After a lifetime of observation, study, and first-hand sociological research, I have finally distilled the complex art of conversation in urban India down to a simple formula. I am very proud of my achievement.
How to start a conversation with an urban Indian is a matter of paramount importance in the current world economic climate. Along with being one of the quickest growing economies, India has the largest English speaking population this side of Neptune. This makes English conversations, which is what I assume most readers of this blog would be interested in, more of a viable option. It’s not all for the betterment of the world through the rampant spread of the ideal free market economy though. These conversation skills have a more basic and human utility.
In the age old quest for universal brotherhood, cross cultural understanding, and getting your IT staff to fix your computer quickly during an emergency, you really need to figure out how to start a conversation with the Indians that you are bound to find around you. After all, there are a lot of us — every sixth person in the world or something like that.
These new-found conversation techniques should also come in handy should you choose to make small talk with that strange sounding individual you always speak to when you call your ISP help line. He insists his name is Bob, but you’re pretty sure he’s actually Andy, which is what he calls himself when you call your credit card help line. Maybe this mysterious cloak and dagger story of schizophrenia intrigues you and you really would like to get to know this loveable psycho better. If this is your situation, these tips are just the thing you need.
But, in case all this talk of striking up conversations with those crazy Indians is alienating the 1/6th of you who are my cohorts in the great Indian experiment, fear not. I just realised that the people most in need of instructions for talking to Indians are other Indians. In case you haven’t picked up on these tricks yet over many family get-togethers and festival celebrations, my step-by-step formula will allow you to become an Instant hit at any Indian party.
Now without further ado, let us move on to the steps in this conversation technique:
Step 1 : Name-drop
The key to any good conversation with an urban Indian is one good name. A bunch of good names would be even better because then you can prolong the conversation almost indefinitely. A good name in this context is the name of any individual who has seemingly made it big in the world. Money, power and riches are usually a good indicator of their suitability.
Common friends, aquaintance, and colleagues are the best fodder, but public personalities can also act as a good starting point. You could use any one from around the world, but you’re sure to have more luck and a longer conversation if you happen to keep a mental database of Indian personalities in mind for this purpose. You see, Indians like to think the entire universe was programmed to eventually give birth to the average Indian as the pinnacle of its achievement. We’re exactly like Americans in that way.
Once you have made your choice, casually drop in the name into the conversation in some fitting context.
Step 2 : Say the magic words
No, abracadabra doesn’t quite cut it in this situation. Although, if you ever try it I would very much appreciate a report on the results that follow.
The magic words in the art of urban Indian conversation are these: “He/She is doing very well“. This of course is in reference to the person chosen in the first step. Often your partner in conversation might say these words first, but in case they don’t, they are the mandatory beginnings of any lasting social discourse. Keep in mind that doing well here usually refers to a good job, financial situation or other material success.
Step 3 : Present proof
Present a factoid as to why said person is doing well. Do they have a great job, an obscene salary, royal benefits, enviable investments or simply offspring who have the immense talent and mental dexterity to say “I do” at their pre-ordained nuptials? Any of these will suffice, and the more detailed and exclamatory you can get the better.
Think of this as the competitive “did you know” phase of this conversation. Once an interesting believe-it-or-not fact is exhausted, let your conversational opponent counter with his move, or return to step 2. That is unless all known impressive statements about the person in question have been made already. If there are no more facts to give go back to Step 1 and start anew.
The programming savvy among you will recognise this series of steps to be a nested loop. There is an outer process involving each new name dropped in the conversation, and within that is an inner loop involving the magic words supported by impressive facts.
And there you have it, the deceptively simple 3-step process to carrying out a conversation with the average urban Indian. If you find this process to be satisfying and educational, I am glad I could be of help. On the other hand if you think this whole thing is daft, I am sorry to inform you that you’re not going to make a whole lot of average Indian friends. If you are exceedingly lucky, you might actually come in contact with one of the members of the minority Indian underground resistance, who might give subtle hints as to their true feelings about this sort of banter. The stifled yawn and the rolling of the eyes are common signs.
If you happen to come across this sort of person, STOP and pay attention! You have just stumbled upon a sentient sub-continental life form. Record this observation and don’t lose the specimen in the crowd. Take down their phone number, tag them with a GPS tracking device, do whatever it takes to keep in touch. Either that or study my formula for how to start conversations with urban Indians over and over again, until it becomes second nature and you slip into it naturally when put into a social situation.
You’re going to need it when marauding bands of turban wearing IT personnel go on a rampage in the future. They will ride their decorated elephants into every major capital city around the globe, and then proceed to take over the world in one gigantic song-and-dance sequence!
You might laugh now but that time will come. Mark my words, that time will come.