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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"I can understand"

I was unlocking the main entrance of my building when I saw another girl struggling with her keys and grocery bags and trying to get in from the opposite end through another entryway. I sped towards her and opened the door (just needed a push from my end once I was inside) and held it so that she could board the elevator with me. It was nothing unique, it had been done to me quite a few times when I had tried to get in with shopping bags and had been fortunate to have somebody empathetic enough around. However, she smiled at me and kept thanking me for my time, and related how the heavy bags made her feel that her arms would get torn from the weight. I simply nodded, smiled, and said, "I can understand".

Last night, I got home after a long day and called back in reply to a voice mail of a person who is pursuing her MS and needs some point of contact to get an internship in a Biotechnology/Pharmaceutical company. Since I had an undergraduate degree in the same, she thought that I might know someone who knows someone who could be of some help. It was around 9:30 pm and I had just got back from my classes. It was evidently her need more than mine, and yet when I returned her call and asked if it's a good time to talk, she appeared to be in a pissed-off mood. I was at my politest best and said honestly that I would try to talk to someone, though I couldn't commit anything. I observed that "Everybody seems so tensed nowadays. Maybe it has something to do with the job market." (The alleged recession et al. For more details, follow The Wall Street Journal religiously. And no, they don't pay me a commission for all the advertisement I do for them on my blog ) US had economic recessions in the past decades, but it never took more than 7-8 months to recover , historically at least.

It was evident in the career fair in the university, where I seemed to miss a few names I had expected to see, specially in the Finance industry. I came across a Sales and Marketing professional who seemed like the dream boss to me, but unfortunately her firm didn't have any openings for a marketing intern. I had browsed through the company website before attending the fair and there seemed mostly Accounting and R&D positions. However, I took some time to talk to her and as you would willingly believe, she had a lot to contribute to my perception about how a firm works and why sometimes it can be a good idea to have practical experience (read:internship) in other fields than your business major. There was another lady whom I seemed to chat with like we were long lost friends while her boss, the internship coordinator, was busy explaining things to one of my batchmates, and I was waiting for my turn to talk to her at the counter. Some people are so easy to talk to. Maybe even have an effective communication with.

I came across a few seniors who seemed to have discovered my blog and they generously offered their compliments, laced with adjectives like "Awesome", "Cool" etc. And when they asked to have a look at my blook, I invited them over to have a look at it sometime. It feels so great to be appreciated, even for a small effort. If you are reading this, and you have said to me recently that you really like what I scribble- a BIG thanks.

Coming back to where I left, I think that one of the most difficult things to say today is not " I love you", but "I can understand". Empathy seems scarcer to find than love or admiration. So, when the person I had called up last night seemed to talk to me weirdly, I casually referred to the prevalent tension nowadays. She seemed to catch on the hint, and asked: "Did you have your dinner?" in a softer tone, almost apologetically. I replied " No, I have just got back from class, I'll arrange for it soon. Don't worry :)" - it was my way of saying that " I can understand you had a long day too."

And I remembered what I had heard someone say to me on the elevator once, when I had stated,"It has been a long day". She said it with an impish smile, a twinkle in her eyes, and almost with a joyous melody : " But it's over !!!" Tired as I was, I couldn't help smiling when I bade her goodnight, reflected some of her joy, and said "Yeah" with almost a sense of triumph. Strangers remind you what your near ones seem to forget to tell you sometimes.

Things that look the worst can only get better. Who said it'll never stop raining? It always does.

22 comments:

zoxcleb said...

althought u had a nice little digression in the middle....
the start and finish wrapped so well.... and i can understand exactly what u meant, as i have friends who are equally tense, and i do my best to put on a brave face for them.

as for the bags, if only someone in my building would care to help when my room-mate and i come home loaded up with grocery bags.... :-)

Aparna Kar said...

@zoxcleb
:)
Maybe you should start opening doors for others first . That could be a start

zoxcleb said...

i always do.....

