Feels like magic! Finding friendship in unexpected places

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Yesterday I watched a short film The Star Host from Feels Like Ishq, a series of love stories recently published on Netflix. Though I am not a sucker for mushy stories, something about the movie made me feel good. Maybe it is the travel hiatus for the past two years or the uncertainty when this gloomy period would get over. Watching people behave normally, go on trips, make impromptu plans and above all, and above all, being open to meet strangers without inhibition kind of made me jealous. It wasn’t the budding love story between Aditya and Tara that kept me hooked but the comfort that Tara found among strangers, something that was missing in her real life.

I think I definitely have a thing for befriending strangers. In one of my last posts Loneliness & Mental Health: Talk to strangers. It’s Therapeutic, I spoke about how talking to strangers is not only engaging but also healing. And while the last post had a lot more information and statistics, today I just want to talk about how all the movies in my feel-good movie list follow this same common concept and why I think in reality too, moments spent with strangers are some memories to cherish.

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Remember what Ved said to Tara in Tamasha when she was about to introduce herself? That once they reveal their true identity, they would have to stick to it. Why behave the same way they have been all their life when they can become something they want to? This is the part of traveling that I love the most. I have taken two trips to Europe but I still yearn to be there. No one cares what I wear. There’s a very slim chance I meet an acquaintance or common friend. I am free from the shackles of the society trying to dictate how a woman or even a man (Ved in Tamasha) should behave.

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Or think about Naina from Ye Jawani Hai Deewani. She was a nerd who was tired of living a life dictated by her parents. For once, she wanted to experience adventure all by herself. And there she met a group of old acquaintances who helped her realize there was more to her than being a topper. Recently, extended family and friends too have proposed to join us for the next trip and though it sounds fun, it’s actually not. The reason? You have to travel with that extra baggage- people’s expectations.

Heard of the phrase ‘Familiarity breeds contempt?’ On the first day of my therapy, my therapist handed me a paper that had 3 concentric circles. He asked me to place all the people I can think of in the circles according to emotional proximity I share with them, irrespective of the relationship. And there I realized, if I have to take someone with me on a leisure trip, that would have to be the people I placed in the innermost circle.

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And this brings me to the movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. I was wondering everything that Laila told Arjun, was it impactful only because he was attracted to her or was it because Laila lived the life she preached about and there was so much mystery around her. Had it been his best friend, would they be talking about what they want from their life or which is the best beer in the town? And that’s an amusing observation I have. I seldom share my dreams and aspirations with people I am close to. Probably because I feel they know me well enough to understand what I want from my life. But sometimes it’s so important to speak about your long-term plans loudly to reassure yourself and demand what you want from the universe. Sharing this space with strangers is so easy without the fear of being dismissed or being judged.

5 Unexpected places where I found friendship

Pub crawls and group travel are undoubtedly the best ways to meet new people but the following are some places where one would usually want to kill time listening to music or reading books or simply sleeping (at least I would do):

1.      Railway station waiting room

While me and my friend were waiting for our train at Chandigarh Railway Station, the waiting room in-charge approached us for a friendly chat and ended up sharing her story about her dead husband, her neighbour who was in love with her, her family who didn’t allow her to remarry and how much she missed her children who were forcibly taken away from her. It’s been close to 13 years to that chance encounter yet it’s very fresh in my memory.

2.      Job/college interviews

Imagine a place where all the people you meet are either your rivals or those with the power to define your future. I travelled to Mumbai once for a PI round for selection to a prestigious post grad programme. Within the first five minutes of my interview, I realized I wasn’t going to be selected. However, that interview lasted for 40 minutes for me (as compared to the usual 20 minutes) where we discussed about Mythology. The icing on the cake was that I met two fellow applicants who I connected with immediately and we spent an evening at Juhu Beach, walking hand in hand like old friends. We never met again.

3.      Self-help programmes

I don’t believe in self-help books as well as programmes to be honest but my family thought it was a good idea for me to spend some time away from the city in an ashram. Fortunately, I met three young women who shared my sentiments. And spending three sleepless nights chit chatting with them helped me more than the programme itself.

4.      Community parks

If you have spent winters in North India, you know how rare are sunny afternoons. During my career break, I used to spend some time reading on community park benches. Uncertain about my future, I had no company except young children from the neighbouring slum area. We used to share chocolates and stories from their school. Some days they would also bring some stray puppies and kittens along with them.

5.      Long haul flight journeys

During one of the journeys from Amsterdam to India, I ran out of patience. I was bored. I started playing Hangman and the person sitting beside me joined the game. We learned a number of new words together that day.

Yes, meeting new people is nice. However, it doesn’t always feel safe and comfortable opening up to strangers. While there have been a handful of unforgettable experiences, I have also met creepy, angry, rude and greedy people but the thing to remember is not everyone is same neither are the situations. Some days even I can be mean to others.

Today, I felt like sharing some happy memories with people. Until the situation is better, it’s those moments that would keep me motivated. Do share your happiest moments with strangers in the comments. Would love to read more stories about it.

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