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Courtesy: Conversations
Dissent: Volume 6 of the Helter Skelter Anthology of New Writing

Courtesy: Conversations

I don’t know about you, but I find the whole idea of ‘courtesy conversations’ extremely silly. I am not even sure about this unstated protocol or why it exists.

Why not just go for it and make some real conversation (if such a thing exists!), at the risk of a few extra words and minutes? Why is it so daunting? What is the risk, really? Maybe it’s not for everyone, but I would definitely take that risk.

I think I would take that risk… though there is a chance I would not.

There is a huge chance I would not.

Why would I not?

Helter Skelter: Conversations
Sharing is not a basic instinct but a carefully crafted, articulate exchange of souls.

I think it is partly due to the movies I have watched and the books I have read. And if I had to choose one among the many, it would definitely be Before Sunrise. I watch two people melt into conversation walking along the winding streets of Vienna and I believe that that is what conversations are made up of.

I sincerely think of ‘real’ conversations to be the stuff of rare movies and eloquent texts. And I just cannot fathom having a great conversation with just any ordinary person, in a nondescript setting. I need the particulars of sight and sound to flavour my words. And without these, conversation is simply reduced to a courtesy call.

Let me not suggest literature to be the only culprit. Certain popular cafés have also played their part. I am convinced that I need the coffee for the conversation. My head and heart are in perfect agreement when they search for the right occasion. We need the right moment to allow ourselves the indulgence of conversation, they reiterate.

These exacting demands on Conversation attribute a sense of fictitious revere to the act. It’s as if to say that sharing is not a basic instinct but a carefully crafted, articulate exchange of souls—or something sacred like that.

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I’m not quite certain about when exactly conversations crossed over and entered the realm of art. But they did. Now I treat conversation-making as a skill of some sort. One which I can (or should) polish and work on. And though this need to practise should make me talk more, it does not. Strangely, I find myself afraid. I suddenly do not know how to make conversations. I have no script, no guidelines, no destination and I am lost. And obviously, instead of exposing this lack of expertise to people I don’t know enough, I resort to the safety of courtesy again. I mean, how tough can it really be to say “what’s up”, invite a half-engaged response and move on!

I have taken conversation and made Conversation out of it. As a consequence, I am ill at ease talking to a fellow diner in the canteen or a photographer taking the train to Jaisalmer with me or a friend’s friend at a cocktail party or the designer who is illustrating my copy or just about anybody I meet. Instead, I wait for the right person, the right backdrop, the right season, the right beverage, the right theme, the right everything.

I don’t know about you. But I’d rather that I did not.

I’d rather that I stop waiting and converse for only one reason: none at all.

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