Here’s the debut of my never-ending elaborate thoughts about my view of the world, an introvert’s view that is. It’s been only recently that I realized that I fall into this forgotten category of the human species: The Introverts. My inclusion into this category is quite contradictory because I am a shy person, while craving for attention and fame. I talk less, prefer solitude while in a group of people, but when I’m with a few people whom I care, I shamelessly voice out my rebellious opinions about the ways of life for minutes together, and sometimes I do long for a company to drain out my emotional outbursts when I’m alone. I do not call out any random person I meet as my friend, just because we see each other every day at work/ school or because we took a selfie together during one of our meets. I’d like to start my first episode with the recurring, uncomfortable experiences that I continue to have when obliged to go out with a group of people, or ‘friends’ as the world calls it.
Although I find myself very comfortable and energetic when I’m hanging out with a couple of people, a group of people is always my worst nightmare.
Not because I’m shy to speak (in fact, I consider myself above average in the art of public speaking!), but because I don’t find the need to speak. And yet I occasionally force myself into these awkward situations for the fear of turning into a recluse maniac.
Here’s my experience of going out with my ‘friends’ from class today. I think the word peers is apter here. Friends, according to me, are the very few people that you stay in contact with because you are connected with them on a mental level. These are the people that you never choose to trade with, even for a thousand dollars. There exists no compulsion to meet these friends from time to time for the sake of validating your friendship, because you know that you’re there for them and vice versa whenever the time calls it. Those are the people I choose to go out with, those are the people I choose to call my friends.
However, the world laws are laid differently. The more frequently we get into photos together, the stronger our friendship is. If we eat together hiding our passions and silencing our insecurities and filling the awkward silences by making fun of others in our group who are eating with us, our friendship, as a whole group (including the others who were made fun of, and who in turn take their revenge) has strengthened considerably.
In short, modern ‘friendship’ (at least as far as a group of people is concerned) is all about how long the time is spent in the endless permutations and combinations of photo shoots, and how many of them end up in the Instagram and Snapchat stories in the aftermath.
I am a girl from a different state and culture and I came to Bangalore to pursue a course in design. In other words, I wanted a change from the conservative orthodox sheltered cage that I lived in. And now, having seen the change, I choose to continue to live in my conservative, orthodox and sheltered cage, except that now I choose to do it, hence I live by my rules. This brief introduction about me is necessary before I proceed any further, before I’m judged for what I am and what I’m not. My decision to not be active on Whatsapp, Instagram, or Snapchat is no way related to the place or the background that I come from. It was a well thought, conscious decision which gives me immense pride.
Back to today’s lunch date with nine other classmates of mine. I was too afraid to deny for the fourth consecutive time and so I agreed. I now got the chance deny the next three times that they might call me (Which I hope, will include their hookah sessions too). Denying more than three times will make them forget my presence and hence I get no more invites (That’s my school life, in short), which I do not want because I always want a choice. I go to the mall to buy the same old shampoo that I always buy, instead of buying it in the small grocery store beside my house, due to the same reason: the freedom to choose, to accept, to reject.
Part 2 (12/2/18):
Time has forwarded by 10 days since I wrote the previous post, but what remains common is a similar experience encountered today. I’ll now elaborate on how the social groups and gatherings work, from the perspective of a keen observer, who happens to be me. I would like to share my extremely awkward experiences in gatherings that I have encountered, since 6 months of staying in Bangalore (It’s only in Bangalore that I decided to go out a little, and hence, these experiences. No offense to the city or its people intended here). Though I do have an excuse here that I do not understand the language of the people (Kannada) and hence that accounts for half of the uncomfortable situations that I come across, however, I call this as an excuse because this has always been the case whenever I go to any gatherings (except for family get-togethers, because we are all blessed with abundant family dramas and that makes things a lot easier!).
This is the general protocol that is followed in a group meeting. It all starts with the placement of the members around the table.
How and where you choose to sit decides your quality of time spent in the next sixty minutes.
Firstly, the group is bifurcated into two: the vegetarians and the non-vegetarians, the hookah smokers and the non-hookah smokers, the selfie-takers and the non-selfie takers (Oh is it just me then? okay), the red bull drinkers and the non red bull drinkers, the talkers and the non-talkers.
Every group has an unconventional leader, and either a competitor or a distractor (usually includes a cute ‘girl next door’ with a high pitched voice and a weird accent topped with overdramatic expressions to attract maximum attention). The group arranges itself around the table such that the focal persons are at the center and the rest are scattered around them. Gradually as the table reaches a corner, you’ll find people like me, neither entertainers, nor distractors, nor Instagram story builders, but just people who came for the fear of being judged (which they will be, anyway), who contribute to the bill (not the food though! The food always revolves around the leaders, the remains and leftovers come to us), who contribute to the group selfie (if at all the leaders choose to include the corner sitters).
Phase 1: The Post-menu discussion
After the menu is quickly decided by the leader of the group, non-consensually, the phase one starts: The post menu discussion. In this phase, the one person in the group who has travelled to exotic places or had fancy food (not to mention decades ago) imparts some knowledge to the rest of the group: about how Chinese tomato soup is the tastiest dish ever in the world, or about why Italian garlic bread can never be re-created elsewhere, about the consistency and texture of the Schezwan sauce that she/he had in a five star restaurant etc. This person entices the audience by mentioning complicated names of the restaurants and dishes that carry no meaning by themselves.
If this person is rhetoric, then the group gets silent for a few minutes listening to the endless stories of her/his travel and cuisine experiences, before eventually splitting into three: the listeners, the non-listeners, and the selfie-takers. If this person is not rhetoric, the group still splits into three, and the next phase quickly follows either because the non-rhetoric person is forced to stop or because no-one has any travel stories to share.
