The intrusive Indian’s passion to connect

The fight against loneliness leads one to make friends. As society gets more hooked to digital mediums, we need to take interest in others to stay connected
Image used for representational purposes only.
Image used for representational purposes only.Express illustration | Sourav Roy

In the beginning, we were all alone. And then we came together. First in sets of two. Some committed, some did not. Some committed for a while and moved on when the time came. The bound unit of two became more as we had children. And that became the family. Then we made friends. And we lived close to the ones we liked. We went out together, ate together, and celebrated and mourned together as well. And then came marriage as an institution. Those who committed themselves to it bound themselves to the norms of fidelity and more. Society institutionalised it with rituals of every kind. Even punishments for those who strayed.

And then the governments of the land took over the task of governing society, listing the do’s and don’ts, and even creating detailed laws to follow. In came the rule of law. Even as all this happened, families grew, as did societies. Those who lived in close-knit societies gave themselves names that identified themselves as being more homogenous among the heterogeneous. Societies became regions and regions became states. And then the states got together and made the country. The smallest unit of society is the individual and the largest is all of mankind then. Add to it animal-kind and plant-kind as well, if you will. And we are complete as a universe.

I just visited an uncle of mine after a long while. We sat down over a cup of coffee and chatted. We spent 40 minutes of quality time. In these forty minutes, he told me everything about his side of the family and probed into every little bit that related to mine. Nothing was off-limits. Everything had to be spoken. He then took me across to meet his friends at the club. A motley group of nine quizzed the life out of me. It was not only about what I do, but about literally every aspect of life, money, investments, land, health, friendships, contacts and even my attitudinal disposition to politics, religion and more. Global warming and AI were included as top-up quizzes. The only subject left out of the discussion was sex. I don’t know why though. I left that evening exhausted.

Does this sound familiar to you? Has it ever happened to you? Does this happen to you everyday? Are you immune to this? Is this the Indian way? Are we as intrusive as this all the time? And do you do to others what others do to you? Is the Indian an intrusive character? And is it fun to be like this? Let me discuss this further and do a contrast.

The last few years have seen me traverse quite a few countries and spend some time out there absorbing societies and people post work. At one end is the US. Gone are the days when the jolly and completely inane, “How you doing?” was being thrown about. Today, no one wants to know how I am doing. Everyone wants to be left alone. No one is connecting with their eyes. If on the train, you are not meant to connect with another with your eyes. That is considered intrusive. If you hear someone yelling at another, you are meant to ignore it and just get on with your life. Not stare, leave alone intervene. People are not meant to connect with people in public places without a purpose. That's the unwritten rule of a spanking new modern society. The new rules of civilised behaviour, if you may.

Europe on the other hand is a bit cooler on this count. A smile on the face is all fine. A return of a smile is fine as well, it seems. Again, this is contextual whether you are speaking Eastern Europe or Western. As you move to Asia, things get friendlier. Warmer. Even hotter.

Now the key question is a simple one. Which one is the correct way to be? Must people be cold to one another, warm, or so completely warm that you fry the brains of the receiver with this extra warmth, as the evening with my uncle and his friends at the club did mine? Must you be the intrusive Indian, the charming Frenchman or the completely private and insular American of today?

My considered view on this one emerges from a crazy fact. The fact remains that we are getting to be more and more mechanical. Data from diverse sets of studies tell us we are getting hooked to the digital medium so much that we don’t rise above it. We are so totally steeped into our social media handles that we do not find the need to be social in our real lives at all.

Social media has made us anti-social for sure, at least in the traditional way. We see this with our youngsters all around. Digital dopamine is the new drug going around. It’s free, it keeps you occupied, it makes you feel good and makes you want more and more of it all the while. Social media is designed to do just that.

As the days go by, as India emerges and merges into the world order and way of thinking, acting, behaving and living, it is time to sit up, spot and discuss the elephant in the room. Must we really go the way the US has, or must we stop the way we are moving right now? Is there an Indian way we want to reinvent and propitiate for the generation ahead of us? Is the intrusive Indian a great way to be?

I think it is. The reason is simple. The smallest unit of society is the individual. The loneliest unit of society is the individual as well. Man fights loneliness. It is this very fight that leads one to make friends and establish relationships. The ability to connect with one another in society is possibly a great parachute to use for a soft landing when the chips are down. Friends matter. As do acquaintances. As do strangers on a train. I do think society is meant to take care of one another, never mind whether you are related to one another by a family dog-tag or not. Smiling at a depressed stranger on a train could be of therapeutic value for all we know. In return, that connect could be a valuable whiff of dopamine for the self. The intrusive Indian is a great way to be. In many ways we are celebrating life and living it the way it must be. There is a joy in connecting with people everywhere and all the time. Let’s preserve the Indian way. Let’s get passionately intrusive.  

(Views are personal)

(harishbijoor@hotmail.com)

Harish Bijoor | Brand Guru & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults

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