Back in college, while most of you had issues talking to girls, I had my own battle to deal with; being a part of a decently long conversation with anyone without making a fool of myself. I struggled to gain acceptance in a friend circle of any size. Large & small. I remember trying hard to impress with talking about relevant topics, so I would pre-decide what I'd talk about first, and then strategize a time to throw an open ended question to my friends and wait for the credit later. I soon realized that this plan backfired, when any of them would answer my question, they'd expect me to follow up with a supporting statement. This is where I'd go expressionless, tongue-tied and absolutely blank.
Here's a gist of my problem in real time:
Me: "Oh did anyone watch that episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. yesterday?"
Friend: "Yea, dude.. Rachel is so hot. I also envy all their lives in New York"
That's it. I'm done. My speech glands would throw in the white towel, I'd smile awkwardly, look around shyly, hope somebody else would say something else to change the topic, or someone would shoot me in the head to put an end to my misery. Yep, It was that tough to continue a stream of a fruitful conversation.
The worst comes when I'm in conversation with two friends, and one of them walks away, leaving me with the other. I still remember the beads of sweat that I try to keep from rolling down my head. I stare at this friend, and start a silent timer in my mind; in hope that I would see through this time without a moment of awkwardness. This one time I will never forget, It was more like a life changing experience for me:
It had been just a few seconds since my friend and I were left to ourselves, and I already began feeling the tension in the air. I began with "So.. What's up" to fill that void. He looked at me suspiciously since it had already been an hour since we met each other. "You tell me" he responded. I scanned around to look for any distraction, so I could talk about that. I didn't see any. I tried hard to think of something to say, to keep me in the game. I suddenly saw a bulb glowing in one dark corner in my mind, and this is what I said: "So, tell me more about your girlfriend. Do you like her?" I thought it was a relevant question. Honestly, I wasn't sure. I'd just have to wait and watch how he responded. He stared at me for a few seconds and said "You are not good." I thought i heard that all wrong. Just to be sure, he said it again "You aren't good to talk to".
A part of me died; right there.
Those beads of sweat trickled down my head onto the rim of my spectacles, and the condensation that formed on my glasses blurred my vision. That's all I remember, but that was enough to let you guys know just how agonizing it was to maintain an interesting conversation full of relevance, and practicality.
People have given me all kinds of advise to get around this by saying "don't be the first one to speak" and "wait for the other person to ask you something first". But I'm not that way. I need to initiate. It wasn't long before I gave into believing I'm probably just built this way. I can't for the life of me imagine myself having a one on one intriguing conversation about where our country is heading, or what is wrong with the socio-economics of today's world (i don't even know if socio-economics is a word, but you know what I mean) Instead, I have taken to the path of the unknown. I've set sail to a place full of awkwardness, as i ask you not about your profession and where do you stay, but ask about why do i feel your head looks bigger than normal, or if you ever worry about dying alone in life?
The point to this all? Something new.
We're always going to be friends, and you'll meet millions of friends after me. But this is my way of getting to know you better. And for you to distinguish our friendship from the rest. Embrace that feeling of awkwardness. Needless to say, you don't have to answer them, but I'm really hopeful you would. Even though you may feel this is completely unnecessary, you'll hear a silent cry from that part of you inside, who really wants to answer that question. So go for it. Let's see where it goes.
Follow me @awkwardnik to be a part of the hot seat, where I'll ask you one awkward question a day, and you play sport. You don't have to; but it would be just another way to get you thinking about something random.
For the past few weeks, the media have been drawing our attention to just one place: A place without Sachin Tendulkar. In a world of my own troubles, little did I care about the much hyped scary thought of a cricketing world without this gifted right handed batsman. A country where our people have been ridiculously calling him 'God'. I didn't need to waste time thinking about how jobless the media people were in trying to divert the way of life of this country by using catchy phrases that promoted Sachin's retirement all the more glamorously. These promos reached fever pitch in the last week, and I still didn't care. I honestly felt the significance of his leaving had lost it's charm way before the series even started. Our media behave like Gujarati aunties, over filling our plate, standing by our side, feeding us right until we beg for mercy and ask them to stop. It wasn't even the end of the World Cup 2011, and SET MAX started feeding us with ads "Don't miss next week's IPL". And us, like idiots, don't know when to say no. The same with "Prince ko bachaana hai" of a chaotic story where a kid was trapped in a hole for two days, and how we dug him out. Two days of just that story. The day after, we were all back to normal- and we'd stare at our TV for other reasons. I was convinced that we would get past this whole 200th test drama. Just the way we saw off a 9/11 event or a Hurricane Katrina.
