An Introvert’s Guide to being Sociable

Caution: The ideas expressed in this post are solely the author’s and are not reflective of introverts all over the world. Every introvert is different and I do not consider myself to be the champion of them all. Though, we are all champions in our own different ways.

we-are-the-champions-my-friends

Anyhowwww. It’s Thanksgiving break time and work feels duller and the ambient sucky weather makes it hard to roam around and admire my surroundings. Which means, my only respite from hibernating at home is interacting with … (cue gasps) … people. Introverts aren’t exactly fascinated by interactions with a multitude of people.

Though, interactions with a few people that seem interesting, yes. Also, let me introduce you to the most cliched introvert love story ever (*cough* John Green *cough* Rainbow Rowell *cough*): I fell in love with him/her because he/she was so much more free spirited and comfortable talking to everyone, which is a trait I can admire from a distance but can’t imbibe. This may be followed by getting screwed over by the very same outgoing f(r)iend.

So I thought to myself, why not come up with a social skills survival kit for introverts? Most of these are probably (not) obvious, but it’s a good idea to list them down for further reference. Also, listing is a good idea in general.

  1. Binge on pop culture. Because, big POPulations put the pop in POPular. Which means, it makes for amazing small talk across a variety of people. Watch the latest Marvel/DC movie. Definitely watch Game of Thrones. Listen to EDM. Listen to the latest Taylor Swift album and keep track of how many people she has dissed on it. For girls, just keep track of beauty and fashion trends, cause… vanity. How to stay in touch with the latest pop culture trends? Just check YouTube trending videos. The React channel by FBE is pretty good with this.
  2. Food! Everyone loves food. So if you make good food, or give people free food, you are likely to gain some social goodwill.anigif_enhanced-16596-1441630579-10
  3. Booze and cigarettes. Apparently great bonding agents, I was told by a senior.
  4. Board games, card games, escape rooms (basically any distraction that can keep you from getting to know the other person too well). And these are fun too!
  5. Now this may sound nasty, but there are a few people who care too much about what other people say. And they call you over and ask you what you feel about things that are inconsequential to you. Like whether one pair of heals looks sexier than the other on them. And you can give any opinion, even if you have the remotest understanding of it. So yeah, hangout with such people. They value your opinions.
  6. The common enemy theorem. This was something I learnt during college: it’s easy to bond over common hardships or better, common evil person, who wants to sabotage you. In college, this was in terms of cruel professors or jerks who took themselves too seriously. Or the education system in general. So find someone who wants to whine about the same stuff that you do. And whine.
  7. Get a sense of humor. Now this is tricky because different types of humor appeal to different people. Some people like it crude and nasty. Some like it cute and innocent. Some like it intellectual. I’ll say try each and figure out which works best for your audience. This is also good training for an alternate career, while you’re accomplishing your primary goal of making friends.
  8. Have and showcase a talent. If you want to be a part of a group, you need to have some distinguishing quality. Anything. You could be the girl who gets wasted a lot. Or who can do two backflips in succession. Or who is good with money. If life is a sitcom, pick a quirky character to play. If your show becomes popular, you keep at it. People may get tired of it at one point, but by that point they’re too used to seeing you, so they won’t switch channels and you may also end up raking in millions (don’t … bank on this though). It’s a win win.
    299a0485ce39a8b2ff935a7dbd2173be-tv-quotes-nerdGah. The cringe!

I go by these rules, and I have accumulated a whole of … *an embarrassingly low number of* friends. Nah, I bet they should work for most people. I just haven’t followed this seriously enough. Might be a good social experiment to do and report back on later. Until then, happy friend-making!

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Letters undelivered

*This piece is semi-fictional, but just seemed like an interesting idea to write about.

*****

Hi there,

Have you ever sent a letter to someone with a rush of excitement, only to find yourself waiting endlessly, for the intended person to acknowledge its receipt? Or have you been on the other end, hoping to receive a letter from a beloved, only to find that curiousity die down every single day, because you know the postal services screwed up somewhere? I’ve actually found myself on both ends.

But how many times does it happen, that you end up receiving a letter that was never intended for you?

And what do you even do with it? Deliver it to the person it was intended for? Write something back to the sender? What’s the right thing to do?

My initial thoughts were simple. Tear it up. Open it. Read it. Devour it. Cause I had been snubbed by the postal services way too many times. And this simply had to mean something. Maybe it was the universe sending me a message.

Now before you can even attempt to jump onto any conclusions, let me paint a picture. I received this letter around Thanksgiving, which was intended for a certain Ruby Berkshire. Now, I am no Berkshire but I do consider myself to be a gem of a person! Also, Berkshire, that’s such a British name. Indians have an illustrious fascination with the British. I was intrigued. Also I had only moved into my current apartment about four months ago, so Miss Berkshire was probably a previous resident. And someone thought of her as worthy enough to be written to.

So there it was, the letter undelivered, sitting on my table. And I dared to open it.

