The place I work is comparatively big. We are about 3000 people spread over 12 states. Some are here for about more than 30 years and some have just recently joined. We come from different states, different academic backgrounds, different interests and different views. So, naturally I do not know all the people here. Some I work closely with, some I have met occasionally, with some I do not have anything to share (and vice versa) some I know but they do not know me, and some know me and I do not know them. But even without knowing my colleagues well, life moves on smoothly.
Last week, I was working on a document in the office, so was engrossed in my PC. Then I heard couple of loud voices saying “There, there only. Yes, that is the desk. ” The voice was very near to my desk and a man was standing little confused at a short distance from my desk. He was wearing Gandhi topee, so at the instant I did not recognize him. But I know him by his name and may be we have interacted just a couple of times (mind you it is almost nine years I am here … that will give you glimpse of the environment in which I work…). I stood up and asked him, ‘Sir, whom are you searching for?’
He was happy that I had stopped working with PC and addressed him. He said, “I am looking for ……..’. It was my name. He did not know that it was me, he was searching for. But that is the usual happening here and I was least offended by it. I very politely told him, “Yes, I am here. What can I do for your sir?”
Now he was embarrassed. He was bit nervous. He said, “Oh, sorry, I mixed you up with XYZ. I know you very well, but somehow I get confused when I come here’’. I thought it was ok to get confused when you don’t know the person very well, and have not bothered to converse with in a decade. For me, this still was very natural. So, I again asked him what he wanted me to do.
Then he produced a marriage card from his bag. His daughter is getting married next week and he had come to invite me for his daughters’ marriage. I congratulated him, wished happiness to his daughter… generally the formality ends here. He again said, “Please, do come.” I smiled, said all right things and he left.
Afterward I stopped working. The person, who does not know my name, does not know anything about me, has hardly talked to me or smiled at me when we met across. … Why is he inviting me to share his ‘private’ happiness? Why he thought that without knowing him well, I would feel happy to get such an invitation? I have nothing against marriages and I wish well to his daughter… but .....
I know this is all about formality. We are more bothered about customs, traditions, log kya kahenge …… type of things. We hardly listen to ourselves and hardly do what we want to do. To keep society together, we need to follow certain norms, but we can choose to be anarchist in our private lives – without hurting anyone’s interest. The cost of such a behavior is high….. But I think anyway you have to pay the price - either by doing things you don’t want to do or by being isolated, alienated. Why not pay price and still be happy?