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Friday, 26 October 2018

Tips for the Conversationally Averse

Hang in there, just a few minutes more...nod now, make that eye contact, give that understanding smile, tut-tut and look down sadly, swear with feeling,'What rubbish!'  or 'No seriously?' or 'Don't know what the world is coming to!' or 'I don't believe this!' and if you aren't sure, 'Tell me more...', always works!

Do you have the attention span of a 2-year old or do you wonder if it might be ADHD? Why there is even a phobia called glossophobia that you could be slotted under!
You aren't conversationally awkward but you'd rather steer clear of conversations that are zzz-inducing! Happier with a zip on the lip and over the ears too if possible.
Well, whatever, till diagnosed, you are out there in the open with no reprieve from compelling conversations. 
Talking about conversations, there could be various kinds you know...but I am talking primarily of ones involving your physical presence, the kinds which you cannot wait to tear yourself away from.

Conversations with a monopolizing speaker.
Many conversations are besieged by a speaker on his relentless monologue expecting no exchange from the audience.
Conversation bullies can be a blessing! While the said person takes control of the conversation, you can happily let your mind wander, observe the speaker or the audiences' individual tics, mannerisms, clothing, the room decor or simply transport yourself to another zone altogether. Actually, this is a pretty calming situation, meditative even if the speaker has a pleasant droning audio. Occasional head nods and looks of absorbed interest can see you through the evening quite successfully.
On the other hand, you've got to be wary of such monologues because there might be a twist to it with the speaker throwing off-hand questions to the onlookers at the end of his repertoire. This kind of rude interruption to the drifting mind is pretty unwelcome I'd say. Beating a hasty retreat in search of gastronomic or spirit-fueled refills comes to the rescue. 

Conversations in large gatherings that involve active participation.
You can well imagine how tedious it is to hang on to the words of each person in a party of say...twenty members, especially when the topic is nothing you like or relate to and you are constantly dreading the words, 'So what do you think ...?' asking for your personal opinion.
Thankfully most soirees comprise of persons, totally in awe and in love with their own opinions and voices, so you can shake off any awkwardness with a li'l bit of attention to body language and facial expressions...anyday more interesting than the talks, I daresay! 
You gotta watch for the most vociferous voices, the most antagonized faces, the most exuberant expressions and decide your course of action with, 'I totally agree with Mr. Vociferous' or 'I think Mrs. Antagonized does have a point there' or 'Ha,ha,ha...you are too good Ms. Exuberant!' 
However, to pass off as an avid participant, one cannot merely agree to all and sundry opinions expressed. 
You've got to shake things up a little, irrespective of what the ongoing conversation is about. Challenge Mr. Vociferous with a, 'You really think so?' and 'Can you prove it?' and stand back and enjoy the fascinated hushed horror of the audience.
You could make a contribution to the tryst with your own compelling statements by preparing beforehand on good ol' politics and all sorts of trivia news. The escaped whale from the Japanese aquarium that no one would have read about or titillating snippets from Hollywood/Bollywood. Choose topics that are self-sustaining, entertaining, no-brainers that enlist your own foray into the convo and ensure a swift escape therein.

Conversations in intimate gatherings, with limited participants.
Well, these are definitely challenging. You can help your cause here with some prior screwing with the background music if such a back up exists, and thereby plead noise pollution as your excuse for not being in sync with the proceedings, lame but hey, it helps! Another helpful tip is asking The Q, 'So Mrs...tell me what's going on in your life?' or 'So how are the kids/maid/body pain/exercise regimen....?' You get the drift? That should give you sufficient time to zone out. 
Then of course, you have the trusty, faithful mobile phone. Set alarms to go off at frequent intervals so you get justified time-outs to recharge those mental faculties overburdened with facts and info they were never meant to hold. Yes, mobiles are boons of tech to minds like a sieve. You come back to the field rejuvenated from the break having imbibed a few lines of 'shayaris' to be casually delivered or crack a few well-rehearsed 'impromptu' jokes, and voila, you've made your mark!

