A cocktail of relationships

 

The idea of Social Networking sites isn’t new. It’s been in existence long long before Mark Zuckerberg conceived the idea of Facebook. In fact, long before even Mark Zuckerberg was conceived.

Village wells, bazaars, melas, places of worship, tea shops are some of the original Social Networking sites. The people we’d meet and the conversations we’d have at the well would be very different from those at the bazaar, which in turn would be very different from those at the temple. Relationships were what they are supposed to be- rich and varied. Pity, they aren’t any longer.

Today we can meet the entire world at one place- Twitter, Facebook or whatever. And everyone’s talking about the same issues in the same language in the same tone. It’s one big homogeneous get-together. I’m tempted to address it as www.relationships.orgy.

Count me out though. I’ve preserved my own idea of Social Networking. Inside of me, my idea has done what dinosaurs, typewriters, dodos, pagers and stenographers had failed to do- escape extinction. The only comparison possible is with Deve Gowda. (Do you know that he’s the only ex-PM to have remained in active politics for so long after his tenure?)

‘So what’s so different about your idea of Social Networking?’ I can hear you ask.

To start with, I hate the phrase Social Networking. It stinks of selfishness. Befriending people, starting a relationship, staying in touch so that they’d all come in handy sometime in life is such a repulsive idea. So matlabi. What kind of a friend would he be who says, ‘A friend in need is a friend indeed.’?

That’s why I’d like mine to be Relationship Bouquets. In relationships the X-axis is as important as the Y-axis, the width is as important as the depth. The wider the relationship basket, the richer the being. It is also my belief that not all relationships should be built or grown. Most are best left at their original levels and intensities.

Unfortunately, the world thinks otherwise. It’s constantly trying to unify all relationships and bring about sameness, striving to take each relationship ahead to the next level. I’ve never understood why.

Why can’t we let relationships just be? Relationships begin to sour when taken to levels or intensities they aren’t meant for.

Why should we always attempt to turn strangers into acquaintances, acquaintances into friends, friends into best friends, best friends into lovers, lovers into spouses, spouses into soul mates? Looks like we don’t stop until we merge everyone and everything with ourselves.

Why does the world love convergence so much?

I don’t.

I prefer my camera to be a camera, not a phone. I like to see genders separate. I feel uncomfortable when sexes begin to look, dress and behave like each other.

It’s the same quirk that made me keep my professional and personal lives separate. I had never let my kids loose on hapless colleagues, or let my bosses hear it from my wife.

As you might have noticed, here too I’ve stayed clear of converting this blog into my personal email.

Dear Bindu, heard you pushed Rajiv off a cliff last month? Congratulations! So, did he enjoy his first bungee experience?

Dear Velliamma, believe you read all my posts and remarked, ‘He’s changed!’? Changed for the better means that I’m good now. Changed for the worse means that I was good earlier. Either ways, I’m 50% good now. So can I take that as a compliment? Thanks!

Dear Pradeep, believe your boss’ boss’ boss’ boss chucked his job last week and is now sitting at home doing nothing? How come when he does it, it is ‘discovering himself’ and when I do it, it is ‘highly irresponsible’?

Never will you find those posts in this blog. That’s because I hate to mix my worlds. Every relationship has a time, place and status. They should never be jumbled up. But that’s exactly what Facebook and its ilk have done. They’ve converted everyone and everything into friends. Mutated friends.

I feel sad when I hear kids say that their dads aren’t dads to them anymore.

‘Oh, he’s my best friend. I had my first smoke and drink with him. I share lewd forwards with him. He’s so cool. He’s a buddy.’

I worry for a world where all dads are cool dudes and moms are chilled chicks.

Friends seem to be the coveted title everyone’s trying to earn or graduate to. Dads, moms, teachers, cops are all sending friend requests.

Can you imagine how disorienting it would’ve been for me when my son came up to me last week and asked, ‘Acha, who’s Padingara Puttam Vittil Parameswara Kurup?’

That was my granduncle, whom I remember fondly as a stickler for values and good, old-fashioned upbringing.

‘He’s sent me a friend request on Facebook with this message,’ said my son showing his phone.

Hai dood Raghul, I am owsome here. Hope you are rocky there. I see many girls photographs on your sight. Any progress on love matters? Please don’t mind it. Simbly asking for joke only. Please tell your old man to remember his uncle. Ask him to send a letter to myself at buddyparamesa@gmail.com. All small letters with no space please. Chow then. PPVPK.

That very moment I lost my dignified Parameswaramama for whom I had a lot of respect, love and fear, forever. In his place stood a comic imposter in an ill-fitting tee, baseball cap, floral three-fourths, long nylon socks and Nyky shoes, trying to high-five a seventeen-year-old, in a bid to become his friend. He’s no exception. That’s what’s happening to all of us in one way or the other.

I dread to imagine a world where all dads are Jugheads, moms are Veronicas, teachers are Diltons, uncles are Reggies, aunts are Bettys and cops are Big Mooses. Would life become one big comic book? Or would it resemble the television series Friends- season after season?

A seer once said, ‘Life’s relationships should be like dishes served on a banana leaf at a South-Indian wedding. Each one has its unique flavour, role, place and pecking order.’

What the parochial seer meant was that it shouldn’t be a Punjabi buffet plate where everything gets mixed up with everything, into one holy mess.

But I preferred to make mine a Gujarati thali where dishes come in bowls. Everything is compartmentalised, independent of each other. Call them sites, if you wish.

Let me give you a peek into one of my many sites. www.waiting4train.2com.

When I used to travel to work by train, I had struck some memorable relationships while waiting for the 8.43 VT local. Our relationships lasted nothing more than 10 minutes every morning, until our train arrived. Once we got in, we’d become strangers again. For, in the compartment it was the time and space for other relationships which lasted until we got off- www.co-commuters.in/train.

Many years later when I heard that one of them had lost his eye in the train bomb blasts, I had cried the whole day remembering our daily 10-minute relationship that had lasted many years.

Similarly, now there are www.strugglers.in/coffeeshop, www.walkingpartners.calm, www.whose-savings-going.kum, www.neighbours.in/elevator and many more.

Let me take the example of my elevator relationships to illustrate a point.

There are people in my building whom I only meet in the elevator. Depending on the floors they live in, my friendly conversations with them range from 10 to 40 seconds each time. I know that’s not much time or space to have stimulating discussions. But that’s precisely why some relationships thrive. Standing in a hunched, shrunken posture, staring blankly at the closing doors, I have had many wonderful conversations with people I don’t know anything about except the floors they live in.

However, asking me to graduate from elevator chats to dinner conversations can be as disastrous as moving from advertising quickies to feature films. But that’s exactly what happened when my wife tricked me into a lousy dinner with one of them.

I say UDRS and he thinks it’s a new VRS. He talks about the Vedanta scrip and I think he’s talking about philosophy and scriptures. He offers alcohol. I say I’m allergic. He insists. I refuse. He sulks. Wives persuade. So I drink.

It’s all or nothing for me. So I go for all. By the time he did 2, I finished 4. When he was at 4, I was at 8.

The next thing I remember is 11 next morning. My wife refuses to tell me what I had done to that man that night. Whatever it was, he and I now travel in silence in the elevator.

It’s not a problem of mixing drinks, but mixing relationships. Of mixing curd rice with payasam.

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