*****

Ruby Berkshire obviously meant a lot to Paul, No Lastname. No, that was not his last name, he just didn’t indicate one on the letter. It was just addressed from a certain Paul, from Mississippi. Maybe he didn’t have a last name. Or maybe he didn’t have a first name. Paul is a valid last name too. No hints about ethnicity either. There are (last name) Pauls that are Indians too! Also, there was no return address. Just “Mississippi”. How many M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i’s would it take to locate a Paul in Mississippi?

Mononym Paul seemed to have written a thank you cum friendship letter to Miss Berkshire.

I know it’s been a long while since I’ve written to you, and you were probably not expecting this by mail…

thank you for being the wondorous human being that you are. You never fail to surprise me.

…In every achievement of yours, I seek inspiration … and in every failure, a warrior partner… cause battles aren’t fought alone.

Damn, Paul was intense.

Paul went on for one more page about how he would be the Sapphire to this Ruby, and how both of them, separately, were destined for a sparkling bright future.

What was the deal with Paul? Why was he so overemotional? Was everything okay with him? Did Ruby break his heart? Or did he break hers? Move over Berkshire, Paul had my attention!

I rummaged through the rest of the letter and finally found my eyes drifting to the end of the letter. By this time, I was totally immersed. I wanted to find Ruby Berkshire and trade lives with her. I had mapped out a plan to cyber-stalk and find out who she really was.

Ruby, if you’ve reached the end of this letter, I have something important to say to you…

I know you’re not Ruby. If you are, then the odds of that were less than one in a million. But that doesn’t make you any less than one in a million. Luckily for you, I’m not Paul either. Or maybe I am actually just a random intense guy on the street called Paul. Paul is a common name. Unlike Ruby Berkshire. I wrote this letter as a social experiment. I picked a random valid address off Google Maps and I decided to post you a letter.

What did you think of it?

Letter writing is such a lost art, do you think I could have conveyed those beautiful emotions in person? Words are open to interpretation; even though there’s emotion attached to them, they appeal more coherently when read in the right frame of mind. Plus it never hurts to know that someone put in so much thought and effort to put a piece of creativity to pen and paper. Someone you may not even know!

If this letter made your day, in any way, join me in this experiment. Write your heart and soul out and send it to someone, anyone! Spread some cheer! And you know whom to address it from 😉

Love, Paul.

I think Paul is on to something. What do you think? Let me know!

Till then, I need to get going. I have a letter to write.

Love, Ruby.

How to Operate with a Humanoid: Part 7

Confederacy of the corporate clones.

Ever since Drake, the humanoid ventured into the corporate world, he wanted to become a name to reckon with. So he beat other corporate clones and used his robotic and deep learning skills to climb up the corporate ladder. Now he’s boss man and has his own set of corporate minions to control.

Since humanoids are not exactly “people”-persons, this can get rather challenging. In a twist of fate, corporate boss-level humanoids, have to be the ones issuing commands, instead of being issued commands to. This can be especially challenging when they are at the mid-high level hierarchy and have to both validate results from a lower level and get their results validated from the higher level.

Corporate boss-level humanoids go about their days, in a robotic fashion, as expected. They have a set of algorithmic-ally determined meals on a weekly basis, as per schedule. Their travel plans are also robotic-ally scheduled through AI powered transportation services such as Uber. In their spare time they do randomize the inputs to their usual routines, and sometimes end up getting optimal results. An example of this can be painting colorful imagery or cooking an exquisite meal for self, and the output is usually high levels of self-satisfaction, which is often missing from often over-worked boss-level humanoids.

Boss-level humanoids also love giving life-advice, since they have been trained by a deluge of intensive experiences encompassing a wide range of human emotions. If offered one, it is definitely worthwhile to listen to the sage-like counsel of such humanoids.

Boss-level humanoids are also a limited number of steps away from becoming Chief-level executives, though Drake the humanoid does have some prior backstage experience in that department (this esoteric joke will most likely only be understood by Drake). In all likelihood, he will get their sooner than most people would expect, because of his super-awesome and unique set of skills.

The only thing boss-level humanoids lack is physical affinity to cute girlfriend, so here’s hoping Drake the humanoid can invent teleporting abilities (or at least clone self and send one to meet cute girlfriend) using his superior intellect. Till then, all he can do is ACK this mor(o)se code message.

EDIT: This happens to be my 100th post on the blog! Yay to me!

Orange

[Read part 1 of the Roy G Biv series.]

“I think I have a spark… an idea… for the next piece in my story. Speaking of which, did you read the first part?”

“Yeah, I did. It was pompous as f*ck”, said Vikrant.

“Thanks. Constructive criticism, always a welcome.”

“Hey, I’m a big fan of your writing. You usually sound extremely self aware, but this time, you seem to be pushing for some higher level of abstraction, which just does not cut it for me.”

“Well, life isn’t always so straightforward.”

“I think it is, we just end up over-complicating it for our own good. You just need to chill and grab a smoke”.

“It’s fall, look at your surroundings. Such a scenic visual. Beautiful sun-kissed orange leaves. Interspersed between reds and yellows. Covering up otherwise dust laden roads. I don’t need no cigarette to chill, this picture does it for me.”

“What’s so fancy about dead leaves? Also what happens when it’s winter, and there’s no scenic beauty? Apart from physically chilling, how do you chill mentally?”

