I am not a Small Talk Person

“I cannot entertain them anymore”, I said to my husband. “But they are your relatives”, he replied. I looked at him in utter confusion, how could I have missed it? “But still”, I said, “I am tired of the small talk now”. Nevertheless I went outside to attend my guests, only praying fervently that they leave as soon as they can.

This is me, the part of me which I don’t know whether I hate or love the most. If I am portraying a picture that I am anti-social, let me be clear I am not. I just like my kind of people, I am OK to keep my circle limited. Those close to me can vouch that I am big-big talker, but with the ones where my wavelength does not match I come out to be the most snobbish person around. I find it very difficult to continue having conversations just for the sake of it, I can do it for some time but after a while my thread of patience snaps.

This aspect of my personality is very difficult to maintain and live with especially if you live in Punjabi family, and as my good luck would have it, I am a part of a big fat Punjabi family. It is a task to make them understand that I am not rude but just this is a way I am. Entertaining guests and relatives is a huge part of Punjabi household, and when I say entertaining it means that they are not left alone or bored when they have for all three meals, probably even for days. It is considered outrageously rude in a Punjabi family if you are not capable of making and fabricating conversations. I mean I am not talking about just finishing the conversations after the pleasantries, or making sure they are fed and are comfortable. It goes way beyond it, it involves count of breaths you have taken, liters of petrol filled in your car, number of times you visited washroom, to topics which are way beyond your comprehension. And if you are like me, after sometime the whole aura becomes claustrophobic as all you hear are conversations which are loud, cross conversations where no one is understanding what the other is saying, but still continuing with the conversation, or just nonstop talking with no end. The constant pressure of proving yourself in the Punjabi household is enormous. The word “Introvert” is non-existent in a Punjabi dictionary.

And when the family is not enough, you have your office. I always believed that your work should be able to speak for itself, but I could not have been more wrong. In today’s cosmetic corporate world everything hangs on whether you are a glib sycophant or not. I am an opinionated and informed person I love talking about a subject if I know about it, but to talk just to climb the ladder of success or be in good books is just not me. I mean complimenting for genuine things is one thing, but to keep having conversations just for no rhyme or reason when everyone knows you are not best of friends is absurd to me. I am bad at this, and trust me I regret it, it affects me both emotionally and financially and comes with a baggage of insecurities, but there is nothing I can do about it. I cannot fake conversations.

I understand the importance of small talk, I realize that I come out as a very self-centered person to many which I am not and I am very sure of that. I know small talk is so essential in today’s time and time and again people have tried to make me understand this but somehow I fail to. I love the cocoon shell I create for myself, of thoughts, of ideas, and perspectives. Conversations are personal and sacred to me, I have my reservations for them. Being genuine is a very important facet for me in anyone hence small talk is not for me. But yes I need to improve on my social skills to be able to survive in a Punjabi family, but that’s a separate story all together which I will take up some other day.

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The Bewilderment That is Life

The alarm creaks in the morning; she wakes up startled and drags herself out of the bed. The sun has still not come, and the whole family is still sleeping. She looks at her husband snoring away, she checks her clock to see if she can afford another five minutes of sleep. But the clock glares at her telling her, “Another minute and you will be late”. She laboriously walks to the washroom, then to her toddler’s room to check on her and finally to the kitchen, as the whole family sleeps. Her maids come in and she busies herself to prepare the breakfast and dinner. By the time all is done, she has only 15 minutes to take a shower and get ready for work. She is glad that her toddler is still sleeping. She hurriedly takes a shower, gets dressed, puts on little make up and rushes back to the kitchen. Her husband is leaving for office, if she does not remind him, he would forget his lunch or breakfast, or almonds, or his glass of milk. She grabs the keys to her car and rushes to office.