And then the most lethal kind of conversation, the one-on-one kinds.
The ones you absolutely abhor! The situation where you are faced with a speaker akin a predator with unwavering watch over his prey....yikes, the mere visual sends chills down your spine, doesn't it? The predator, I mean the speaker, expects you to hang on to every word of his with the same intensity that he is delivering them with and does not miss the slightest signs of waning interest from you. If you are spotted looking diverted, he gets irritated but to be fair, he decides to forgive you and restarts his narrative....oh God, no, no, no! Best recourse, chew the bullet, focus all your energies on following his narrative the first time itself.
Ideally, I would suggest that you inveigle yourself from such situations but when the going gets tough, the tough get going. See, you are tough, you know that. But there is no fortitude in putting yourself through such haranguing situations and so, you've got to get going...move out of such situations pronto.

Then we come to the point, aren't conversations about dialogues, mutual exchange of words and opinions between people, preferably voluntary? The key operative here of course would be, voluntary. Given a choice, you would not volunteer to be a part of a conversation, either physical or over air-waves that does not interest you, now would you? Phone conversations, ahh, they are an altogether different cuppa, to be savored over another time. 
You see, it is just a personal choice - Happier reading or hearing words and opinions than vis-a-vis being in the frame yourself! 
A good choice I would say considering, most people like it best when they are speaking and seldom interested in listening to anyone else. And if they do listen, it is with the intent to reply.

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."
- Steven Covey (1932-2012)

Disclaimer: The above post has been authored on a lighter vein for literary purposes only. All tips and opinions expressed are the author's own and should be followed at the reader's own discretion and risk!

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Copyright © 2018 KALA RAVI

Thursday, 18 October 2018

These are a few of my favourite things #TheBlindList

For OCD-ing middle-aged moms, planning is everything. Surprises are just rude shocks. How boring, right? Yeah, I thought the same about my mom and now my kids think the same about me. 
Time and again my family tests my patience with their not-so-helpful attitude on every holiday we've taken. No one volunteers to help with researching the travel itinerary, the flight or hotel bookings or anything the holiday would include. Add to that woe list, giving me wrong dates of availability, that leaves me at my wits end when they realize the folly a couple of days before we depart for the holiday...arrghh!
That's it! I've had just about enough of this "holiday" planning! The weather is wretched and I am having a blessed moment putting my feet up on the couch mulling over our last annual vacation wherein my lazy family decided yet again on "simply chilling" at the resort while the rest of the group tour went on a mad rampage all across Malaysia. 
If only things were different...The cuckoo clock cheeps three times and I wearily stretch my toes.
Ping! There goes the email alert on my mobile. Must be some promo mail, with the approaching festive season. Hmm, it's a mail from DCT Travels, must be one of those innumerable sites I checked out for our last holiday. Half-heartedly I click open the mail and my jaw drops as I skim through the mail. I read the mail again and then once more. In a daze I call my husband, "Hello, you'll never believe what I am going to tell you! I just won an all expenses paid 7 days, 6 nights holiday!! I was the 100,000 th visitor on their website it seems! But the holiday is for just one person, me. Isn't that just awesome?....Where to? Let me read the mail again and call you back." 
As I go through the mail again, I realize it does not mention the destination. But, hey...wait a sec...what is this under the *Terms and Conditions*? It says that the holiday destination is to be a surprise and I have to agree to ask no questions about the destination other than those relevant to my travel requirements. Now, I am feeling really stupid! What kind of scam is this? Maybe I'll be robbed or kidnapped or worse! Just my kind of luck.

The phone rings, it's an unknown number. I answer,"Yes, speaking. Hmm, yes, I received the email. How do I know this is not a prank? Oh, I wasn't aware you have an office in Mumbai. Sure, I'll visit. And yes, I'll get my passport along. Thank you so much!"
As I get off the call from the rather nice sounding Neha, I can feel the adrenaline rush. 
I browse through the website of DCT Travels and check the customer reviews. Wow, all 5 star reviews! Nah, that could be fake! Only one way to find out. I'll visit their office which is surprisingly not far from my place.
The sweet girl Neha from the tele-call is there to heartily welcome and congratulate me. We are comfortably settled in with coffee mugs at her station and she asks me to fill out a questionnaire based on which they will customize my holiday. Besides the usual routine personal details I need to fill, there are questions that make me think.
They ask me questions like, what are my dream holiday destinations, my expectations from a holiday, stay preferences, food I love and so on!
Phew!! I am done answering all the questions and inadvertently it has been a journey of self exploration for me, I never knew I've been craving for a perfect holiday!

