n. the desire to care less about things—to loosen your grip on your life, to stop glancing behind you every few steps, afraid that someone will snatch it from you before you reach the end zone—rather to hold your life loosely and playfully, like a volleyball, keeping it in the air, with only quick fleeting interventions, bouncing freely in the hands of trusted friends, always in play.
The commute from work to home and home to work takes an hour each. And one journey is an hour-long thing. So that means, every day from Monday to Friday, I spend two hours in trains, in a compartment packed with complete strangers- some of whom I can recognize, because we’re people of routine. However, how many of them have I actually had an even remotely decent conversation with (decent here being, anything beyond monosyllabic replies, indifferent shrugs and nods, empty apologies and half-assed smiles)? None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
Train time for me means completely poring my nose into a book or attempting to make another great (not really) achievement in my seemingly-plateaued life in the form of a high score on a game on my Smartphone. Or sleep. Come on, AN HOUR FULL OF SLEEP, no matter how uncomfortable is still sleep.
It was on one such evening on my way back home, I got into my compartment, made myself comfy on the lumpy cushioned seat, and started my next big attempt to break my earlier high-score (the things I do to challenge myself, sigh). At some point in the first fifteen minutes of the journey, I noticed from the corner of my eye a girl about a few years older than me sits next to me. Was she peeking into my phone (as is the glorious habit of co-passengers), I didn’t notice then (high score, remember?). But, a few minutes later I felt a touch on my arm. Neighbour was testily poking me. I pause the game and look up. She smiles and asks me, “What game are you playing?” I reply, “Balls”, the look on her face is a mixture of confusion and something that’s on the brink of amusement.
I clear my throat and repeat, “Balls On My Screen”.
A few hesitant giggles bubble from her side. I can’t help but laugh out loud. Seeing me laugh like that, she joins in too.
She then asks me, “What is this game about?”
I explain it to her.
She then goes on to say, “I have never heard of this game before. But it looks pretty cool.”
(A moment of pride for me) I say, “It is. It’s bloody addictive, to the point that all you can think of is matching numbers and balls, balls and numbers.”
She smiles and asks me, “What other apps do you have in your phone?”
I tell her. Then she tells me. The next thing I know, we’re discussing top apps, the pointlessness of Candy Crush Saga and all its Saga-siblings, Smartphone problems, playlists, favourite songs, next phone on the list and so much more. Before I find the time to realize where the time had flown, it was time for me to get off the train.
I’m surprised that I don’t want to put an end to a seemingly comfortable (though superficial and on some level, lame) conversation. I cut her off mid-sentence with my smile and awkwardly tell her that I have to leave. She responds with a rather disappointed sounding “Oh” followed by a cheery “Okay. Good night! Thanks for this.”
I smile brightly (something I’m prone to do without much control) and get off.
I continue thinking about this exchange while on the way home. I find it rather striking that not even once did she ask me for my name, where I live, what I do with my life, my routine. And I didn’t do that either. It was just a simple comfortable conversation without the need to be bound by personal trivialities, and completely free from the unsaid promise of another chance meeting.
What is the point I’m trying to make here?
Personally, I seemed to have forgotten the last time I made a perfectly nice conversation without being forced to, without faking my smile or without hitting my panic button. I seemed to have forgotten what a beautiful art the simple act of getting into a random conversation with a stranger was. Until this curious woman peeked into my phone; something I wasn’t even mad at.
How long has it been? How long since I have become extra-comfortable with having endless conversations in my head?
The simple, basic yet beautiful art of conversation, without being tied down by an agenda, personal gain or the need to form a new bond, is lost on all of us.
All I’m saying is, we ought to loosen up a little. Smile more openly at people, let the smile lead into these random conversations that aren’t burdened by predetermined conventions, let our curiosity of other people get the better of us (WITHOUT getting weird).
As I end this, I look up from my laptop and see two women who didn’t know of each other’s existence until ten minutes ago, bond over life in general. Only because one thought the other was crying, when she was only wiping her sweaty face clean!
I can’t help but smile.
Randomness is beautiful. Let the need to reach out to other get the better of us sometimes.