How do you steer the course of a conversation at 3 o’clock in the night? It’s not a silly question.
Sometimes, when you are slightly high on slightly illegal stuff, and do not want to venture into risqué territory while making sweet-talk with someone on a breezy night, this question becomes important. At other times, when you are tongue-tied while actually just wanting to make sweet-talk with someone on a breezy night, it becomes even more important. And, sometimes, when sweet-talk and silence battle each other in a struggle for some romance on that breezy night, and all you need is something to keep the moment going just that bit longer, the question becomes all-important.
There’s a simple answer. Weather.
Don’t laugh, you know.
Nothing can be more neutral a conversational tool than a sentence as wonderful as, well, “I think it’s about to rain
But, let it be known upfront, I am not writing about it for romantic reasons alone. The past week or so in Chandigarh has seen all seasons rolled into one — from hail descending from the dark above, hurting bikers’ knuckles and threatening to break through car windshields; to a sun so sunny that you dread already what May would be like; and then to a breeze so constant that you can’t figure out what to wear for the evening. Did Indra have a fight with his wife? In the middle of this, winter still lurks around, unwilling to leave just yet, revealing itself only at night.
Obviously then, with the weather changing in more ways than one, it becomes a top-of-the-mind topic even in your conversations with yourself.
“I think it’s going to rain here too,” she says, from many miles away. “Don’t you just love the rain?”
At this point, you love the rain, no matter what. Stories about rain, true and false, carry the conversation into the morning, when everyone else wakes up and you go to sleep finally.
And, in case you’re struggling on this count too, there are YouTube videos on how to talk about weather in several ways and languages. I am serious.
It’s safe. Unlike something as fiery as politics, as competitive as sports, as difficult as mathematics, or even as banal as Bollywood, nothing controversial can creep into a conversation about weather. The chances of running into someone who passionately supports tsunamis, or wants God to produce more cyclones for fun, or admires floods and droughts as a means of population-control, are rather remote. The possibilities of a friendly chat, however, are as endless and as fascinating as weather itself. Rain alone has a hundred meanings.
Yet, not everyone is enthused about it. Their logic: Unless you are a meteorologist obsessed with predicting the unpredictable, surely there must be better things to talk about than how cold/hot/wet/dry/misty/foggy it is. There are also some sociological musings about how impersonal our society has become, how we do not have any shared concerns apart from weather, or how we avoid social contact these days. On the funny side, collegehumor.com lists a classic chat about weather among its ‘Seven Worst Conversations We have all Had’. It goes something like this:
Them: Crazy weather we’re having, huh?
You: No. Not really.
Them: I mean it’s cold one day, hot the next, rainy the next. Crazy!
You: Weather is notably chaotic. But that’s its defining characteristic. You expect it to be crazy.
Them: But those forecasts were completely wrong.
You: Yep. Weather is very hard to predict. Again, obvious. For thousands of years people have used weather as a metaphor for something that is unpredictably changeable.
Them: And can you believe how cold it is out there today?
You: Yes, it’s winter. It’s usually cold in the winter.
Them: Well, time for me to leave, since the only thing we have in common is the fact that we occupy the same general geographic space.
You: Same place and time tomorrow?
Them: Same conversation too!
Well, that’s funny. Fine. But not everything has to be a measure of society’s behaviour. Obsessive analysts can say what they want, but the very urge to keep talking to someone has to mean something. Otherwise, why would anyone bother to say that it’s about to rain here when it’s actually quite dry, the weather? It’s not about the rain, silly. firstname.lastname@example.org