Aparna Kar said...

@zoxcleb
Aaha! Then it's unfair. I always open the door when I can: boy/girl immaterial. Once it was a guy carrying heaving his guitar case and knapsack on his back out in the cold and fumbling with his keys.

zoxcleb said...

i guess thats just life... :-)

Aparna Kar said...

@zoxcleb
Well...

candid diary said...

Throughout our lives we dream about great moments but we arrive at our great moments by living the small moments as told by you.
You are a great story teller and, as always, your encouraging narration comes from the depth of your heart. Kudos again.

Saurabh said...

This is a rare piece written by you which if has to be rated by me will get 11 out of 10.

For me this is the article of the year from you, till you come up with another gem

Sam said...

Things that look the worst can only get better. Who said it'll never stop raining? It always does.

damn right!!!

ILA(a)இளா said...

Aparna,
You are trying to make the things simpler and smoother. Yes, you are right we have enough time and job to have it. even though what we say "we dont have time or stressed". You made it in simple, that I CAN UNDERSTAND.

ILA(a)இளா said...

Aparna,
You are trying to make the things simpler and smoother. Yes, you are right we have enough time and job to have it. even though what we say "we dont have time or stressed". You made it in simple, that I CAN UNDERSTAND.

Aditya said...

Nice post. I think i should stop stating the obvious that you write really well. :-)

I got a different take on the empathy thing you touched upon above. I think there is more of it around than actually it is required. Sometimes, it is just a question of saying a few sensible words, or even changing the topic, or may be never bringing up a topic ever again.

With respect to trying out a different stream for internship, isn't it a better idea to dive in to the field you really want to be in, to get the surprises up and early?

Sunil said...

Well, sometimes the opposite is true as well, especially here in America. Doesn't everyone here ALWAYS have a long day? Doesn't everyone here ALWAYS wait for the weekend? Doesn't everyone here ALWAYS complain about something trivial? From the weather to the long work day, from the lousy traffic to the high gas prices, from the saturated fat content in chips to heavy grocery bags - there's always SOMETHING to gripe about.

The richest country in the world is definitely not the happiest.

Nice post though....:-)

Purnima said...

Nice post .. Reading it felt like reading someone's daily diary(without guilt):)

Apugonnab said...

Hey.. Been a while since I got back to cyber world..

Sometimes, we can do small things and make a big difference in another's life, and then, there are times when, you do all that you can, and its just not enough..

People are strange...really!

Btw, i blog at alphabetacharlie.blogspot.com these days..

LAVI said...

Hey aparna, well written. Know what I admir most in ur blogs, Ppl hesitate to write or express what they actually feel. Most of the times they keep think "what others wd think if i write or express what I exactly feel.Is is good to express with others". But ur blog is a mirror for all those who dont have that one thing called"expressing their views"....

good job

Munmun said...

Quoting, "Who said it'll never stop raining? It always does."

I love the ebullient optimism always so obvious in your writings :)

Anand Sarolkar said...

Lovely post...made me smile :)

Aparna Kar said...

@Anand Sarolkar
Hope I didn't oversimplify things :)

nuance said...

From the title I thought you were going to talk about an episode from "Two And A Half Men", where the womanizer played by Charlie Sheen (how appropriate, BTW!) found the "secrete weapon" of saying, word by word, "I can understand". It was a brilliant episode from a mediocre sitcom. But it seemed there was little demographic overlap between this blog's readers and stupid American sitcom watchers. :P

Aparna Kar said...

@nuance
"secrete weapon" LOL. But I can guarantee it doesn't work well unless you are a good actor too ;)

I had been asked to watch "Two And A Half Men ", by a friend; unfortunately , I never did. Maybe I'll browse for that episode now. The only sitcom I watched here was Scrubs, but they haven't aired any new episodes since December. :(

Bubbles of FireWhiskey said...

love the post... makes me want to actually face the stress that tomorrow brings [:P]