On Tattoos and Hijabs

Whenever I imagine calling all my close friends for a party and putting all my friends under the same roof, in the same room, my mind goes into overdrive. Plagued with an overactive imagination, my life plays out like an elaborate broadway show or a high budget Karan Johar movie, and this one scenario seems like the plausible climax beyond which I’m not really sure how the movie will go.

Some friends would be indifferent, some shy. Some overbearing, some withdrawn. Some would be the life of the party and some would prefer to go home to a book or a drink. Together all my friends would make for a very interesting, albeit emotionally charged party.

I’m not one to hang out in big, gregarious crowds. I prefer small, intimate groups. I’m picky about my friends and pickier still about my close friends. From becoming dancers to scientists, to supporting Trump, my friends have been there, done that. I don’t know how I know so many different kinds of people,  but I know why – because, without them, I would be stuck in my tiny version of reality.

Our reality is limited. We extend our reality only to what we think we know and can understand. It’s a catch 22 really. What we don’t understand we don’t know and what we don’t know, we don’t understand. So where do we begin to break out of our tiny realities?

I hear a lot of discussions regarding “learning moments” and every time I hear the phrase I cringe. The notion that we have to seek out learning moments is as absurd as that of women being a weaker sex.

Learning moments isn’t a physics classroom wherein you only learn physics. Learning moments happen when you open your eyes and mind to two notions –

  1. I don’t know everything
  2. I can always learn something new

Both of these realities have been shunned in our MBA driven society where one has to know everything. While many people may know a lot of things, many of them don’t comprehend or analyze or understand these things.

To truly learn, one simply needs to make more friends, to make different friends, to make yourself uncomfortable and vulnerable, to be wrong, to be correct, to feel safe, and to feel challenged. A learning moment can come from a YouTube video or an Albert Camus book. A learning moment can come in the kitchen or at an IPL game.

Often, a learning moment comes when you least expect it, from someone you least expect. Make friends who are different from you, physically and emotionally. Meet more than one person of a ‘type’ and you’ll see that there is no such thing as a ‘type’. Tattoos, hijabs, miniskirts. They don’t make the difference, you make the difference in your head. Meet at least three people of a ‘type’. Then four, then five. You may like only one, but you may not like the first one.

Don’t let an earring or a tattoo or a hijab stop you. Move beyond them.

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