HOW ‘BOUT SHUTTING UP AT TIMES

That’s my ad­vice to those who be­gin need­less con­ver­sa­tions in the most in­ap­pro­pri­ate places. Ab toh seekh jao, yaar!

Hindustan Times (Patna) - Live - - Time Out - SONAL KALRA

Last kab kar­waya thaa?’ she asked. I closed my eyes tighter, pre­tend­ing I didn’t hear her, but I knew she’d re­peat the ques­tion be­fore 10 sec­onds passed. She did.

I mum­bled ‘last month’, though I was so tempted to say ‘Kal hi kar­waya thaa. Roz nahi kar­waana chahiye?’ to the girl who was do­ing my pedi­cure. But that would have pro­longed a need­less con­ver­sa­tion. Need­less, yes, that is the word. I guess the staff at beauty sa­lons and spas are told to strike a con­ver­sa­tion with the clients so that the lat­ter don’t get bored, but what they are not taught is when not to start a con­ver­sa­tion. In fact, ‘when not to strike a con­ver­sa­tion’ is a ques­tion most of us would fail to an­swer.

In a way, it’s a very sweet thing that we In­di­ans are peo­ple-friendly, un­like those coun­tries where peo­ple don’t even know who lives next door. But then some­times we take this friendly na­ture too far. Just as in a spa when all that one would want is peace­ful si­lence, there are so many other sit­u­a­tions where small talk is not wel­come. But most peo­ple just don’t get it. A col­league who trav­els daily by the metro, says she hates it when, af­ter a hec­tic day, the mo­ment she sits in the train and be­gins to re­lax, some stranger de­cides to dive into a Modi vs Ke­jri­wal de­bate.

Chalo that’s still top­i­cal and shows we care about our lead­ers, but then peo­ple in­sist on dis­cussing every­thing, right from the weather to the next episode of Bigg Boss — es­pe­cially with a per­son who is vis­i­bly re­luc­tant to talk. ‘The worst is when some­one de­cides to ask per­sonal ques­tions,’ adds a newly-wed girl in my team, who wears a ‘chooda’, nar­rat­ing how she gets free ad­vice to ‘deal with the in-laws’ in the metro, when she had never asked for it. Well, I am of a rather talk­a­tive na­ture and think of small talk as a good way to pass the time, but then I do see a point in what th­ese girls said. More than what is be­ing dis­cussed, it is the set­ting or the sit­u­a­tion which some­times makes con­ver­sa­tions need­less, point­less and if I may say so, in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

1El­e­va­tor chit-chat: I’ve al­ways seen peo­ple be­have very odd inside a lift. Some of them cut off what they’re speak­ing mid-sen­tence the sec­ond the el­e­va­tor door closes, and al­most stop to breathe till it opens, as if they are be­ing held hostage. Some de­press­ingly stare at the ceil­ing like it’s go­ing to fall any sec­ond. And some de­cide to start the most un­com­fort­able con­ver­sa­tion ever. ‘Phir uske boss ko pata toh nahi chala?’ is what a col­league re­cently asked me in a lift full of peo­ple, go­ing up by 17 floors. I silently slapped her thrice in my head but not sure if she got them, be­cause my si­lence was met by ‘hain?’ All I could re­ply was ‘I’ll just tell you’, won­der­ing why she would not have the com­mon sense to not in­dulge in risky of­fice gos­sip in a lift full of col­leagues. We just don’t know how to be­have in an el­e­va­tor, pe­riod. As it is, it’s tough to deal with an­noy­ing peo­ple who keep ask­ing ‘go­ing up?’ for a lift that clearly is, or re­peat­ing their floor num­ber like ma­ni­acs to the lift op­er­a­tor. On top of that, an in­ap­pro­pri­ate, loud con­ver­sa­tion in front of strangers could be a killer. My ad­vice? Save the oxy­gen in­stead of talk­ing. Who knows when the lift may get stuck for hours?

2Hospi­tal sym­pa­thy talk:

The logic for peo­ple want­ing to talk in the hos­pi­tal wait­ing-rooms is mostly anx­i­ety. You are wor­ried about your loved one ad­mit­ted for treat­ment, and you reach out to some­one else who may be in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion. All that is un­der­stand­able. But sam­ple this. ‘Hua kaise yeh?’ ‘Kya ke­hta hai doc­tor?’ The an­swers to th­ese ques­tions have to be re­peat­edly given by the pa­tient’s at­ten­dant to all the vis­it­ing rel­a­tives, and also to all the strangers who de­cide to talk. In a men­tal state that some­times craves only for some peace­ful mo­ments to pray. If you feel that an anx­ious soul in the hos­pi­tal wait­ing room is look­ing for some­one to share the anx­i­ety with, by all means reach out. But if all you’re get­ting is un­com­fort­able looks and one word an­swers, it’s time you got the mes­sage, no?

3Loo hul­la­baloo: I know, I know, you don’t want to hear this when you are read­ing your morn­ing news­pa­per over a hot cuppa. But then some of you may also be read­ing this in ex­actly the place I’m re­fer­ring to. What is with peo­ple want­ing to talk while pee­ing? See, I don’t know how it goes with the guys but one of the big­gest mys­ter­ies which I’ve fi­nally given up ex­plor­ing the cause of, is why girls don’t like go­ing to the wash­room alone. It’s like a com­mu­nity thing to do, per­haps it en­cour­ages bond­ing. ‘Who’s com­ing to the loo?’ is usu­ally an­nounced with much fes­tive cheer in class­rooms, restau­rants, of­fices. And then 2-3 women chirpily move to­wards a place meant to an­swer the na­ture’s call — IN PEACE!. But no, that won’t hap­pen, be­cause, you know, girls… and lips. They have to move. So a con­ver­sa­tion that starts on the way, car­ries on even when one of them has closed the door and de­posited her­self on the toi­let seat. Now here’s why I have a prob­lem with it. It’s weird, it’s un­nec­es­sary, it can wait, and oth­ers can hear you. Among other sounds they can’t avoid hear­ing. It can even cause…umm… per­for­mance anx­i­ety, if the topic of dis­cus­sion is in­tense. What if it stops mid-stream? Think about it. Be­fore the girls de­cide to kill me, Let me say that I’m sure the guys do this too. And from what­ever I have seen in movies, they stand too close to each other in the act, and that should make it more awk­ward to have con­ver­sa­tions. 2-4 minute wait kar lo yaar, aisa kya toofan hai? And yeah, some­times it can cause acute em­bar­rass­ment. I once went to the pub­lic loo in a mar­ket, the one which had two Cu­bi­cles. The first one was oc­cu­pied, and I got inside the other. The mo­ment I, well, started, a girl’s voice from the ad­join­ing cu­bi­cle said, ‘Hi, how are you do­ing?’ Find­ing it most weird but not want­ing to be rude, I mum­bled ‘fine, thanks.’ Af­ter a few sec­onds, the voice said, ‘So what are you up to?’ Rather shocked at the gall, I snapped back ‘Ex­actly what you are up to’. The next thing I heard was ‘Sorry, I’ll call you back. Some id­iot wo­man in the next toi­let is an­swer­ing all my ques­tions.’ Les­son learnt. Sonal Kalra used to take lec­tures on how to start a con­ver­sa­tion. Now af­ter this, no one will in­vite her any­more. What a sad end to a ca­reer. Mail her at sonal.kalra@hin­dus­tan­times.com or face­book.com/son­al­kalraof­fi­cial. Fol­low on Twit­ter @son­al­kalra.

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