Phase 2: The Discussion
After the order is placed for food, the major trauma starts for me: The Discussion. At this point, my mind goes blank, and I passively listen to whatever is happening around.
Some restaurants are kind and thoughtful enough to provide interactive interiors (This will be my first step as an interior designer when designing public spaces), with graffiti and writings or random thoughts or words on the walls or on the table, which allows me to peacefully pass this phase unperturbed.
Rest all are stingy and furnish the interiors with lights and colors that fake eliteness, just enough to fulfill their very purpose: to give a space to the customers to take ‘candid’ shots and thereafter change their profile pictures and update their Snapchat stories (Oh look! I live a luxurious fun life hanging out with my friends all the time! Hey ex-boyfriend, I no longer need you!). It’s restaurants like these that made me write this post (and the ones to follow). Having no other place to look at, and trying my best to avoid checking my phone for something interesting (my phone goes blank during social situations) for the fear of being caught red-handed that I’m feeling bored, I’m forced to involve in the discussion.
Nothing interesting to me happens in this phase. No discussion about home or family, career or life in general. Just the leaders and the distractors making fun of each other, making fun of their names, or accents, or of pretty much every trivial issue on this planet.
If it’s a students’ gathering, then the teachers are reserved a special place in the fun-making zone. Even the best of the best teachers are not spared in this zone.
Unfortunately, making fun of teachers goes completely against my ethics, as I have an immense respect towards them (what a bad generation to be born in!), so I try hard and maintain a smiling face. I do not like making fun of others for the sake of making fun, for the sake of passing my time, I make fun when I think that the situation is really funny to be enacted. And so I have got nothing to contribute to this phase.
Phase 3: The Food
Although this phase is surprisingly very short and lasts for a couple of minutes, it holds the maximum importance because it is the binding factor, it connects people and it serves a purpose. This is the most silent phase of the entire scene except for an occasional ‘please pass me the sauce’, or ‘give me the tissue’, or ‘yuck! this tastes like shit!’ comments. However, this is the most active, yet confusing and nerve-wracking phase of all.
People forget to worry about their entire worlds for a moment: about the friend who hasn’t tagged them in the Instagram post, about the reply to WhatsApp message that they have to think about, about the beauty filter that they forgot to switch on while taking a selfie, about the new story that their crush had just uploaded on Instagram which shows an attractive counterpart. After they have taken the ‘#foodporn’ pictures from their iphones (no offense, but I meant phones in general with good cameras) through their Instagram filters, they start the sacred ceremony. They are engrossed in eating, or rather in the act of eating: to grab the most before it vanishes.
This phase is like an ocean, calm and silent in the outside but violent and tumultuous in the inside.
Even here, I feel quite awkward and uncomfortable. Since the food revolves around the leaders and their rivals, the leftover food comes to us (a fancy way of saying me, there’s no ‘us’ for me in groups). Here comes another idiosyncrasy of mine:
I do not like eating the food that someone else has touched with tongue and teeth.
This makes my food choice even more limited, I had to forgo the chocolate lava cake because it only came with one spoon that was passed to me after everyone took a bite of it, and the sandwich that I once ordered for myself which was half-eaten and left, by a girl who just took a long breath of a cigarette.
Another major impediment to me is the extremely hot and sizzling food. I’m a slow eater and I relish and chew every bite of food that I take (similar to a cow eating grass), and I’m very sensitive to hot (and cold) food. Even then, I unsuccessfully try to eat my share of food, as fast as I can, even if my tongue and fingers are burning with the heat, even if there’s no water nearby in the restaurant (thanks to westernisation of India), so that I’m not passed off any comments of being a slow eater, and so that I do justice to the emotional trauma that I went through all this while.
Phase 4: The Photoshoot
Once everyone had a sumptuous meal and are too lazy to get up and leave, some of the girls take this opportunity to use the restroom and fix their makeup for the major upcoming event, which is the photoshoot. This is a mandatory event whenever there is a get together, but the placement of this event is flexible, i.e. it can even take place at the beginning of the food session too, when everyone has fresh faces, well-kept hair (which later gets messy during the ravenous eating session) and intact red lipsticks (not everyone of course, but the majority of the females). But the large-scale photo shoot which includes corner sitters like me in one or two pictures with blurred faces at the edge of the picture usually takes place at the end.
Here again, the people are segregated according to their fashion sense.
Just as the saying goes: ‘Birds of the same feather, flock together’, girls and boys following the trendy fashion statement end up taking the group photos together. There was this one time when I went on a lunch date with two other girls, and during this phase, I became completely invisible to them! I felt bad since that was my first time but later I got acquainted with the norms of the ‘metro life’. Since I hardly went out during my school and college days and we had a strict dress code in college and because I was very obese during my teenage years, my fashion sense was drastically affected that even now it’s limited to simple, Indo-western clothing, which I’m very comfortable with. So I never cared to flaunt in trendy western outfits that go with the ‘metro code’, nor to look good in photos with random people, nor to update my social profiles with deceivingly posh looking, happy photos.
So I give a smiling face and enter a photo or two, then I walk towards the exit pretending to wait for the rest, while I contemplate on the events that took place in the last hour.
The session wraps after a couple of a few hundred clicks of the rest of the group in different poses (One of the classic poses is ‘the hug’) and different phones with different filters and different placements of the members of the group. Once everybody is satisfied with the way they looked in the final pictures, the photos will be mutually shared and individually updated in WhatsApp, Instagram, and Snapchat stories. A final goodbye is said and everyone disperses.
Here’s an art journal video I made based on the same topic: