little problems’ aspect and another on the broad outlines; and then we’ll be fine.

Cross-eyed but fine.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

No Problem!

This is a bit of a reiteration of an old post (one of my initial ones 2 years ago) but it’s been on my mind again; so I thought I might add something to it.

Whenever I’m upset about something, people try to cheer me up with the most bizarre - not to mention inappropriate things. “Think of all the people born without arms and legs!” they’ll exclaim with the air of one handing out treats.

But it doesn’t really work because (a) what kind of a monster claps her hands and says “Coo, thoughts of such people make me laugh all my troubles away, they do!” ?(b) it upsets me more to be reminded of the misery this world is steeped in, and (c) it’s my problem and my life and so, despite the fact it’s just the smallest microbe of a problem in the universal scheme of things (10 being an asteroid heading towards the earth causing total annihilation of all living beings, and 5 being global warming…how would you rate your problem on a scale of 1 to 10?) it’s still bothering you because it’s YOURS.

I also don’t think it’s the healthiest thing to sweep your problems under the carpet, however insignificant they are in “the scheme of things.” If it’s bothering you it’s a problem. If it’s your problem you should try to fix it so that it doesn’t classify as a problem anymore.
“Oh, my parents called up yesterday, said they had a long discussion about me. They’ve decided I am devil spawn and wish they’d killed me when they still had the chance. But hey, think of all the kids who don’t HAVE parents to phone and call them devil spawn, eh? Hee hee, it makes me feel warm ALL over!” Chances are, it’s THAT attitude which has given your parents ideas in the first place.

And because of your damned sense of perspective you totally ignore a situation which face it, kinda sucks and can be improved.

“ Hello, Mother? I didn’t appreciate being called devil spawn and would like to know what you meant by it. “
…“ The fire in ‘82? That was the dog! Tiger was devil spawn, not me!”
…“That’s OK, at your age one forgets. See you on Sunday”

Problem, ladies and gents, SOLVED.

I’m not saying we should lose all sense of perspective, but let’s admit that we’re human and individuals. Our problems naturally come first. People who mouth the whole “Children in Somalia” line usually freak out at the smallest sign that their plans are not going as they would like.

Of course there’s a flip side to this argument. (Isn’t there always?) There are some people who, when you tell them you have a problem, just can’t shake off the feeling that their problems are similar, but they’re dealing with these much better than you.

“Stomach cramps?” Looking down on you curled up in a ball on the floor. “I’m having one right now. You just can’t let them affect you like that, you need mental strength…care for a game of tennis?” Of course there’s not even the hint of a suspicion that yours might be worse than hers. Just that you’re an inferior being, and ergo, not in the mood to fool about with a racket and ball just then.

In other words, it’s fair to say your problems should be most important to you because they’re yours, but retarded to expect people will take the same view of them as you.

…And someone tell me what Somalian people say to their friends when they get depressed.