Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The kindness of strangers

Today being a celebration of friends, I really want to thank those wonderful people who've touched my life, just by being there. There have been a lot of people who've changed me and for the good. They've taught me so many things about life, I am infinitely indebted. My best friends who over the years have stuck by me, who've tolerated, who've celebrated, who laughed and who've cried with me. I cannot write this post without thinking of my besties from college and my roomies. My soul sisters and soul brothers too.

But today, I make this post out to my very special friends, ones that I haven't met. Virtual strangers who feel so close. Strangers who till yesterday I didn't know existed and now they are an indispensable part of my life. I don't know if I will get to meet anyone of them and yet somehow I would invest in getting to know them. Even if it means I don't ever get to meet them. Ever. You know scary that is for someone who generally is scared of people?

I have had the most amazing experiences with these people who stay half way across the world and have still been there for me. Told me to stay strong, told me to read some book, told me to sleep early, friends who've helped me get over some really bitter stuff, how did they do it? Communication. Talk talk, talk. Sometimes I think, what good does it do to anyone to stick around and listen to you? Speak about themselves? and more importantly feel anything for you? You aren't connected to them. They don't owe you anything. This is more pronounced in cases where you may never meet these people. There is no endless coffee, there is no movies when we are bored, there is no comforting hug when you need it. There is really none of that. On the off chance that I meet them, I keep wondering what I'll even say. I'm the person you been talking to for the last 3 years? Hi! I know you from the internet, well.... Umm awkward. But I keep dreaming of meeting my virtual buddies. I promise Dipti to come to Bombay, I promise my friend to go to the US, I keep dreaming of landing in some godforsaken town I don't know where and get that big cuddly hug. 

The kindness of strangers is something you know. It can work absolute miracles when it comes to the person that you are, firstly there is no judgment, there is no 'but you were so different in college', There is no 'have you lost weight'... there is not ridiculous chatter, There is just moments of wonderful camaraderie. We don't know anything about  the person outside of what he/she tells us and we aren't interested in finding out much either. I see a very big opportunity to find great friends in these virtual strangers. Feeling as difficult as I have in a lot of circles, I find talking to complete strangers rather easier. See, my virtual friends are not obliged to accept me, so on the chance that they do, it really  opens up a world of possibility to talk about. There is no clique, there is just us.

The kindness of strangers isn't really about the great sacrifices that they will make for me. It isn't about what they say to me. It isn't even about them, because many people don't give it too much of a thought, but I find these ties that bind us together rather intriguing. Why does somebody feel so much attachment to somebody they haven't ever met. Why does the offer "Please come to meet me" always look so tempting. I miss my friends, I really do. How can I miss someone who lives so far away and has been talking to me for less than a few months? How did I meet someone who recently met someone I know? It's weird. Why am I meeting these people? Is it really possible that every human being is actually connected to each other and only over a period of time will these ties unravel themselves?

I know there is a lot of risk in trusting strangers,  it's a lot of emotional investment over a very long period of time. But I find there are moments you want with someone that are free of any kind of knowledge about who you were in the past and the baggage you carry. These virtual strangers gave me that. I loved that my friends back home accepted me for who I was and that really laid the foundation for the friends I wanted for the rest of my life.

So what is it that I want to say about these complete strangers who I probably wouldn't recognise if they stood in front of me? Of the great social experiment that is staying alive, it
doesn't hurt to know a few people who will touch your life even if it is by their facebook comments or their phone call or a Whatsapp group. It's amazing to get to know people whose paths cross yours. Everybody has brilliant stories to tell and we all want listeners. It may not be possible to meet everyone you want too. Much less experience lives the way they do, but even if you get a glimpse of it, isn't life that much better? Isn't it better to have a beautiful story to tell your kids about how you spoke for hours to a bunch of people you hadn't met? It's funny how there is really no souvenir for this relationship, You don't have anything to show for your friendship no bunked classes, no food places, no common places you liked, nothing. All you really have is the person that you've become just by coming in contact with these people. That's a mighty gift.

Is there a forever and always clause? Will I ever get so busy that I may not be able to talk to my friends? I hope not. There is no forever clause when it comes to friends, that's the rule. You can either hope that you stay friends or you can pretty much leave it to destiny to see how far this goes. If 20 years from now, I don't talk to the same people I do today, will I be surprised? (Right now, I think I will be) but then? may be not. I will accept it as a thing with life. There are few friendships that stand the test of time and only time tells *if* this one will last. As of now, all I can say about my friends with a facebook face, and a voice to go with is that  they are the sort of strangers that I find the connection we share absolutely amazing. The hour long talks over relationships, friendships, talking science, talking religion, talking batman, talking books, that list is endless and magical. The isn't it time to sleep? No, it's 10 in the morning where I live is pretty epic a conversation to have. They have opened me up to world full of endless possibilities, one where I'm not scared of people, of meeting them, sharing stories with them.

A little something about internet friendships that pretty much sums up why I love my friends online.


  1. I soooo loved it and its one of those far away fantasy land that you brought alive for me. I know I am one of those strangers and so the words of course touched me far more. Its true that the strangest thing is we open up in front of people we hardly know and why is that?

  2. WOW! That was very well put, Maggie! Especially the line...
    "We don't know anything about the person outside of what he/she tells us and we aren't interested in finding out much either."
    I guess that's what makes virtual friendships so popular these days. No probing questions, complete freedom to choose how we live our life, complete freedom to choose what to share with whom.


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