It is a fortnight since that meeting, the days have blurred past in a rush of packing, repacking, checking documents, visiting visa office, arranging for stuff to be handled at home in my absence and so much more. 
Other than the fact that my destination is somewhere in Europe, DCT Travels hasn't still revealed my travel itinerary, they just wink and tell me it's a #BlindList
I really wonder where I am going to be whisked away and honestly? It is literally a blind date that I am risking! I am praying this surprise doesn't turn out to be yet another rude shock!

I am at the airport, it is 12.00 a.m and the family is here to see me off on my maiden solo journey to God-Knows-Where! I am feeling terribly excited and a bit crazy as well! 
I wave goodbye to all and amidst tight hugs and last minute reminders to keep my phone charged, I am off! Off on a blind date to someplace I have no clue about but something tells me it is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime memory that I am about to make!

I am at the Lufthansa airways counter (I don't know why but I've always loved the exotic-sounding name of this airline). I am headed to Paris!! 
As I flash my ticket and passport, the cheerful Lufthansa executive smiles broadly at me. He informs me that my ticket has been upgraded to business class!!! Omg, this is so amazing!
I dazedly walk with my backpack to the business class lounge to wait it out in style till my flight is called.
A blissful flight cocooned in luxury and pampered by the delightful in-flight service, I am quite liking the way things are proceeding! They even have authentic Indian vegetarian gourmet food that I love!
At the Charles de Gaulle airport, I am received by a DCT travels executive and deposited in a waiting luxury car. I am informed that my destination is now just an hour and half's drive away.
I am eagerly peering through the window and helpfully assisted by the chauffeur who points out the various beautiful monuments and sites we are passing by. Mon dieu! The city is simply enchanting! We are now out of city bounds and traversing beautiful countryside, there is a river, La Seine, I remember from my French classes!
Finally I read a board saying "Bienvenue à Giverny". I am at the home of the brilliant Impressionist artist Claude Monet at Giverny from where he created some of his most amazing paintings of Water Lilies amongst many others. I remember mentioning in the DCT travels' questionnaire that I adore Monet's art and that I would love to visit his inspiration.

I am booked into...wait for it... a castle, called Chateau de Reves. The chateau is run by an old couple and thankfully they speak English though heavily accented which I find extremely charming! I am shown up to my room which done up in tones of pale rose and moss green. I am in love with the floral wall paper, the lacy curtains and the old, heavy period furniture including a canopied bed! 

Everything about Giverny is so adorable. The cobbled paths, the old buildings with soft faded hues, several chateaus from a bygone era, beautiful shaded pathways with tall poplars and trees I don't know the name of, tiny corner cafes fronted with glass displays of mouth-watering croissants....ahh, my senses are on an overload and my phone camera is in a tizzy to capture all the wonderful sights I am beholding!

After a good night's sleep and a sumptuous buffet breakfast I am all set for the day ahead. Imagine my surprise when I behold Neha at the reception waiting for me! She tells me she'll be with me all through my holiday! Woohoo! I love the idea of travel sans the worries of planning and logistics! Travel to explore has only been a myth to me so far!

Neha and I visit the Monet home which is every bit as beautiful I imagined it to be, and everything is so impeccably maintained! The grounds, the Japanese bridge, and THE waterlilies, they are simply out of this world!
I have taken my sketchbook on this visit and I spend a lazy hour trying to capture the famed lily-pond sipping a glass of chilled French wine accompanied by a cheese platter...life doesn't get any better! I am totally letting my hair down!

Neha informs me that we'll be taking a flight late evening to our next destination and smugly informs me that it will be a surprise too! I can't wait to find out where we'll be heading next!

You could have knocked me down with a feather when I hear that we are headed next to Salzburg, Austria!  I try to remember the number times I've wished to visit the rolling hills where the epic movie, "The Sound of Music" was shot. I am already humming,"These are a few of my favourite things..." Exploring the world is soon going to be my motto in life!
Salzburg is nothing short of picture-postcard prettiness! 
The air itself is invigorating and people seem to be thriving on it! Everywhere I see apple-cheeked happy folk with ready smiles filled with warmth. It doesn't matter that I can neither speak nor understand most of what people speak here. The place is alive with music, theater, culture and so much fun!
I am almost crazy ecstatic when I visit the Villa Trapp - The Original Sound of Music family home. Like a giddy teen, the lines,"I am sixteen going on seventeen.."are on my lips!
We take a trek on the hills where the blockbuster soundtrack,"The hills are alive..." was shot and indeed, my heart wants beat like the wings of the birds!
A delightful evening at the famed opera has me gushing and overwhelmed! This kind of enriching experience, visiting all these amazing places and doing all the stuff I have only dreamed of!

My guide and new best pal, Neha tells me that our next destination involves a train journey, the Euro-rail. We are now headed to England! We arrive to a dull, grey, drizzly London. I think I recognize most of the places the taxi passes by, thanks to all the scores of English movies I've watched. I am excited to recognize Picadilly square, the London Bridge, the Thames, the London eye, Westminster Abbey and all those iconic colonial structures.
I beg Neha to tell me where we are heading and she tells me it is to the English countryside. The place that inspired poets and writers to pen the most famed literary works! Dorset, Cornwall, Devon, Somerset...here I come!
The natural beauty of the English countryside takes my breath away as do the quaint cottages, the multi-hued heather, pretty blooms, beautiful sandy beaches and the nippy, crisp air! It is small wonder that those literary giants were inspired to pen down such marvelous prose and poetry. Why, I think if I stay here a bit more, I'll find myself drafting my own best-seller book of poetries soon enough! I visit a field of golden Daffodils at Cornwall and I am at a loss of words at the feeling of pure joy that envelops me when I see what inspired, "The Daffodils" and "The Solitary Reaper" by William Wordsworth.

My happiest moment is when I am given the keys to a lovely little fairyland-like cottage, with its own white picket fenced garden, thatched roof and a tiny attic room with round windows, in Devon! This is nothing short of a fairy-tale! Can it get any better? Oh yes, it gets better when you have a picnic by the roadside after a long bike trail! Neha has arranged for a packed hamper of dainty cupcakes, buttery scones, strawberries and cream, tiny cucumber sandwiches and of course chilled bottles of lemonade! The unforgettable Enid Blyton, I am living yet another dream! 

My mind runs through the last few days' happenings...and I am smiling away loopily! So many incredible moments, exotic, quaint and beautiful places that have blown me away. People and places that I have only read about...I am really so glad I agreed to go on this blind date with #TheBlindList. I came openminded, expecting nothing, and what a revelation the world has been to me! #SayYesToTheWorld and it opens up unlimited possibilities! I never thought traveling the world could be so fulfilling!

I settle down under the tree on the little blanket that Neha has thoughtfully spread. What with overindulging myself with such decadent treats and the overall feeling of bliss, makes me a little snoozy. 

There is a ringing sound...I ignore it, it must be some passing cyclist. The ringing persists and refuses to go away. Unwillingly I tear open my eyes from the stupor and come face to face with my son holding out the phone to me.
Oh, no!! What's this? Was it all just a dream? Was that my trip to Wonderland?
I accept my phone and answer the unknown number calling me,"Hello?" 
"Hello ma'am, this is Neha calling from Dreams Come True Travels...."



This post is my entry for the #TheBlindList contest from Lufthansa India in association with Indiblogger.
All the places mentioned are real though I have never visited any of them...yep it's a fictional trip, but one close to the heart!

Copyright © 2018 KALA RAVI

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Backscratchers Inc.

Ever experienced an itch on your back, just beyond your arm's reach? Oh, how it irritates, tingles and distracts you! You rub your back against a rough wall, snagging your favorite jacket, but you cannot be bothered about such trivialities when that particular spot on your back is the center of all your focus. The wall helped temporarily but the itch is back again. Neither your pen nor the longest kitchen ladle helps reach that exact spot of annoyance.
And along comes a messiah, it could be your spouse, kid, parent, best pal and you beg for that wave of magic to alleviate the itch - a good, long back scratch! 
The involuntary sigh of relief that escapes you makes you understand exactly how a flea-ridden dog would feel when he is given a good scratch! You feel indebted and you promise to return the favor if the need ever arises.
You also decide to order yourself a back up, the tool back scratcher. Somehow it slips your mind as other matters take precedence once the itch is diverted. Anyway you could always misplace a back scratcher even if you bought one, just like a working pen or a scrap of paper that you can never find when you need them most.

