Honestly, I could make up things earlier, whether they happened anywhere or not. Blame insatiable curiosity, unfazed imagination, elective observations, my eccentricities… I mostly would simply nod or smile in response to queries, conserving my energy and freedom (you do lose some when you converse), with my mind working overdrive in character carpentry. There was no dilemma at all. My family could understand my body language wonderfully. So, I put the idle talk (that was quite a palaver anyway) on pause mode, and marinaded my thoughts, read up more and more, and continued with my independent pursuits.
I have always loved observing those around me to feed my own needs. It is an untapped source of adrenaline, ideas, thoughts, impressions, the psyche-study, more ideas… I chose to speak less, think, watch and listen more, and it held me in good stead. For years. I could conjure speech bubbles inside my head, with amazing alacrity, each time people appeared on the horizon. It was weird, (but then, most writers are weird), as a story always began to unfurl involuntarily before my eyes. I made up the unspoken dialogues between two individuals and relished concocted conversations with sneaky delight. It was a great sense of power: I could regulate my social nutrition with remarkable ease and effrontery.
Then kids happened, life turned decidedly vocal (for the locals). From bursting into rhymes spontaneously inside crowded elevators to participating in lengthy discourse at parent-teacher meetings and more, playing “mommy games” when the irritating compere squawked at the birthday parties galore (amen, tweety dance) to yelling matches at home. He complained consistently over the cacophony. I survived the teens somehow, relished conversing with strangers I met every day during the course of my umpteen assignments, made the most of my chats, takeaways, communications linking me to others on domestic and foreign turf.
Then the mask changed it all.
I began conversing with myself, and loving it, within the privacy of my precious face cover, enjoying the surreptitious shield it brought along. The quirky twitch, irreverent boo, strained smile, frugal monosyllables — it cloaked them all. I enjoyed the phase, relishing #jomo over #fomo, and now find myself beginning to crave social nutrition in recurrent spurts. The new, pandemic-surfing me, looks for enervating chats to fuel up mentally. Meaningful talks that go beyond the unending WhatsApp messages and emails. One-on-one interactions simply make my day. I like even what gets my grey matter going: Meeting and discussing what’s on my mind, cutting up the current affairs, sharing views and vitriolic tirades, perspective on politics and more. It is a varied index.
As the four of us latch onto our separate screens every day at home, for the second year in progression, I have honestly begun to value social interaction more. Whether it involves a quick online chat with a colleague, speaking on Clubhouse, or chatting with friends, family and foes to work in the daily nourishment. As if the grey cells that felt peeved, chubby and then slack, are now energised, acting up with fervour, raring to devour — clearly here is something very powerful about human interaction. An instant wave or raising brows in acknowledgement when known souls jog or walk past on the ramp qualifies as a social energiser. It was as if I have reoriented my social geometry to let in kinship. From bonding even more deeply with vent-buddies and making time for fika with friends, it’s all on the priority list. No longer relegated to weekends. I call it my new meaningful life. Finally found my halo.
Shilpi Madan for DailyO