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Posts Tagged ‘Friends’

Friendless in Tokyo

In Blogging, humor, Interpersonal, Love, Wage Slaves, work life balance, work stress on May 5, 2020 at 20:02
  • As related by a friend.

The name was apt, almost sexy. And I was desperate. A management position in a multinational corporation in one of the biggest cities in the world. And yet hopelessly friendless. One would have thought the job along with a life partner who is keeper would have sealed the deal. Life is short but days are long. Very long if you have no one to talk to.

Nowhere is the paradox of alienating city life as stark as Tokyo, especially if you do not speak the local tongue. And even if you if do there so many places where it is simply considered impolite to strike up a conversation. This includes trains, elevators and lunch – that is half your life, out! Zip!

Life is like a 90s sitcom. You are not really enjoying the reruns but you also feel that the next season will be worse. So you can’t make new friends. One needs a certain amount of tolerance to have a large group of friends. As you get older, your ability to detect bullshit goes up and your ability to tolerate it goes down. But even the existing herd was dwindling, largely due to geography. There is a group of friends who you meet only at re-unions, then at weddings, then in hospitals, then at funerals. I am just about getting to the hospital stage.

Friendless in Tokyo was a meet-up of like-minded desis in a foreign land, all looking for friendship. What could go wrong? If you are me, a lot. A perpetually low phone battery and propensity to trip over and fall at will ensure a healthy supply of drama in the screenplay that passes for my life. It was like Seinfeld’s theme music was perpetually playing on in the background but I was still not finding it funny.

I wanted to change the narrative. So much that I was the first one to arrive at the community centre. The oldies who were there for the earlier origami event seemed very inviting but I wanted to make friends who…lasted.

The husband is calling me repeatedly on the phone. But not now. I have got to be my individual gregarious friendly self. I even wore the dress I was saving for our anniversary. As potential suitors started trickling in, the play-like nature of the scene made an impression on my mind. And only I could hear the laugh track. Each person introducing themselves as a one-line Tinder bio: Mother, Yoga teacher, Vacuum cleaner. I could only manage to say my name with a smile.

The Moomins help solitary diners in Japan with “anti-loneliness cafe” at Tokyo Dome City LaQua

They seemed to have so much to share. Most of them were women, with kids, some had two kids and one lady was clearly pregnant. All their kids seemed to be going to the same school. So this was like an unofficial parents-teachers meeting. They were polite but it was clear that I would have to at least adopt a puppy to remotely relate to this group. The stories of their kids sounded more like boasts than banter and everyone seemed a little too well-dressed. I still kept with the program, accompanied them to various eating joints till we found one that could accommodate everyone’s food restrictions/fetishes/superstitions. And Vegans can’t even do ice cream parlous. If you thought deciding on a place among a group is difficult, try doing it with a bunch of people you have just met.

Of course, the phone had switched off by now. The last thing I saw on the screen was 7 missed calls. He doesn’t usually call that often but does it have to be on the one evening when I am out making friends? And I didn’t want to give up. I sat through the whole thing even though the tea was cold. We even exchanged numbers but thankfully they didn’t add me on their WhatsApp group.

I started getting worried about the missed calls. So I borrowed chargers from three different strangers on the metro on the way back. Now I know why on one else does that. But they were polite enough to lend it to me even though they were getting off at the next stop. With 2% battery and 1 block left from home, I couldn’t help myself. I called the husband and blasted him for making me worry. Needless to say I tripped on the escalator while shouting with Seinfeld’s music playing on cue. Another awkward dinner awaited. Did I tell you? – He cooks as well. Friendless and Sleepless in Tokyo.

The door was open and the lights were off. Now I was really worried. If it hadn’t turned out to be a surprise birthday party, I would have killed someone that day. I don’t remember who all he had called home that night from our limited social circle to make it happen. But I do remember hugging him tight, like at the end of any good episode of Friends.

One person who understands you completely is better than a hundred distant friends and you don’t need to watch a sitcom or RomCom to know that.

  • Punit Pania

Friends, Family and People You May Know…

In Boss, Head Slave, Hiearchy on February 3, 2017 at 02:19
Sometimes you wonder if beneath all the layers of niceties and formalities does a real person exist or did he go into a coma a long time ago. May be your colleagues think the same way about you. But you don’t want to let the line between friends, acquaintances and co-workers blur. You don’t mind being called old-fashioned but having three real friends is better than having a hundred and seventy ‘people you may know’.
And so you resist. You resist Friday drinkathons by getting all your bitching done during coffee breaks. You resist the annual sports day by feigning hernia. And you resist adding your colleagues on Facebook by not remembering your password. But for how long? Between auto logins and your company’s official ‘fan page’ your online profile is ironically more relevant than your flesh-and-blood self and will outlive it too. The thought of willing your online avatars to your heirs seems disturbing only if you plan to start a family.
Image result for spiderman desk
However most people still do. And they plan the expansion of their clan around their appointments, promotions and transfers completing the circle of modern day slavery. Adding them as friends can be pretty disturbing. Specially the tenured uncles whom you have only seen behind their respective desks. You are not even sure if they have legs! The ones who wear the same blue-striped shirt which is 2 sizes too big; every day of the week. May be they wear different equally forgettable formals every day and your brain has decided to store just one default image of these humanoids to save precious RAM. Or may be they have 5 exactly same shirts so they only have to wash and iron once over the weekend. You would like to believe the later. But on Facebook, Mr. Bhatavdekar is a different person. He has two kids, he wears t-shirts and on weekends, he almost manages to look happy! In some cases the contrast is so dramatic you think he either has an evil twin or he is himself a serial killer!
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On recent unavoidable social treks, you have run into the mythical creature known simply as the boss’ wife. She seems normal enough but you have your doubts. She could not have survived Head Slave for over five years without even being compensated with gratuity and still be a nice person. And soon enough, she proves you right. Between comments on your casual dressing and suggestions on how you should start yoga, she went from the boss’ bride to Cinderella’s step-mother pretty quickly. Perhaps by some extended logic, she may feel like the entire office’s mother-in-law. And it gives a whole new meaning to the term dotted-line reporting.
You want to tell her that having a kid does give you a passport into the comfortably fat zone and definitely does not exempt you from atherosclerosis but you can’t, not before updating your CV. And not when HS is there himself tag-teaming on you while you are down. The only thing more annoying than a cute couple is a power couple because they don’t even pretend to be nice.
Stone Cold Stunner Linda McMahon
One would think in the class-less global economy nearing automation, there would be no clans and no extended chains of power. But only the era changes, appropriation always remains a matter of might. And if by chance an honest man like yourself should make enemies, then…
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– Punit Pania