Well, after beating about the bush, let me come to my point, which is, never underestimate the power of a back scratching associate or being a back scratcher yourself
I don't know but there might even be some kind of ground-breaking research going on at Ivy league colleges on how back scratching is a basic human instinct for self-preservation and growth.
When the great king XYZ was feeling low, the courtiers cheered him up with paeans sung in his honor and soon the king was happy - bags of gold flung at the courtiers! That's back scratching with perks! 
Remember how as a kid if you had to make new friends, you spoke nicely and shared your special lunch with them? Those kids reciprocated when they learned you were a nerd with flair for math or maybe because your mum made really yummy lunch! 
Not much changes when you get older. 
Are you bending backwards on your job and that too to no yield? Talent, hard work, sincerity, integrity, honesty...blah, blah are keys to success no doubt but a li'l knack with this talent may give you that extra push. Back scratching helps you break the ice in a new office, elevates your equation with your boss. 

All you have to do is scratch the right back, the right way...too little and it aggravates the itch, too much and you're scratching the skin off the back.

I'd regard back scratching as an art in itself. There are amateur back scratchers who will go about their task blatantly, making it all too obvious and over the top. And there are masters of the craft, going about the act with subtlety. You must be an au naturel back scratcher, do it so suavely that you get the desired results with none the wiser of your tact. THAT is pure artistry!

If you thought that this gratifying process was limited only to corridors of corporate or political power, you are mistaken. At every corner, at every stage of your life you'll encounter this. It could be the maid buttering you up with that extra bit of elbow grease in the hope of better pay and you praising her to get that extra shine on your brassware. A lady waxing lyrical about how she finds the teacher so intellectually stimulating and inspiring in the hope that her child can win some brownie points in that teacher's class. It could be a couple manipulating each other to get the best out of their relation...back scratching is omnipotent.

I don't get the negativity associated with the term, "back-scratching". Being called a back scratcher, a suck-up, a chamcha, a butterer, is so hypocritical! Hey, no one stopped the person next to you from doing nice things to get a leg-up, now did they? Any one and everyone is free to join the back scratching venture. 
If you think about it, it is a kind of barter system, after all. Didn't they say, "As you sow, so shall you reap," yeah, so you are doing nice things for someone in the hope that the favor will be returned. Overall a positive outcome, a means to an end, I'd say.

Of course consistency is key here. You've got to sustain the same level of indulgence and enthusiasm that you started out with throughout the back scratching process, that has special points you see. Abruptly withdrawing from the scheme you set rolling, just proves detrimental in the long run. (Again imagine, someone who started giving you a good back scratch stopped suddenly, not a nice feeling, is it?)

The beneficiary or scratchee (my dictionary points out there is no such word, oh well, indulge me!) in this process, enjoys a good massage to his ego and confidence. How many people out there to boost you and how many out there to pull you down? Do the math. 
Obviously the scratchee wants, no needs, a scratcher
Scratcher-Scratchee, a totally symbiotic relationship. (My 7th grade science teacher would be so proud I still remember that term!) 

I shall also hasten to warn you that the relationship between fellow scratchers is generally far from cordial. It is just like any other competition, he who scratches best bags the trophy
Beware of back-stabbers while you are in the back-scratching competition, watch your back. Funny how this part of the anatomy is always in contention.

To summarize, 
Back scratching at the most basic level, say between friends can be a mutually profitable activity. 
Back scratching in a competitive environment can be beneficial too if the concerned parties negotiate to work in tandem towards a greater cause.
Back scratching the superior or one in power could work in your favor provided you do it the right way.

Now, armed with all this back up, get back into the game with your best back scratchin' mode on and reap the benefits of your new found wisdom. And while you're at it, make sure you watch your back.


Disclaimer: The above post has been authored on a lighter vein for literary purposes only. All the opinions expressed are the author's own and should not be taken as expert advice!

­­Copyright © 2018 KALA RAVI