It was one of those rare days ( since I was not travelling) I got a chance to go for a walk with my wife in the morning around our apartment complex . One person passed by in his car and waved his hand at me.
My wife asked ”Who was that?”
I said , “ I know him but I don’t know his name. He is my Hi – Bye friend.”
Welcome to this world of Hi – Bye friends. For us going from Hello to Bye is a matter of 4 seconds. In fact if I am running around the apartment it is only a wave of hands which conveys Hi & Bye. On that day my wife counted close to 8 Hi – Bye friends. I couldn’t name even one person.
The other day one of my hi-bye friends asked me “Is there anything interesting in your life?” while I was getting down the steps. I had to literally mind the gap between the steps and had to control my parallel universe before I settled down for a conversation with him. I told him yes life is interesting as I keep travelling. We completed one round around the apartment together. During that time, I never asked him if his life was interesting. Before I could ask him any question he started mentioning about his job and how much he is enjoying his current project as it is touching lives ( Man is on an impact mission).
One thing he brought out during that conversation was about how my wife braved all odds and took his wounded son to a nearby hospital when he and his wife were not at home. I understood that he knows me as the husband of that brave wife. Have you had those odd moments when you have to say bye and yet you do not know his name? I somehow managed to remember his son’s name and with all humility asked his name. Here was a case of introductions being exchanged after the main conversation was over. So what is wrong with me? I thought. All I have is a token identity- runner, traveler, my daughter’s father, my wife’s Husband.
Seeing us talk, my younger daughter whispered to my wife, “When did they become friends?”
One day I spoke with another apartment mate. Hearing my name his tone changed, “Oh now I get it. You are the one for whom the cab driver comes so often and he parks his car in front of my parking space and he is so arrogant.” I politely mentioned that henceforth I will tell him not to park there and I whisked myself away. Ever since I do not think we have made eye contact.
I was trying to understand, is it my fault? I am not doing my bit to understand the society under the pretext of travel. I was feeling I am staying in this society without knowing any one of them. Is this only with me ? Maybe I was quite comfortable with the identity established by my family in the society. Since I travel a lot, I got labelled as a person who may be least interested in the beings of the society.
This time, I attended the Annual General body meet and made it a point to cast my vote. My hi-bye friends recognized and introduced me as the running guy and the man on wheels. None of them knew my name.
Finally that was the time I had the opportunity to connect with some more apartment folks and discuss ” what is interesting in their lives”. It went beyond the normal Hey – Bye and that was made possible because of the conscious plan to be there with them and appreciate the efforts they are putting to make everything work (Lift maintenance , Water , power , garbage , Security in the society).
Over the last 4 years I’ve made around 10 hi-bye friends. Now I have decided to engage. A couple of weeks back I met Ram and I started commenting on the quote in his T-Shirt. He liked the compliment and from there off the conversation lead to how we can personalise the quotes in the T-Shirts to how we can get it done in Printo. It was a very interesting conversation.
Today I literally slowed down my run, smiled at Mr. Sam and had a very interesting conversation for 5 minutes. It was instant kinship, shared interests and good bonding. He asked me about my running routines, he also knew that my daughter runs.. I found that from a runner high (Endorphin Rush) I slowed down to get a dose of Oxytocin inside my body which neuroscientists say is the happy chemical. I just felt good.
Every day we meet people we recognize and they recognize us. How many of them do we really know and how many people know you?
So what is your identity?
It’s not about “how many people you know” but it is about “Who knows you?”