As she spends her day in the banal activities of the office, she realizes she has forgotten to have her cup of coffee today. She orders one and sips it. The hot coffee instantly relaxes the muscles of her body. She longs to lie down, and just sleep. But just then a call for a meeting comes in. She gulps in the rest of the coffee and moves to the conference room. The day ends uneventfully as she rushes home. Something in her longs to see her toddler. As she reaches home, voices from the regular television soaps blare out of her in-laws room. She finds her toddler sleeping in her room. She resigns to her bedroom to get some rest. The maid comes in telling her that she is leaving for the day. She grabs a book to read, the one which she has been trying to finish for a good two months now. She reads two lines and can see her toddler rubbing her eyes and entering her room. She places a bookmark; the bookmark has been on the same page for two weeks now. She hugs her toddler who insists to sleep in her arms. She sleeps as she tries to adjust her body according to her toddler’s liking.

She places the baby in her crib and goes to make preparations for dinner. Her husband comes back before dinner, busies himself on his phone and laptop. In between she initiates conversations with him, but gives up when he does not seem to have time to look up from his phone. She serves dinner and goes back to the mundane routine of making her child sleep. As she readies herself to sleep, she tells her husband that she feels tired. Her husband suggests keeping another maid as there is no point stressing and to let go of the toddler a bit. She ponders over it while lying on her bed. But she feels helpless; she finds it difficult to give control. It’s her obligation to take care of her family, her child, her house. She cannot fathom to be like her husband, not bothered, carefree, he has the luxury as he gets everything ready. She cannot possibly do this, no matter how much she wants to just lay back and relax. She goes to sleep.

Her husband informs her the next evening that there is this family wedding that they need to attend next Wednesday, she says it would be difficult for her to take leave from office. But her in-laws need to go too, he says. The family decides that all would go and would take her toddler too along. There is no pressure on her to attend the wedding, her husband understands. She spends sleepless nights in anticipation of the days that she will spend without her daughter. She frets about her food, her hygiene, her nap times, her clothes. She knows that her mother in law is better than her in raising her kid but nevertheless she frets.

And the day comes; all is packed as the family readies themselves to leave the city for three days for the wedding. Her toddler is sleeping when they are about to leave. She is glad, she would have cried a lot if she was awake. She stands in the balcony watching them go. As she bids goodbye, tears fill her eyes. Her husband assures that they will be back soon, and that she should take care of herself. She nods and hugs him.
As she sees the car leave, there is something in her wanting to explode, she cannot figure out what it is, it is too subtle and elusive to name. She does not understand what it is but she gasps and mutters “Free, Free”. She sees the three days ahead which belong only to her. She is suddenly drinking in a very elixir of life through the breeze that blows in the balcony. She realizes that in her subconscious she needed this, she needed a break.

And just like that, she calls her office to inform them of her three day sick leave.

The Silence after Diwali

It is that time of the year again that she longs and awaits all the yearlong. The preparations for Diwali at her house in the mountains had started weeks before the festival. The house cleaned umpteen times, every corner, all the bedrooms which wait for their occupants to come each year are cleaned, new bed sheets laid. She makes sure to remember that her son does not like loud colored bed sheets while her daughter loves bright colors. Her five grandchildren would come too; preparations are in full swing to get all the sweets ready that they would gorge. The preparations keep her busy for weeks, while her husband continues with their banal routine of taking a walk, meeting friends over coffee and cards, she prefers to stay back to make the preparations. At times the neighbors get tensed when she is not seen for days together. She smiles jovially when they inquire and replies that she awaits her family for Diwali, that she is keeping busy.