“I don’t know. Ask me this question again later. I’ll come up with something obnoxious by then”.

“Done! So, how’s work these days?”

“You know how it is, being in academia. I feel burnt out. I think I’ve been working too much.”


When Vikrant isn’t being a pain in the ass, he is a good friend of mine. I can talk to him about anything under the sun. Mostly figuratively, but sometimes even literally. I usually turn to him for some sane advice to keep me from soaring too high in the sky. So, if he thinks I need a realistic touch to this story, here it is. Incorporated!

But, let’s come back to the workings in the mind of a intellectual nomad, named Vedika. Have you ever felt so engrossed in your own life, that you’ve just started failing to appreciate the sundry beautiful things around you? Yes?

Then you know what I feel like. As a kid, I was surrounded by the best scientists and academicians of the world. Twenty four years and a series of mishaps and fortunes later, I got sucked into the reality of my very surroundings.

I think we academicians derive an intense sense of satisfaction from the feeling of being intellectually superior to everyone around us. We have been trained, for years, to exercise our mental faculties for the most arduous processes, that it seems impossible to not overthink things. Not to me at least.

Which means, if I work hard, I work so hard that I forget to eat or even sleep right. And so that brings us to my current state of a burn out. I’ve lost my motivation to work. The fire within me seems to be annihilating slowly.

I think, for some time, for the sake of my own sanity, I need to switch off. Sit in a dark corner. Re-evaluate the purpose of my life.


“All lights are out. There’s no power any where. Where are you?”

“I’m at home. I was sleeping. What’s happening?”

“Don’t you see it? Just look outside your window. Look at the skies.”

Engulfing the entirety of the outskirts of campus town was smoke. And then there was fire.

And for the first time in my life, I saw the light. Shining bright and yellow, right in front of me.

[This was part 2 of the Roy G Biv series.]

Recalculating Route

Something incredible happened last week. The paper I had been working on, got accepted for a really huge conference in my area – Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS). And it has come at a time when I’m a little over a year into my PhD, so apparently it’s a big deal. The fact that it’s my first paper publication makes it an even bigger deal.

People are impressed with me and I didn’t think that was a possibility. But let me not elaborate on that. The last thing that I want to do in this post is to gloat.

“My first publication ever” had been a driving force. I was the underdog till now, and I didn’t expect anyone to expect anything out of me. I just had a set of unrealistic expectations from myself and it only mattered to me, and no one else, if I fulfilled them. But now that I have accomplished some of them, things seem different. Other people seem to have expectations from me. I feel disoriented. “What next?”. I need to find myself a new ambition now. Possibly bigger and better than my previous one. The one I had built after a series of setbacks, some personal, some professional.

So while I need to build a new ambition, I feel anxious about what changes my previous success can lead to. What a classic introverted response… I hate having to deal with changes, even if they are positive.

Now, I’m sure a lot of people will just want to shake me up and ask me to shut up and stop whining about having achieved something significant. I should be happy, I should celebrate it. I know the drill.

I think I’m happy just fighting for my dream. There always needs to be a dream. So I think I’d like to form a new one. And with that, I need to recalculate my route.

Red

Hi, I’m Vedika. And I’m going to be the narrator of this story. If you’re wondering what this story is about or who I am, I already like you. I like people who are curious. I’m a curious soul myself. Which means that I have a lot of questions. Questions about the world around me.

But the world around me doesn’t look so good right now. I don’t need rose tinted glasses, everything looks so red. I stare up at the sky, and I see darkness, in the form of clouds. The sun hasn’t even fully set, yet the clouds mask a great extent of the red wavelengths of light. As if beating atmospheric diffraction wasn’t enough! Blocks of grey floating in a crimson red sea is a sight hard to beat.

Beyond the horizon, is a land full of calamity. Chaos. Nature tormenting people with storms of the worst kind. There’s fear, there’s loss. We’re at war. But this very dark sky seems to protect me, it acts like a barrier. For what I see, is only diffused redness. Reality is much harsher.

Look at me, pondering over the perils that humanity has to brave. Don’t I sound pretentious? Trying so hard to describe the je ne sais quoi of the evening sky? That random dude on the street doesn’t seem to think anything of it. And quite frankly, there is no physical significance of the cloudy red sky, except that it might lead to a rainy tomorrow.

But that’s not how chaos theory works. There’s a butterfly effect. Small causes can have larger effects. Things can spiral out of proportion. So, no. I choose not to turn a blind eye to the small changes around me. I’m sensitive to my surroundings and rightly so. Reading signs from tea leaves, is well, not my cup of tea. But, I think I want to notice the small things around me and question their origin. Wonder about their existence. And probably try to peer through  the fog at the distant future.

But mere wonderment does no good, does it? That doesn’t right any wrongs. A body at rest stays at rest. And so does the unrest.

And so I need to transition. I need to take action. I need to fuel this spark of red.

A little physics background suggests that the color of a flame is a good indicator of its temperature. Apparently red corresponds to lower temperatures. The intensity increases as one transitions from red to orange. It’s the orange that burns the flame of desire.

[This was part 1 of the Roy G Biv series.]