Posts Tagged ‘conversation’

When conversations disappoint

July 8, 2011

I’d “e-met” someone through email, when I added him as someone belonging to a e-group that I moderate. I found that he had a sense of humour, was very atypical of his general demographic (I can’t be more specific), seemed to write well, and be interested in many unusual things. So, when I came to the US, I was looking forward to talking to him.

When I called, he was in the middle of a long drive, and he called me back today. And…the conversation…just didn’t go as I hoped. He talked and talked and talked….about why he was buying/moving into another house, about mortgage rates in the US, how they had to be careful or real estate people would overcharge him and his wife….as if that is not something that exists everywhere in the world.

He never talked about the things I had told him on email interested me about him; and though he did say he was out of touch with India, I found his attitude towards India very negative indeed. But I was determined to overlook that, and continued listening to him.

Somehow…it was boring and pompous and I was steadily losing interest. Where were the topics I was sure we’d talk about, and laugh or debate about? Why were we sticking to these extremely stuffy areas of conversation? I tried cracking a couple of light-hearted jokes, but they fell quite flat; did he not hear them at all, I wonder. There was no sign of any sense of humour at all as he droned on.

I waited for either some questions about myself, or some break in the conversation so that I might introduce other topics…both never came. Instead, he went on to talk about how things had changed for the better in India, with so many malls coming up. Now, this is something I feel very strongly against, and was curious enough to ask him if he felt this was really a good thing. His response? “Oh, when we visit, it feels so familiar now…my daughter can have a burger if she feels like it. the malls are so nice….” This, I thought, was the conversation-stopper of it all.

We (yes, I am sure it was mutual) increasingly found each other very non-interesting (he asked me why I was not travelling with KM, and when I said I wanted to spend more time with KTB, it was obvious I had sort of put him off. He has no clue about my usual propensity to jaunter around on my own, and didn’t bother to ask any more, though I told him I had planned to visit Vashon Island, and spend time with a bell-designer and an interesting journalist.)

I’d thought that the earlier remark was a converastion-stopper, but then he delivered the complete coup-de-gras: “I had a list of things to do when I got back from the long drive, and one of them was calling you up, so I called you.” The fact that he had to explain the reason for calling me says it all. Duty-bound! Should I have made any more conversational attempts after that? I certainly didn’t.

Just when I was feeling that I must end this conversation, and wondering how I could do so politely, he told me that his real estate agent was calling on the other line. I do not think two people were ever so relieved to have an estate agent ringing up! We parted with mutual expressions of polite leave-takings, with the message very clear…neither was going to call the other up again. It actually took me a few minutes to get out of the stifled feeling that I had developed over the time of the phone call.

It is very, very rare for me to exchange emails with someone, and have an experience that is so different from my interaction on email.In fact, it’s very rare for ANY first conversation that I have to go so badly. So why did this happen? Did both of us not communicate properly? Should I, after all, give him the benefit of the doubt for a bad beginning, and make another phone call and see if things are better?…I don’t really know…let me muse on this for a while.

Aha..someone’s interested in ME!!

April 3, 2009

I think (I am not sure) I had mentioned a few months ago, that “Harmony”, a magazine for Senior Citizens, had asked me if they could interview me about my cycling….and today, a sweet-sounding (they always sound sweet if they allow me to talk about myself!) Rajashri Balaram called me up from Mumbai to ask me about how I cycle.

I felt a total fraud because a. I am not (technically, being 54) a Senior Citizen and b. for the past two months, on doctor’s orders, I have been off cycling, and so am not, technically, a cyclist…but she said that since I have been cycling for about 17 years now, and I am over 50, I qualify!

So I shot my mouth off (hopefully, not too badly)…and their photographer, Anuradha Joshi, will be coming to take a photograph of me on my little Ladybird-with-a-basket….soon….

Oh, I forgot to ask her if this magazine is online, too…stupid oversight! 🙂

But I got to talk about myself, which I can normally do only on LJ….I talked about cycling, quizzing, music, activism, wildlife, photography,writing…. I only hope the poor young woman was not as flooded as I was last week!

I must compliment her; she conducted a conversation with me, not a dry interview; that means, she was very good!

Looking forward to see how I am quoted (or misquoted)…watch this space!

Not been able to upload my photographs of the Lalbagh Heritage Walk last Sunday, or the lovely birding morning I spent with Madhusmita on Tuesday (How lucky can one be, to go birding on a weekday morning!!)…so those posts will wait awhile….but let me give you a little taste of it, with this picture of the gloriously blooming CANNONBALL tree (nAgalinga marA) in Lalbagh…

290309 lalbagh cannonball tree nAgalingA flowers 20D

some more photos

Conducting an Interview….is like white-water rafting, sometimes!

March 25, 2009

I have been, quite intensely, on the phone with someone whom I am interviewing…for the past 45 minutes.

An interview…can be several things…interesting, riveting sometimes..and sometimes, very draining….

There are times (thankfully, much more often) when I am in charge of the interview. I think of what information I want, and lead the conversation…I elicit the information needed for the interview, and quite often, a lot of other details that satisfy my own curiosity about a person’s life, views, and work.

Indeed, most often, it is quite difficult to extract information that I want, and I have to work at it with a combination of talk, leading remarks, direct and indirect questions, sometimes flattery, sometimes a barb that will result in a reaction….

