lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Lovely lady? Tart. Cheers!

"Lake Market." I said. The taxi driver stuck his head out of the window, and yelled "Airport!" at his buddies.

It's a running joke among the cabbies of my area. They all know my routine, and the usual places I go to. Whether I am going to Lake Market or my lending library, they all call out to the others that I am going to the airport.

When we interact with anyone over a period of time, we tend to develop a personal equation. The difference between acquaintance and a relationship is that connection- something two people share uniquely, something that connects them like no other two people in the world.

A relationship gathers substance when we have older convergence points to touch upon. The relationship feeds on the recurrence of shared interests, running jokes and continuing punch lines. Each meeting reinforces the basic connection and the relationship grows.

Whether it is the lads at my library or the staff of a bookshop, whether it is the cabbies at the local taxi stand or the personnel at my bank, I have a relationship with them all. It may not be a deep and close connection, but we interact, and that leads to a relationship.

The in-joke of the taxi drivers arose out of such relationship. Needing to hurry on a day when the streets were going to be chaotic, and their casting lots to decide who can get me there fastest; a private incident between the cabbies and me, it would make no sense to outsiders. It is a private joke.

There are private jokes between friends; family jokes that outsiders won't find funny. There are incidents that mean something only to the participants. These enrich the relationships. Friends tend to take each other's phrases and make them their own. My readers have taken to saying "the mind boggles" and I have taken to saying "muchly" and worse.

Friends develop phrases and code words that convey a whole wealth of meaning to each other, without having to spell it out. Families have these too. In my family "talking English" is all we need to say. It means nothing to outsiders, but we know exactly what is being said.

At the bookshop I frequent, I chat with the young man in charge of the science fiction and fantasy shelves. We both read the same authors, and we have lively discussions about the new arrivals on the shelves. He's been trying to persuade me to read a particular author, and our relationship has evolved to the point that he says the name and I roll my eyes. We don't need any further words.

The evolution of a relationship is fascinating. When you tentatively find common interests and gauge each other, when you find that every meeting is taking up from where you left off, when you find that you don't need to talk to fill comfortable silences; the growing strength of the relationship can be judged by these.

Private shorthand evolves over time. Couples have their personal secrets: pet names for each other that would mortify them if known universally, private rituals and signals. It is these that define and strengthen the bond between them.

Now I can't resist quoting:

"But a great deal of us is together, and we can but abide by it, and steer our courses to meet soon. John Thomas says good-night to Lady Jane, a little droopingly, but with a hopeful heart."



Blogger Sue said...

I recognise the quote (without the link). Loved the letter so much, I quoted the bit about fucking a flame into being in a letter to my first love, when I left home for college.

I still love that letter! :D

8:43 am  
Anonymous Ash said...

Nice anagram, but it gave away the punch line. You shouldn't have given the link in the title, Lali.

Talking English? Is it what I think it means?

4:40 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Sue- Hi. I know, I loved that letter, too. I wish I'd thought of quoting it to my love. Damn, it's too late now. :D

Do drop in again.

Ash- Um, perhaps I oughtn't to have given the link in the title, but I am not to going to change it now.

And what do you think 'talking English means?

5:00 pm  
Anonymous Prophet of Doom said...

Couples have their personal secrets: pet names for each other that would mortify them if known universally

I couldn't agree more ...

6:23 pm  
Anonymous Tivi said...


6:32 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ram- That's when the coupledom happens, I think, when you have unique jokes, references and utterly private codewords.

Tivi- giggle Exactly! Like my trying to explain to Ash what 'talking English' means. Too esoteric.

10:19 pm  
Blogger Priya said...

The evolution of relationships is what boggles me now. petnames, code words, sign language, missed calls, smses, offliners...But, Missus Em, are the bonds really getting stronger? Call me a bloody old cynic, but I must differ with you. Relationships, like all other abbreviated things in life, are perfect examples of short-term investments with very high ROIs, these days.
However, I do agree, we live in hope.

4:05 pm  
Anonymous Ash said...

'Talking English' sounds like being a snob. Am I right?

@ Priya- Lali talked about stages of relationships, and judging the strength of a bond. Not if bonds are getting stronger.

4:31 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Priya- The operative words in your comment are, I think, 'abbreviated things' and 'these days'. I guess I am old-fashioned and think in terms of a life-long relationship.

Is a relationship that you have invested emotion and effort into so discardable and abrreviated? I hate to think so.

Ash- I suppose you could use it that way, but in my family it meant something different.

10:51 am  

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