Thursday 18 October 2018

On creating a village

I feel like I've been the newbie all my life. The new kid in school, the new mom in the group, the new neighbour, the new employee, the wife of the new employee :) When I was in school, often I left after just a year. In the last 18 years of married life, we have moved 8 times. I have studied in 12 schools, held 6 jobs, moved cities and countries and spent vast swathes of time dealing with packing cartons :). 

The physical exertion aside, what has been hardest is to create a network and a community of friends/neighbours wherever we go. People who will have your back. People who will welcome you into their homes, tell their children to make friends with your kids,  provide sage advice on the best places to eat, shop and thread your eyebrows :) People who, as busy and as submerged they are in their own lives, stop you from feeling lonely and adrift. 

In my 30s, I realized I am unlikely to make any more good friends. My best friends know me from an earlier life- school, college, b-school, work. I'm too set in my ways to tolerate the flippant, the flaky, the ignorant, just because they happen to be neighbours or colleagues. In the 40s, most of us realize we don't have to please anybody or be a different version of ourselves in order to be liked. At the same time, we all need a village to call our own. I remember a playdate invitation back when Advaith was a toddler. We drove several miles to a very nice suburb, full of large houses and BMWs/Mercs parked in the driveway, to meet an Indian mom and her kid. I had nothing in common with the mom, but as our kids played and we sat nursing our coffees, I was struck forcibly by how lonely she was in that huge spotless house with no one but her toddler son for company. She seemed to know very few people, unlike me who had joined a large moms club and had plentiful social opportunities. I invited her to be more regular at club outings but she never came. I think she was too introverted to be able to make the effort.

I call myself a "forced extrovert". Years of forcing myself to make the first move, blend in, and make new friends quickly have made me adopt a veneer of confidence when all I like to do most days is sit in a corner with a book and not talk to anyone. I can talk loudly at parties and dance at weddings knowing that the only situation I am truly comfortable is with myself, some family, some close friends. 

Extroverted or not, creating your own village is important for everyone. A community of acquaintances and friends is critical, catering to different needs. Some friends are great for movie dates. Some great for a cup of coffee and general gossip. Some are walking or fitness buddies only.  Some you only meet at the school bus stop and nowhere else :) 

Often I have felt, walking into a new environment, that I was the one needing company, and help. It took me some years to realize that I needed to be there for others too, to offer help as needed, to be their village. I was needed as much as I needed others. 

In all these years, one thing I am sensitive to, is how can I help the other newbies. I know what it's like to be in those shoes. Being welcoming, helpful, caring to someone new, is rare. People are well-intentioned but their own busy lives and schedules get in the way and oftentimes, that much-needed assistance never comes, remaining just in the form of a few polite words. 

These last few months, I have set about creating my new village here, and have been thinking - "Oh no...not again!" :))


  1. Written so well, as always. More than extrovert, you come across as a very confident person..

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