But sometimes, like now, I get drowned. Drowned in the flow of words from someone. The words have been flooding over me in a cataract of information and opinion. I keep asking the person to talk about one particular thing, and that person keeps talking about something else, in a wealth of detail that I can neither absorb nor use….It’s like trying to keep a kayak afloat in rushing rapids…

Adding to the problem is that this person’s English is, to put it mildly, very picturesque, and making sense of the words is sometimes a challenge on its own!

This person apparently does not, also, realize that I have to type out and keep track of all the stuff that is pouring out, and later separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

I am amazed at the extremely high need some artistes have, to talk about themselves!

When this person stops talking (my left ear is warm-bordering-on-hot as I type this, and I am gettig a crick in my neck, typing as I just listen with a “hm” interjected), I am going to heave a sigh of relief and tiredness, and go off and take a ten-minute break!

My goodness, I didn’t realize that there are people in the world who talk more than I do!!


May 23, 2008

Overheard here:


….silence in return.

“Hi…I saw you in the Carlton dining room this morning.”

“Oh, you are also staying at the Carlton…hi….”

“I think you are in the cottage next to mine.” (Rooms are 7.5K per night, cottages are 10K.)

“Oh, you are also in a cottage…but we were staying in a suite and since we are leaving today we decided the cottage is OK for part of the day…” (the suites are 12K.)

I must admire the first guy’s persistent friendliness…and I wonder, if the second guy meets someone who has a small house here in Kodai, will he look down on him because he has a *small* house, or strike up conversation with him because he *has* a house? I wonder, and smile to myself!

The town is getting crowdeder and crowdeder….hopefully, if I get to the parlour tomorrow, some more pics ( velvet-fronted nuthatch, not a great pic but…!)

All the watchmen want me to take their pictures….I am a watchman celebrity!

I am almost always sheltered from this world….

May 6, 2008

nice chat…

January 24, 2008

Had a Himalayan Yak with poketzedynamite…nice to catch up, in person, with people whom one feels one knows well, on LJ….and enjoyed the sweet sounds of her son getting mixed up with her dog, in the background, and the cool way she kept it IN the background!

Thanks for a nice session, Ms.First…!

OHO info

October 26, 2006


Still on the subject of social conversation….

Some people feel that they MUST make conversation, and this takes the form of asking for information which could not be of ANY possible relevance to them. I know an elderly gentleman who seems so insatiably curious about the minutest details of the lives of the people he is speaking to. As soon as the initial “hello”s are over, he will start off: “So, are you married?” “Yes”. “How many children?” “Two.” (probably here the other person, if they are like me, is fighting down an insane desire to say Fourteen.)”And where are they living?” “In the US.” “WHERE in the US?” “One in Dallas and one in Kalamazoo.” “Do they live in houses or apartments?” “Apartments”. “How many floors?”….and so it goes.

And for every answer, the gentleman looks highly interested, and before adding the next question, responds with one sound that takes the place of a word: “Oho!” (Meaning, “appadiyaa” in Tamizh or “houthaa” in Kannada, or “is that so?” or “oh, really?” in English.)

I am NOT joking, this gentleman asked my daughter how many balconies she had in her flat and how many potted plants she had on the balcony. She lives in St Louis and I do not envisage him, over 80 years old now, ever visiting to verify the answer. But…he is making conversation, and is interested. EVERYTHING is grist to his curiosity/conversation mill. “How does your husband go to work?” ” He takes the car.” “Oho….does he have a driver?” “Yes.” “Oho. Is the driver married?” (I kid you not.)

So now, when any of us gets information that is of no use to us whatsoever, we designate it “OHO info”! I was just retailing to KM the domestic help-related travails of my neighbour, and after listening to me, KM smiled, and with a twinkle, said, “oHO!” and we both cracked up!

have you met these people?

August 29, 2006


Inspired by something latelyontime said….

I love to meet the ladies and gentlemen who are “instant authorities” on other countries, which they have visited for a few days. When someone who has lived in a country for a few years comes along, they immediately give that person a lot of information about the geography, history, customs and practices of the place….ask if s/he has visited “A”, “B” or “C” town/ places of tourist interest; when the resident says, “No,” politely, the response is, “But you MUST go there! How can you live there and not have visited that place?” Not for them the idea that different people might have different agendas in another place; everyone must do, see and experience what they did in the two or so days that they spent there….and they seem to have been everywhere and done everything, in the 3 days that they spent there, probably 15 years ago….. They will talk with great knowledge about what the people there do and how they behave and what they think….

I find that it’s the people who have travelled the most and visited the most countries who generally keep perfectly quiet about their travels and their observations!

Closely allied to this IAT (instant authority tourist) is the IRR (instant relative recollector.) This person, on hearing of, say, someone’s living in Kalamazoo, Mi ( I actually DO know someone who lives there btw, right zweilinkefusse?) they say, “Oh, you are living in the US? My sister’s brother-in-law’s nephew also lives there, I think it’s some place like Oregon, maybe you have met him?” This breed, however, is vanishing these days…after the advent of IT, every second Subramaniam and Krishnamurthy’s son is in the US, so they are now more aware of the vastness of US geography, and less prone to this “If you are in Florida you must meet my relative in California” conversation!