And they all reach a day before Diwali; she has been awake from four in the morning unable to sleep, unable to conceal her excitement. As the taxi stops and she hears sound of luggage being unloaded she cannot contain her excitement and runs for the door. There they are, all of them. They look tired from the journey. As the hug and meet she grasps hard to her grand-children, of course it has been a year. They enter and are served fresh juice that she has prepared. Suddenly the house is beaming with happiness and noise, with children running, and her son, daughter-in-law, daughter, son-in-law chatting with her husband; she excuses herself to the kitchen. There is still a lot that needs to be done, she starts preparing snacks and lunch for all.
The all retire to sleep, but she can hardly get any. She goes to the room where her grandchildren are playing; she talks to them hearing stories of their friends and schools. Time passes and its tea time, the family gathers again for delicacies she has prepared. Everyone praises her preparations. She is content as the family takes mouthful of the delicacies she has taken weeks to prepare. The day of Diwali comes and the whole day passes in the preparations. The night falls and the lights come up. After the puja the family gathers for cards and crackers. The noise of laughter and crackers fills the air and she thanks god in between her prayers, in between her happiness, in between the noise for days like these. The night ends and all leave for their rooms. She busies herself in cleaning the house. She knows she cannot sleep today, they leave tomorrow and this saddens her. She feels the clock would simply stop ticking right now. As she reclines to sleep she finds her husband snoring. She closes her eyes and sleep engulfs her.

The next morning when she wakes up everyone is ready to leave. They have a train to catch. She offers to make breakfast but they insist they would get late. She sees them loading their baggage in the taxi, hugs and bids them goodbye fighting back tears in her eyes. They promise to come back for next Diwali, earlier if they can. She nods and smiles.

She goes back to the house when they leave and suddenly the silence seems deafening. The whole chaos around Diwali is over, she goes to the window where she can look at people going to the market, there are few who look tired and lost. The streets are empty; the hustle of Diwali, the urgency of Diwali has dwindled, the market street is empty. Children are trying to find crackers from the garbage bin, sweepers trying to clean the mess created from last night cracker menace, there are no cars on the roads, most of the people are carrying luggage to the station as they need to resume work.

She returns to the kitchen to prepare tea, as she puts up the kettle to boil, she goes to the table set the cups and there she finds a note, “Thank you ma for a wonderful Diwali, coming back next year for more”. She lets a sigh and waits for Diwali next year.

For my Brother :), Who Resides in my Heart

Alright so my little brother (who apparently is not little anymore) has decided to shift base and move to Mumbai, another city in India from Delhi. That’s for his growth professionally he has got a new job, the one he wanted for so long, the one I have been praying that he gets into for almost a year now, the one my brother thinks will take him places, the one I think is my passport to go and settle in Mumbai (I totally adore that place). Well then I should be excited, on top of the world right! But I am not; I am in a deep trench right now, deep down in the earth. I WILL MISS MY BROTHER. And this makes me sick in the stomach.
His application got finalized day before yesterday, tickets booked for early next month, and my heart sinks whenever I think of it. I just feel that time is flying too fast suddenly now, it was only yesterday that he was born, only yesterday that I hated his guts, only yesterday that I realized that he is my younger brother and I love him more than anything, only yesterday we spent all nights waking up watching movies or singing songs, only yesterday that he made me sit all night to tell his break up story and sob, only yesterday that he took up his first job. Ahhh, I guess too many yesterdays have passed. The other night I was unable to sleep, was pondering over all the time spent with him, and that’s when it struck me, life is changing, so much and so fast.
I fail to fathom what my life would be with him in some other city, and trust me tears fill my eyes. This thing about relationships intrigues me. How, When, Why somebody becomes so important that life without him around is unimaginable. For all the days and nights we spent together chatting and singing seems to be centuries ago. Those will never come back again, of course he would be visiting me and vice-versa but we have grown up now. Time is not a luxury anymore. We are trapped in this vicious cycle of earning and maintaining a lifestyle.
I wish life was simpler but it is not, and then I think of many millions other who leave their home for a better future. It is tough, but it is for a cause and we should accept it the way it is. Children move out to make a life of their own and everything changes. I really wish there could be a simpler way to it but there is none. We possibly cannot be kids lifelong (How I wish we remained kids forever). I always wanted to grow up fast and be independent but now I realize it is no fun. Life is turning its wheels more speedily than we can imagine and only the one who can keep pace with it, Wins.
I look forward to raising my daughter who would one day leave for her studies, job, anything. In a way my bro leaving prepares me for my daughter. But still it sends me goose bumps.
Just want to wish him all the luck and love from end. I hope he succeeds in whatever he wants to do.
Good Luck .