The other day we took Boo to a children’s park in South Bangalore. While the husband volunteered (he was left standing with Boo while I disappeared) to take Boo on all the rides, I sat down on one of the many park benches for some much-needed quiet time. It may surprise some of you to know that I don’t particularly like to pick up conversations with perfect strangers. I am more of a people-watcher and it’s my favorite thing to do followed closely by peering into the windows of strangers’ homes! My regular readers would know what my favorite travel past-time is – here’s a hint!
Anyway, as luck would have it, I found myself next to a chatty septuagenarian. Now I chose his bench because he didn’t seem very friendly – in fact he had a very stern look on his face! And he was busy reading a vernacular newspaper. But I was wrong! It took him 10 minutes and his opening line was “Madam, do you get headaches?” This caught me off-guard. Usually the grandpa types start off with “Which one is yours?” or “You should never leave your child unattended” etc etc I answered in the affirmative and he proceeded to show me a way to cure headaches without pills. It’s some sort of pulsing action on the top part of your thumb for those of you who would like to know. In spite of my monosyllabic answers and my constant digging into my book, my bench companion went steadfastly on and continued talking about ways to beat pain by doing these simple pulsing exercises. He got me a little worried when he started talking about menstrual cramps but he was genuinely keen on helping me find a pain-free and pill-free life. He even pointed at two old grandmothers walking around the park, one of them was limping and he said he knew how he could help them with their knee pains. I let him talk because at the back of my head, a little voice was telling me ” Shame on you for thinking he is a pervert”. This was a sweet old man who wanted some simple conversation and it wasn’t going to hurt me to give him some attention and who knows, all this stuff might actually work! It took 40 minutes and at the end of that time, I learnt that he was a retired bank manager from Erode and was in Bangalore visiting his married daughter. They lived near Electronics City and he was in this part of town visiting friends. He proudly pointed out his 5 grandchildren (he also told me that I should never leave my child unattended) and told me that studying about pain management techniques was a hobby of his. He didn’t ask me too many questions other than whether I was a homemaker or a full-time working mother. When I told him I did both because I worked from home, he said I was lucky to have the best of both! Eventually I could see the husband getting tired so I said goodbye and left. My last look was when I saw the two old grandmothers take my place. After 5 minutes, he turned to them and I could just about make out the pulsing exercises and the looks of wonder on his listeners’ faces.
In the animal kingdom, animals often reach out to each other for no reason at all other than physical comfort. Human interaction is so much more complex. In this age of digital communication, when one lives very much in the present, it’s easy to forgo the joys of simple conversation just because you don’t know the other person. Why strike up conversations with random strangers when you have Facebook and Twitter?
I hope those old ladies learnt something useful! I know I did.
The happiest conversation is that of which nothing is distinctly remembered, but a general effect of pleasing impression – Samuel Johnson