Who else are you in touch with?

Thing with catching up with old friends/acquaintances is that you sometimes don’t know if you still connect with them. It might be a while since you last met, and having moved on in different directions, there is a very good chance that you don’t connect with each other at all. Yes, there is the environment you shared several years back that connects you, but when that becomes the only source of connection, it can get rather boring and you might be itching for the conversation to be over.

In order to determine whether you still connect with an old friend/acquaintance, I have a simple test. I must warn you that this test has no predictive power – it won’t tell you before you meet your friend if you connect with him/her or not. It, however, analyzes post the event how well you connected. And can help you make a decision if you have an opportunity to meet them again.

Invariably, I’ve found that when you catch up with old friends, sooner or later, one of you will ask the other, “so who else are you in touch with?”. Between any two people, there are always these “filler lines”, what you say when you realize you have nothing to talk about. With old friends/acquaintances, it is this. Remember that your only connection is the environment you shared a while back, and the other people that inhabited that environment. So, in the absence of anything else to talk about, you end up talking about this.

The metric (I know I’ve been meandering) is this: from the time you meet your old friend/acquaintance, measure how much time it takes before the conversation goes to “so who else are you in touch with”. This gives you an indication of how well you connect with this person. The longer the time gap between you people meeting and this question coming up, the better you connect – it simply means you have so many other things to talk about, so this doesn’t come up.

This afternoon I met  a friend from school and in the hour and quarter we spoke, this question never came up. This indicates that I still connect with him pretty well. At the other extreme there have been people with whom the question has been popped within five minutes of meeting – showing how far we’ve drifted and there’s absolutely nothing to connect us any more.

There are times I’ve been surprised, either way. Once I met a senior from school not knowing if I had much to talk to him. The question was popped only forty five minutes into the conversation. We’ve subsequently met a couple of times. Other people I’ve gone to meet thinking of a dozen things to talk to only for them to start the conversation with “who have you been in touch with?”

I’d once visited Bishop Cotton’s Boys’ School in Bangalore (for a chess tournament) and noticed this board somewhere in the school. It said (paraphrasing):

Great minds discuss ideas,
Middling minds discuss events,
Small minds discuss people.


Wedding Notes

I just got back from a friend’s wedding. Lots of pertinent observations.

  • Today’s groom and I share three social networks. We went to two schools together and he went to a third after I had graduated from there. So I had expected to meet a lot of old friends/acquaintances. To my surprise, fifteen minutes after I had got to the wedding hall, I hadn’t “met” anyone. Finally ended up meeting just two people that I’d known.
  • The queue system in receptions is much abused. It is demoralizing to get to a wedding and see that you’ve to go through such a long process before you meet the couple. As the groom (or bride for that matter), it’s even worse. You’re tired after a full day of activity and a long line of people waiting to meet you isn’t too inspiring. However, sometimes the queue turns out to be a lifesaver. It was the first time in a very long time that I’d gone alone to attend a wedding. On earlier such occasions I’d just be looking around like a fool for familiar faces. Today, though, there was no such dilemma. I headed straight to the queue!
  • People who didn’t immediately join the queue had a special treat. Waiters were going around the hall offering soft drinks and starters to those that were seated. I looked to see if they served those in line also. They didn’t. I managed to sample those starters, though, when I went to meet some friends after I’d wished the couple.
  • This wedding was at a fairly new wedding hall (less than ten years old for sure), and these modern halls are built in quite a streamlined manner, I must say. From the reception stage, there’s always a path that quickly leads you to the dining hall. And then from the dining hall, there is a path that leads straight outside, where paan and coconuts will be waiting for you, which you can collect on your way out. This is a much better system than in some of the older wedding halls, like the one where I got married. There, the path from the dining hall led back to the main hall, and so at times there was a traffic jam, with large numbers of people moving both to and from the dining hall.
  • There’s something classy about wedding halls where chairs have been draped with white sheets and fat ribbons tied across the backs of the chairs. There’s also something classy about round tables with chairs set up in the dining hall, where you can settle down with the food you’ve picked up at the buffet. There weren’t too many of those but the set up allowed for plenty of standing room, also.
  • The buffet itself was well designed. It had been separated out into several clearly marked sections. You had to collect your plate from a central location (I almost typed “central server”!! ) and go to the counter whose food you wanted. This prevented long lines and bottlenecks. It was a pleasant food experience.
  • There were some five different kinds of sweets. Given that it’s hard to estimate demand for each, I wonder how they would’ve tackled the wastage.
  • When you meet old friends, after a while the conversation invariably degenerates to “so, who did you meet of late? what’s he/she doing?” and you end up going through your class roll call and try figure out who’s doing what.
  • I’ve said this before but I’m not at all a fan of live music at weddings. Keep it too soft (never happens) and the artistes get pissed off. Keep it too loud (always the case) and you need to shout to be heard. Some weddings take it a step forward – they pipe the music from the main hall where it’s being played live into the dining hall, killing conversation there too. There are piracy issues there but I still like what we did at our wedding, when we played a carefully curated set of trance numbers. I don’t know how well it was received, though, and how loud it was (we couldn’t hear anything on stage).
  • Some “features” that used to be luxuries at wedding receptions ten-fifteen years ago are necessities now. Chaat, soup, paan, ice cream, that table in the centre with huge carved vegetables and salads ..