Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Officially Anti Social

In my school text book many years back I read that Man is a social animal. I have strong objections against this sentence of 5 words. First why “animal”? Second -what about women? Third and most important, I do not agree with this sweeping statement- not all men (and women) are social by nature. I am very sure I am one of those confirmed anti- socials who are a misfit in any social gathering. I do not understand why such a simple fact is so hard to get. I think this too should be blamed to the school teaching which makes all of us believe that all humans enjoy social gatherings.

I have already shared my awkwardness in attending weddings on this blog. I think my readers would sympathize with me when I say that I dread invitations for lunches and dinners in my office mail. Let me tell you that those who dislike socializing are the most aggrieved and misunderstood group in any organization- may be even in the world. They do not cause any harm, wants to be left alone and yet are considered for some unknown reason, a threat to the organization. We are those who find company of office colleagues and bosses beyond office hours and beyond office work tiring. Yet the uncomprehending majority imposes its own gregarious expectations on us compelling incessant socializing, enthusiastic party-going, and easy shooting of the breeze as norms. I wonder why, our quiet, introspective ways can’t be viewed not as a deviation from standard, but as a different kind of normal.

As long as I was at a small station, these socializing with office colleagues were minimal and it suited me perfectly. Then I came to Delhi and things changed. Delhi follows a very different social code. Here calling on, official lunches and dinners, catching up with colleagues and the underlying networking is widespread. People do seem to look forward to these occasions in bureaucratic circles. To make the matter worse, they notice the absentees. I am expected to have a proper reason for not showing up at farewells and parties, Diwali meet and Holi Milan, New Year High Tea etc etc. That is a tough matter to manage…more so because such events are frequent. At least they seem frequent to me. I mean how often I can schedule a meeting to clash with a party or call my hubby or myself “fallen ill”. How frequently guests are expected at home on the same day and how many leaves I can take just to skip a social meet during the day. I wonder why I can’t be simply spared. No, I do not want my organization to be like my family.

I guess, people with my kind of philosophy did exert themselves in recent times. As a result, about a month back, the Top boss in a meeting rebuked all the absentees (without taking any names) and then looking straight at me issued a milder version of fatwa to refrain from such childish failed-to-turn-ups in future. He seems to think, we avoid socials dos because of laziness. We do not give enough importance to fraternize, to be like a big happy family at workplace. Now, there seems to be no escape!!! But how do I explain to others that I do not want to share meals and small talks with colleagues and bosses. That I feel miserable in such parties and for the life of me cannot appear happy. More than anything, I have no interest in knowing what others in the organization are up to and no, trivia about bosses’ interest does not work as a good appetizer for me. Most of the time when others are entertaining me with tidbits of their past official feats and great aesthetic interests, I do not even appear keen to listen. I mean I do try to pretend but after a while they all sound so same.

It seems in Delhi, people love to meet people-who-matter (read bosses) and they love to eat outside food (however tasteless) and are never bored of same kind of office gossip. I hardly find anyone talking anything interesting and away from work in these parties. On most occasions, to my horror, the music is too loud for any sensible conversation. I mean how long you can exchange pleasantries and praise one another’s clothes. But I realize that I am in minority – anti socials always are! So this dilemma continues.

But then being an uninterested and unattached observer of happenings, I am able to catch what I term top five themes of every official -social get together. Interestingly, most sarkari get-togethers have these invariably.

For some it is yet another opportunity to show off their fine clothes and choice of accessories. Many women flock together and exclaim to each other praising sarees, pearls, handbags etc. Recently some metrosexual men (with purple scarves and even pink sweaters) have also joined the gang. I call this theme Showcasing wardrobe.

Then comes the biggies with “I am great” written all over their forehead. They are great in work, they are great in party. They have finest taste in wine and they know the best poetry. Well, at least they think they do!!! They demand and get attention because of their position and then go on and on about their unusual feats in office projects, their revolutionary ideas about how others should do their work and the accolades they received from the other greats. In brief, they love to enlighten you about themselves and think you should be grateful to get a glimpse of their fascinating life and times. I call this type Ophthalmologists – the ‘I’- specialists.

A big group is there to get free /subsidized food and booze and gossip about other colleagues. They are recognizable by their ready to please smiles whenever a boss crosses their way. They promptly show their face to all big bosses and their wives and then settle down with glasses in hand in one corner. For rest of the evening they remain oblivious with the proceedings. They appear only when the food is laid on table. Except for their gossip part for first one hour, they are a likeable and focused group in my opinion. With clear priorities and good intention, they settle down to make merry. After an hour of course, alcohol speaks and speaks too much.

The most mobile group however is of people on a mission. Mission to get attention, mission to please one particular boss, mission to build bridges, mission to register presence or for pure and simple networking. They get down to their business as soon as the party starts. Some of them even overdo themselves. They try to talk loudly, even try to play semi-host by inviting others to drink, dance etc. They volunteer for work also. For an observer like me, they are good entertainment. I look at them and try to guess their mission. Usually I am not off the mark. Believe me it’s a funny way to while away time in such hopeless situation.

Then of course there are loners like me- unfit in any group and generally confused with the happenings around them. Some play with phones, others try to engage in talks, few vanish in the corners and wait the torture to end. They are generally first to leave. They often call back home and are found standing silently in the groups looking intently in the glass/ plate.

Yesterday, I was still recovering from my birthday cum New Year euphoria and missed out two official occasions. In the heart of my heart I know, it was intentional but I was too reckless to even think of an excuse. First thing in the morning, I got a censure from a colleague. I am sure more will follow and to save the situation, I would have to be doubly VISIBLE in the next such occasion. Till they realise the futility of making me forced-social , I see no escape from boring evenings , routine pleasantaries and unappetising conversations .  How very pathetic!

1 comment:

yoju said...

every word seems to come from my heart. this whole business of appearing social is absolutely bizarre to me and i have over the years developed key skills to dodge these demands .

the best post to date , cheers !!