Monday, May 23, 2005

Talking Heads

Islamabad was once a series of villages, with village people and village things to do. One forgets the origins of cities until one is forced into it. Try telling a Dubai native (a Dubaian?) that he lives in what was once a fishing village. Or an Omani about pearl fishers. People often take the concrete mass as reality while forgetting the original reality. Islamabad does have subtle reminders of its humble origins. Once you drive out of the city (about five minutes in any direction) you are accosted by wheat or cotton or mustard fields. Karachi is quainter, as absolutely nothing grows there barring the odd date palm. I was tickled when a group of Karachi friends pointed at some miniature shrubs growing there, a few feet high at most, and shrieked ...."TREES."
Back to my story. Saturday night involved a long drive on my way out to a friend's "farm" (pronounced "form" for some unfathomable reason) for dinner. The drive itself is scary enough with several miles of unpopulated terrain. I called upon the Guru and his wife for company. They were equally scared and hastily agreed. The three of us arrived at the Form and drove through wheat fields until we arrived at a citified house in the middle of nowhere. On the way we encountered a pack of wild boar, a solitary but very large porcupine and dogs who were really wolves in drag. Scary stuff.
The "party" in progress was scarier still. This was the "Country" set and talk ranged from "amreekan sundi" (American termites) to canalic irrigation. The men had ruddy cheeks, bad haircuts and wardrobes from hell. The women were just plain dumpy. Years of child bearing and child rearing in no-man's-land had taken its toll on them. This called for a triple shot of scotch on a few rocks. Gulp. Things looked no better, but I now felt I could take on the World. Or at least the Form World. I looked to nearest person for conversation. This was a large lady swathed in thaans of georgette with a husband wearing - wait for it - a safari suit. The little label on the pocket had "pansy" written on it. I tried several different opening gambits. Nothing worked. No conversation. Music streamed in from another room. "Would you like to dawnce? "she inquired. Would I like to what ? "DAWNCE" she yelled over the music. Err. No. I had just lit up my havana and didn't want her to self-combust to the strains of vintage Kylie wafting in.
Escape resulted in a walk in the garden. Well more of a field than a garden really. I spotted someone remotely interesting. How sadly mistaken I was. For the next one hour and ten minutes (I counted!) said stranger held me in his steely gaze and lectured me on Hydroponics. For those of you who don't know (which I assume is all of you) hydroponics involves the growing of vegetables in water instead of soil. In this case the vegetable of choice was tomatoes. The expression on my face glazed over and I dropped into screensaver mode instantly. This cannot be happening to me. Oscar Wilde once said something about boring people being the most dangerous. Hydroman proved it beyond doubt.
Just as I was about to drop into Standby Mode, I discovered some rustling in a distant wheatfield. On closer inspection I discerned a group of expat city dwellers smoking banned substances. As stoned as they were, I was still able to discover points in common with them. My sigh or relief punctuated the wheat sheaves. Which brings me to the point this shaggy dog story. The Death of Conversation. Why can't people learn to make decent small talk? If I had my way every party attendee would need to carry a list of Ten Interesting Things To Talk About. Leaving aside sex, religion, politics and hydroponic tomoatoes, there are a zillion other things to discuss. Heine once defined silence as a conversation with an Englishman. I disagree. The Brits (for all their failings) have refined conversation to a High Art. Unfortunately, they left behind the roads, railways, legal and tax systems, but departed with the Art of Conversation. The end result is brain dead social events which are not helped any by a staggering intake of booze and drugs.
So where did we go all wrong ? I suspect part of the problem lies in the fact that young Pakistani children are never really exposed to adult conversation at an early enough age. They are allowed to prattle on forever and are encouraged by indulgent parents to talk endlessly - never to listen. As a result they haven't the foggiest idea of how to sustain a conversation - they excel at juvenile monologues. I think parents must be compelled (on pain of death!) to get their children to be able to bloody converse in a civilised manner. To be able to tell them that grunts, "yeahs" and a synopsis of the last PS 2 game played will not make them likeable human beings. To provide them with interests (reading for one) which will make them thinking people. To gently let them know that talking is a privelege and must be exercised carefully. That boring people to death is the eighthth deadliest sin. Until any of this happens we are doomed to successive attacks of Killer Hydroponic Tomatoes.


Blogger livinghigh said...

ummm... i actually knew what hydroponics are... damn, blame it on learning Science all the way till Class 12!

PS: sigh, i kinda find it hard myself to strike a conversation outta de blue myself, u know - so i have SOMe sympathy for the tongue tied ppl. none watsoever for de daddy inde safari suit, though!

PPS: yes, i shall also follow sarah's idea and email comments from now on. starting from de next comment! ;-)

9:45 am  
Blogger Uber Homme said...

It is one thing to know about hydroponics...quite another to bore a hapless listener to tears on the subject !! I like tongue tied people...its the ones who hold forth on obscure topics who get to me. I feel like taking the toothpick out of my olive and pricking them to death.

4:37 pm  
Blogger say what? said...

agreed .. :|

sad but true .. but its not the problem just with our kids .. i think it would be the problem anywhere ..

short attention span is to balme perhaps .. i really don't know :?

9:34 am  
Blogger Uber Homme said...

tdh: Its more than a short attention span. Most kids (and some grown ups!) have that. I think its all about listening to what people have to say. When was the last time you managed to finish a sentence ? :)

2:05 pm  

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