I heard stories of people reaching out to politicians and the who's who of the cricketing fraternity only to get a promise of a pass to his last match. Some I heard went up for sale at a price of Rs.50,000 a ticket. Really??
Even for the most die hard Tendulkar fans, this was unheard of. I only felt sorry for Sachin; thinking about the kind of pressure he must've been dealing with. The pressure to perform on his final match. I had always been following this fascinating sport ever since the 99 World Cup. Yes, when we donned those jerseys which had funky fluorescent yellow and blue going on, and it was in England. It looked all too good to miss. I came to know of this man named Sachin Tendulkar only because my dad would have this habit of recording every single innings that he batted. He'd ask me to help out a few times. After recording the live match, he would go back to the same videos and edit out the ads (He'd do that with two VCRs working with each other, and don't ask how)
I always considered myself more of a Ganguly fan. Loved his aggression, his on-field ruthlessness to win, and his off-side shots. Sachin to me was just the chosen poster boy who I felt got a lot more attention than what he deserved. I would question this ever lasting, unfazed love my friends and family held for this cricketer with the number 10 on his back. Sure, he'd make the occasional hundred and drive the ball down the ground with the straight face of his bat. But then people's comments like "Ahhh! Did you see that??! What class. God is playing" just wasn't enough for me to appreciate him the way they did.
Further to that, we launch a show dedicated to showcasing Sachin's memorable matches. Uggh.
Having said all that, I still wanted to watch his final innings. Not because I wanted to see him bat, but for watching his fan's reactions as he stepped onto the ground for the final time. Sachin went about making his runs like another day in the office. Nothing extravagant from a seasoned cricketer who knew how to make his runs. He composed himself really well to make his 70 odd runs before getting out and breaking the hearts of all those people who thought he'd score another 100. A slap to those ever optimistic fools who wanted him to come back to bat again (even if it meant that his team-mates would lose their wickets quickly) Sachin's wicket stated that Life ain't all full of sunshine and roses. Job well done, Sachin. Thanks for not turning this into another Bollywood movie.
But on the final day, when Ravi Shastri handed over the mike to Tendulkar, I was expecting a quick "Ok thank you, goodbye" kind of message that he'd leave us with. Who are we kidding, i'm sure that everyone of you expected that mundane farewell that has been so overly used by every departing sportsman, and you'd be alright with that since Sachin's given us so much already. My thumb was already on the next channel of the TV remote, since I was expecting his speech to be a quick one, that we'd conveniently forget in the next week.
The chants at Wankhade reverberated the word "Sachin" as every person in the stadium made it all the more difficult for him to speak. I felt sorry for the chap and was hoping that the crowd would grant him due credit that he deserves and let him finish his thank you note in peace. Sachin had a different plan for us. He took Sachin Mania to a whole new different level of nostalgia, as he spoke about the most important people in his Life. His child-like smile, and absolute humility as he went on thanking the people in his list made me realize just exactly why India love him so much: An honest hard-worker who touched the sky with his brilliance, but yet remained grounded as a true example of a great sportsman. The adoration and mutual respect he shared with his supporters, and he never, never put himself above them.
On the last hour, he gave something to his fans that was completely unexpected; a chance for them to look at things in his perspective as he brought up anecdotes from his past, filling our hearts with smiles and tears. What was truly great was his ability to hold a straight face especially in such an overwhelming occasion. So emotional was this ride, that he not only brought back his past memories, but he also reminded us of our own. Flashes of his brilliance hit me straight away; His hook shot against Carrick against England, his match winning 99 against Pakistan in the World Cup, his Sharjah fury against Australia- and all those times when my friends would forget personal relations if it meant defending Sachin against trash talking.
I found myself slowly gulping, and I have to admit that i'm going to miss him like hell. I can't begin to imagine what a true Sachin fan must be feeling right now. For a world of cricket without Sachin.
I realized how wrong I was in thinking that Sachin was just a passing phase, and wrong in thinking that we'd just be able to go back to our own lives waiting for something new. Sachin Tendulkar, the number 10 and his time with the bat were not just his own memories, but they're ours as well. Sachin fan or not, like it or not, he's been part of your Life too, and you may never know how.