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Posts Tagged ‘Love’

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

Is Everything Kayfabe?

In Love on June 4, 2019 at 18:28

If I were to ever have something as foolish as a favorite word, it would be Kayfabe, a concept I didn’t know existed till less than a year back.

A word invented by professional wrestling (which is itself an invented term), Kayfabe is the portrayal of staged events as true or real, even when both portrayer and audience know better.

It not only addressed my guilt of still enjoying wrestling, it also explained a lot of other behavior and social phenomenon otherwise described as ‘performative’.

So much that I even used it in a sound-byte during the Me-Too movement on the whose-who of the stand-up industry falling to the most serious of crimes; proven hypocrisy:’Much of what passes as woke is Kayfabe that doesn’t cost much to commit to and happens to sell. Comics are to activism what pro-wrestlers are to martial arts – great on camera but heartbreakingly far from the real deal. We may continue to enjoy their content but never mistake it for real-life intentions, let alone actions.’
To which one Netizen tweeted: ‘Is Love also Kayfabe?’ A question immediately valid and rhetorical in its simplicity.

A lot of our lives is merely performance: the interviews we give, the movies we watch, the parties we attend and the politicians we vote for. All of it an open secret of bad acting and a criminal lack of creativity. Anything to get away from the really important questions in life. 

Most of us have a false sense of immortality. It is the only thing that keeps us going. Once food, clothing, shelter and sex are bought and paid for, nothing else short of a higher purpose is motivation enough to get you out of bed in the morning. And in a Godless world we end up finding this meaning in everything from stamps to Golf to a corner office. Many of us try to find it in a another person. Someone we believe is the perfect compensation for all our insecurities. A match more perfect than a solved Rubik’s cube. The chances of the other person being at the same stage in his/her life and feeling the same way are slim to say the least. But it does enable chocolates, Romcoms and divorce lawyers to continuously be in business.

Love feels good. It feels great. It feels like heaven, even if you are an atheist. So you invest more and more into this one person against all good faith, market sentiment and your own better judgement until he/she can’t take it anymore. The chance to frame your life-long anxiety into this perfect picture of harmony and happy endings is so tempting that is defies mounting statistical evidence to the contrary. Even the most strong-willed among us fall for it, on multiple and successive occasions.

Watching a young couple talking about love is almost as scary as watching an old couple trying to cross the road. You know they won’t make it but they still have to try. You have to love one person unreasonably to be reasonable with the rest of the world. Everything is fair in Love, War and the race for TRPs. But the only thing we underestimate is our ability to hurt others.

The other extreme is also not pleasant, being rational to a fault. Parking all faith and sensibilities in science and logic. Picking consistency over warmth, certainty over adventure and detachment over failure. Science coupled with atheism is a righteous mix. To the point where you start taking an academic interest in your own ruin. A third-person view of your own life. A waking, unblinking Nirvana.

But being a rational person in an emotional world only makes you feel more alone when it’s finally time to switch the Wifi off at night. And you can’t fight loneliness with more loneliness. All that is left then is a familiar blank page in front of you. You could give up on it or make another futile attempt to soar above the toil of fears and longings. And to reduce in whatever small way; hate, if not hurt in the world. If you can’t buy into someone’s Kayfabe, you make up your own.

  • Punt Pania

Unconditional Love

In Love on February 5, 2018 at 15:37
Unconditional is the only kind of love there is, everything else is just a transaction. A give and take that can be explained by some mixture of evolution and economics. Most of what we call love is the willful suspension of logic by genes itching to replicate under the covering fire of bad poetry. And it can’t hide for long. No myth is sacred enough for Science to not topple. The most vile crime to the most exalted emotion, all just resulting from a different cocktail of hormones and pathologies, from a pedophile’s compulsive behaviour to a Mother’s love for her newborn. Everything happens for a reason governed by biology and chemistry and pre-determined by physics. Random objects in a cosmic pinball machine, innocent bystanders in an unfortunate hit and run.
bojack horseman planetarium
What your parents used to call fate, you can call string theory. But it won’t make you feel any less helpless. Between anorexia and food addiction, nothing is eccentric enough, all is acceptable and even worthy of celebration or worse, rationalization. In a world full of victims, there is no crime, only mass depression posing as utopia. The end of guilt is near but it will also be the end of wonder. Eventually genetics will explain all evils and malignancies and we will be absolved of all sins; except hypocrisy.
ryan-gosling
But unconditional love will remain…a glitch in the system that we wish we could wish away. Call it insanity, temporary or otherwise. Emotional graffiti that will live on in anonymous donations and the kindness of strangers. Complete surrender to a person, a cause or a muse as an antidote to the highly leveraged hyper-connected modern world. If you ever feel it sneaking up on you, don’t try to fight it with logic. Embrace it as the only trace of free will left. And jump off with a middle-finger salute to the heavens.
– Punit Pania