Cut the first turf

During the recent lockdown, more than missing getting out of the house, travelling, meeting family, friends and colleagues, and getting back to the routine, I am missing having conversations with people the most. E and I do have our share of conversations on music, movies, art, society, and our professional lives. But, I am an extrovert, which makes me a people’s person. And, I completely believe that it doesn’t matter how great you are at your job, if you don’t relate to the people around you it's going to be a struggle going ahead.  

One of the many mantras of my life is that relationships make the world go round.

I have learnt this from my mother who is a gigantic social butterfly. And, I have seen how much she cherishes her relations and how much they love her, all from the line of action. 

In this article, I am sharing my own version of conversation starters that I happened to me by chance or by action. And, whether they’ve been good or bad, the outcomes are etched in my memory.

A Flood and a Friend

The 26th July floods in Mumbai in 2005 was also, coincidentally, the second day of my first college experience. I was super excited and nervous too; talk about teen pressure. We were alerted to leave for home quickly. I was on my way of returning home and got stuck on the road midway with a strong force of gushing water flowing from all four directions. I had to take help from a girl closeby who held my hand and helped me cross the road. 

It was a crazy scenario and I happened to give her my bag, which also had my wallet inside it. I decided to give her the bag without a second thought since I had way too many things in my hand to carry. The whole incident transpired in the afternoon, and the gloomy afternoon had turned to evening as I struggled to find my way home. And, this is when I had a sudden realisation that I had left my wallet with the girl. I never expected it to come back to me since I didn’t have her contact number. 

After about a month, I got a call from an old acquaintance telling me some girl is trying to reach me to return my wallet. My wallet had a mini dairy with the numbers of many friends. While all the numbers had been erased due to the heavy downpour, she managed to trace one number and called that friend. I was positively shocked. 

Honestly, I didn't expect it to be returned since reaching home safely was on my mind. I went along with my mom and met this girl, had a coffee, chatted, thanked (I carried a handmade thank you note), and laughed. My mom and I felt so good the whole day and to this day I still remember what my mom said that day, “These floods left you with a new friend.”

Local Train Friend 

If you live in Mumbai and haven't travelled by a local train I’d say you haven't lived in Mumbai yet. I would often commute to work in a local train and thanks to the sync in office timings, I’d come across the same faces every day. I call them my train friends. Ours was an unspoken relationship. Almost. We’d not chat every day, just smile and wave, sometimes save a seat or just let each other sleep till our destination. It was a bond so divine that if any newbie dared to pick a fight with someone from our small set of friends, we’d all be up in arms against her.  

Shikha and I during NH7 Weekender at Pune

Party to an After Party

My bestie Shikha and I went to the coolest and happiest 3-day multi-genre music festival called NH7 weekender in Pune a few years ago. This was one of our road trips from Mumbai (we have been on many amazing road trips) and it was as perfect as it could get. We checked into our hotel, our room had one more partner but we didn't see her during the day. 

We got ready and left for the event, super excited to make the most of this time. We attended the event, went for an after-party, and returned to our hotel. And, the moment we entered our room, we were greeted by a room full of strangers in our room, dancing and enjoying. Apparently we were sharing this room with a female DJ who ensured everyone had a great time.

I still remember that night I made a few good friends. We partied till the wee hours of the morning, danced all night, bonded over music, talked and talked for two whole days and connected like besties. I met some of these friends later and am still in touch with a few. 

Uber Connections

In my initial days of working in Delhi post-marriage, I’d hardly heard any good things about this city. And, to be honest, I’ve actually seen most of the scenarios to be mostly true. However, on one particular day when my boss and I had a meeting, my boss wanted me to go instead. I didn't know the roads too well. I was at the iconic Connaught Place circle and just didn't know where to meet the Uber cab I’d ordered. In fact, I lost him twice in my pursuit to find him and eventually ended up walking in the opposite direction. Finally, I met the Uber driver who was a Sardarji uncle. He greeted me with a big smile and offered me water. He was being very kind and waited patiently all this while. I told him over the call that I don't know the city well and he said no problem. 

He showed me around some historic places that came on our way. We happened to cross Guru Bangla Sahib Gurudwara and I remembered I had been here before with E. It felt so good just seeing the Gurudwara. Sardarji uncle noticed that I know this place and he told me about the Gurudwara service, which I am sure we all have heard of. He told me when he came to Delhi several decades ago, he didn't have a place to stay and was at the Gurudwara for a month. We chatted till I reached home and trust me I remember that conversation so fondly. It was so comforting. It reminded me again that it's the people who make any place better. 

"Potpourri-ing" Conversations

We’ve recently moved to a new house and one fine evening our doorbell rang. It was odd because we were not expecting any visitors. It was our neighbour who came for the first time to ask which candles or incense sticks we were using since the entire floor smells good. This fragrance was our ice breaker and now we often meet them on weekends, have potluck dinners, and are also planning for a board games night soon. 

Ershad and I in Seminyak, Bali

Best Braid

E and I were on a holiday in Bali and I was getting my hair braiding done by the beach from a local lady, who was so funny and sweet. She happened to tell me how, in the near future, she wants to braid hair for a movie star and how she loves her job. She even cracked husband and wife jokes with us and we laughed so much. She also shared her dream of coming to India and meeting Shahrukh Khan. daw

This was just so sweet and I really hope she does get to meet the superstar. According to Ershad, travel also means getting to learn new cultures, meet new people, and interact with locals. So, on all our holidays, we'll always have “one stranger who became a friend” stories.

Lunch Tradition

One of my old workplaces had the tradition of taking a new joinee with their team for a fancy lunch. The company didn't have a marketing team yet and I, as a manager, was supposed to build the entire team. I had nobody for this lunch tradition, and having lunch with the HR manager to loosen up, doesn't really sound ideal. LOL. But, my director insisted I must go for sure. 

Sneha and I in office during one of our coffee break

Although, eventually my director changed the plan and replaced the HR with a researcher Sneha -- who was a part of her team -- with me instead. Sneha and I had no connection with regards to our roles at work and we were poles apart in our personal lives as well. But from that lunch conversation in 2014 to the present we’ve been closest friends. She is one of my besties. From crazy parties, shopping trips, to being there for each other in our best and worst times, I can't thank my director enough for sending me with Sneha. That lunch left me with the best aftertaste. 

Those were my anecdotes of how certain conversations made a lifelong impact on me. Now...

Do you remember some of the best conversations you’ve had with your close ones or even a stranger? Has this thought ever crossed your mind that the art of having a deep meaningful conversation should be taught in school? Or, at least include a module on basic skill training for having conversations with respect and empathy? 

My mind always pops these questions on and off, and then I keep wondering about the conversations we have. And, that’s almost inevitable since we spend a lot of time talking about the surface-level, mundane things. 

And we all know from the latest gossip at work, to being lost in generally polite conversation topics with strangers to re-visiting the same social media posts with friends, it can become rather boring to just be keeping up with whatever is expected of you in a conversation. So, random ones matter too. 

Tying all that back in, these are just a few of the conversation ice breakers I've had and I am glad for all of them. Did you ever come across such scenarios that you cherish forever? Do you think conversations make your experiences richer? I say let's cut the first turf and get to know each other more. 

*Stock images courtesy: Unsplash

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