For a few, being communicative is never easy. To be communicative in a noisy place is even more daunting. And to be communicative in a country that has a different dialect every five kilometres is a thousand times more difficult. That is precisely the reason why we have to be brave to be communicative. As you leave for college – from home, from your town or from your country – you’ll have to break out of the comfort zones that you once were in. You will have new friends, new teachers, new house owners and new neighbourhoods. And colourful, new and diverse India in the metros won’t be easy in a day, I assure you. In general, people would have mastered the art of being “argumentatively communicative” against all odds. At any given time, there will probably be more people talking than listening. We Indians love to talk. We have the knack of being wordy. I recently read a funny article about Indians’ fondness for being garrulous. We say, “Do one thing” and go on to give a list of ten things to do.

But if you are not one of those exaggerative Indians, I can pretty much imagine your predicament. It can be awfully painful to be on the receiving end of a talkative group of people, if you are like me. Just like the economic divide is widening the gulf between the rich and the poor Indians, the noise of argumentative India is widening the gap between the noisy and quiet. There is no denying that India is one of the noisiest countries in the world. She is abuzz with all kinds of noises. The ear-splitting noise of a vehicular procession on the street and the deafening human clamour in marketplaces are an apt outdoor representation of a nation that thrives on making noise. A country of 1.2 billion people has many justifiable reasons to live a noisy existence. From television talk-shows to parliamentary discussions, college campuses to government offices, there is no dearth of people shouting at the top of their voices to grab some hearing.

However, the picture I have painted may not speak of the little sleepy towns and hill stations that lie in various corners of our country. Also to be clear, I am not saying that every second person in the city is a walking, talking loud speaker, but yes, there will be more than just a few noisy ones that you’d come across. And it won’t be easy for everyone. Let’s take Sikkim for example. I know many Sikkimese who left jobs or studies in the bigger Indian cities and came back because of an inability to adapt to the tremendous noise there. In fact, once I nearly fainted in Park Street of Kolkata.

India, therefore is a combination of two extremes- noisy and quiet people. Between noisy and quiet India – a good sense of communication is missing. We are either too noisy or too quiet. There is a disconnect of sorts. To make matters worse, the diversity of languages makes national communication funny, cumbersome and inadequate. It is a tragedy not to know what the [nation] is saying or not to be able to make known what we have to say to the [nation]. Now, the billion-dollar question is: how to be a communicative citizen in such a country. Especially for the ones who leave their quiet homes to study and move in to the big, noisy world of the metros.

Frankly speaking, the only way to be communicative in a noisy country is to learn to be noisy. In Rome, do as the Romans do. Maybe meaningfully noisy, that is. A reserved temperament is a precious trait. If you are a person of a quiet disposition, you will either get bugged by the nonsensical noise or overawed by their spontaneous utterances. In both the cases, you will be a mute spectator. You would do well to restrict both kinds of responses. Develop a skill to patiently listen and glean as much meaning as possible. And respond as appropriately as possible. Soon your communication will become balanced. A man of few words is often respected and looked up to. What many people do not appreciate is that a reserved manner can be a great persuading factor in a conversation. A standoffish manner is a different thing, though. However, if you have already become a compulsive talker, the chances of you adding to the noise are very high. And that is not always a bad thing. Just ask yourself- am I weighing in value to the conversation or just adding to the volume of noise. It is a good idea to check and see if we are merely suffering from the verbal diarrhoea syndrome.

Nobody in his right sense wants to be termed a windbag. Remember, it is fallacious to equate talkativeness to smartness. The problem with compulsive talkers is that they feel unduly obliged to respond even when they do not know the right answer. We in India believe in “padding”! The Nepali equivalent is “jotnu”. One of my favourite American philosophers, Ravi Zacharias, says that some people believe that when they utter a ton of words, they desperately assume they may somehow be heading in the direction of a right answer. There are three kinds of responses namely, “right”, “wrong” and “not even wrong”. What he basically means is your response can be either right or wrong but there are times when what you say as a response is not right and not even wrong. Your response can be so outlandish that it does not even rise to the dignity of an error.

The Linguistic barrier can be another big challenge. My communication in north India will always be at a minimum as I am overtly conscious of my atrocious Hindi. Thankfully, the English language has increasingly been used by the ever expanding educated population in the country. This language is now no longer termed as the language of elitists. People have fallen in love with the language. The fascination is spellbinding! The language has helped Indians cross linguistic and sub-cultural barriers, land good jobs even in the west and to feel like a global contender. One of the few advantages Indians enjoy over the aggressively advancing Chinese population in the global job market is our better command over the English language. Therefore, the promotion of the English language in India is not without rich dividends. Let us not discredit the language though it used to be the language of our colonialists. Whatever the case, we now speak the language with a sense of pride. And no wonder, communication skills in the India that I am talking about has now become synonymous to proficiency in the English language. Knowing English gives you an edge. Many Indians pride themselves on the fact that they “they can talk English, they can walk English, they can laugh English” as Amitabh Bachchan bragged in Namak Halal. The English language has often been spoken against by our self-styled culture police. There is really no depth in such arguments. There are a number of reasons why English enjoys such an honoured position despite strong anti-English feelings. One of the reasons is, it serves as an effective tool for social climbing. Indians, including our culture police, have a tremendous propensity for social climbing. Another reason is it helps us stay poised in a country with mindboggling linguistic diversity. That’s why; it helps to know the common language. Be proud of your accent though, everyone has one.

In the youth sub-culture, there is a hankering for an easy connection with the group. The outgoing members hog all the limelight in the group. Such dynamics exert tremendous pressure on the relatively timid ones to open up. When a few attempts to converse with others fail, the desperation only grows stronger. It’s alright to not be an extrovert. There is no shame in it and especially nothing to feel inferior about. Perhaps, you communicate better in writing than talking. That is your strength then. Sadly, a few use aggressive tactics. Swearing can help you make yourself be heard in the group. Such tactics work initially but soon you will find yourself isolated or in a company your loved ones wouldn’t want you to be in. Use decent methods because it not only works but it works big time. Wherever you stand in the spectrum of extremely talkative to extremely quiet- know that you are unique. Don’t feel shame in who you are. Though I’d also suggest, you convert yourself to be just adequately communicative.

VIAJiwan Rai
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