Be popular and strong, but don’t forget that the tables always turn someday.
Today’s column is for Naman and Harpreet. The two guys are very different, but still have something in common — the stress they are facing these days. I’d always seen 18-year-old Naman as this cheerful, full-of-life guy.
‘My life has become a nightmare,’ he starts as soon as the topic of his newly-started college life comes up. Considering how happy and popular he was in his school, it was quite a dampener to see him narrate how in his so-called fancy college — where several kilos of prasad in the temple every Tuesday would have fetched him admission — no one wants to be his friend. ‘There are such snobs in my class... bas accent maarte hain. They have formed a group and those who aren’t from the so-called posh schools aren’t welcome. They mock me if I ask a question in the class. No one wants to partner with me for presentations. I feel so left out,’ cries Naman.
Harpreet’s story isn’t much different, except that he is seven years older than Naman and his battlefield is workplace, and not college. ‘I was the most popular guy in my office back in Mohali. I was the life of parties, had such a nice group of colleagues who were all friends. The decision to quit my job for a better profile in an MNC in Noida turned out to be such a blunder. No one wants to be friends with me here. People already have their close groups. I’ve seen them crack jokes at my expense. I feel so left out,’ writes Harpreet.This ‘no one wants to be friends with me’ stress is quite a killer, isn’t it? Especially for those who have tasted the feeling of being popular at some point, it is unbearable to think that they are suddenly no longer as sought-after. My first impulse, when I started writing this piece, was to address people like Naman and Harpreet and give them advice such as ‘give it time’, ‘try and mould yourself to how others are like’ etc, etc. But then I changed my mind. I don’t want to give them any gyan. They are already victims here, and too stressed out at that. I want to talk today to the most popular guy or girl in Naman’s class, and the group leader in Harpreet’s office. Dekho yaar, you are in a good place right now, and God bless you for being there. But it’s important that while you are enjoying this phase, please also keep in mind a few things.
1. While it’s great to be popular, it’s even better to be popular...and nice: Koi zabardasti nahi hai, but try making a new person feel comfortable and welcome in an atmosphere where your word practically rules, and you can’t imagine how good it’ll make you feel about yourself. Normally in a class or office set-up, there are some people who take the lead when it comes to deciding social events like parties, get togethers or something as routine as sharing the tiffin during lunch hour. The others normally follow what’s been decided. If you are blessed enough to be such a natural leader, use it to your advantage, but in a good way. Look around for someone who may be feeling lonely or left out. Agreed that the person may not be a great fit in your group, or may even be irritating or intrusive, but kya farq padta hai yaar, in giving him or her that chance to belong in the group. They’ll forever cherish you for it. Allow toh karo.
2. It’s way easier to laugh at someone, than laugh with someone. But the one who’s able to do the latter is the one who eventually gets all the respect. You may be popular because of your great wit or sense of humour. But I hope you realise that the real test of the sense of humour is when you can make people laugh without belittling someone who is in a less fortunate position than you. Kisi ke accent, dressing style, background yah intelligence ka mazaak udaya toh kya teer maar liya. Anyone can do that. The fun is if you do it in such a healthy way that they too join the laughter. We all have our own quirks that can be joked about and it adds spice in life to do so, as long it’s not leading to someone feeling left out and crying in a corner. Let situations be the butt of your jokes, not people. My thumb rule of humour: If you ever feel the urge to crack a personal joke about an individual, let it be on yourself. People love those who are fair enough to laugh at themselves. And that laughter leaves you guilt-free. It’s a win-win, try it.
3. You could be them one day: Let me share a secret of my life here today. In fact a confession. When I was around 8-years-old, I had a group of friends in my neighbourhood, and we were like this cool bunch who judged anyone without a thought. A girl whose nickname was Sonu, wanted to join our group really badly, but we won’t let her. One day she got her mom to complain to mine and demanded that she be allowed to play with us and my mom scolded me for not letting her. That evening, upset with the scolding, I and my friends bullied her and said the nastiest things to her about being fat and ugly. She went back home crying. Years later, I suffered the worst kind of bullying in college just because I took on the ‘class-leader’ over an issue. My college days formed the worst three years of my life, but somehow I could never complain to God for being unfair. Today, through this column, with folded hands and head bowed in shame, I want to say sorry to Sonu and tell her that she was never ugly. My action and state of mind was. Life has an uncanny way of serving us what we dish out to others. The sooner we realise this, the fewer Namans, Harpreets and Sonus we would have around us.
As for you Naman and Harpreet : Hang in there. Not that you have much of a say in someone else’s behaviour, but if you give out the vibes of being an assured, positive individual who’s busy and happy doing his own thing rather than worry all the time about others, you would attract friends sooner than you think. Vaise bhi this world is full of sad, angry or depressed people. All you need to do is not be them, and they would soon want to be you.
Sonal Kalra is off to the US for a few days in the hope that she can give gyan to firangs and become a millionaire Godwoman someday. So no column for next two Sundays. Don’t bully her please. Mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/sonalkalra13. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra.