Saturday, September 19, 2009

Imaginary friends

This was published in The South Asian Times on September 19th.

You probably had an imaginary friend as a kid. Someone you had elaborate conversations with, someone you trusted all your life stories with. Your imaginary friend perhaps had an amicable personality, guided you when you were lost, gave you company when you were lonely, provided you with strength when you felt powerless and accepted the blame for whatever you did wrong. Being a kid in the company of other kids is sometimes tough and your imaginary friend helped you get through those delicate phases in life.
Then you grew up and found real friends. Lots of them. People who did the same things for you as your imaginary friend did and a whole lot more. And for that, you started relying on them - sometimes for guidance on trivial matters, sometimes for major decisions of life and at most times just for comfort.

So much so that it became a routine to run most things by someone before consulting your own self. Can't decide which cruise to go on in December? Check with a friend. Confused about what second career is better for you? Ask a friend. Can't decide whether you forgive your wife and proceed with a divorce? Of course, consult your friend.

Ever been in that situation? It’s certainly a good thing to draw from other people’s experiences. Sometimes it saves you time for doing research, other times it saves you from unpleasant experiences. But at what cost? If it has become a habit, it means you have kissed your own thinking and opinions good bye. No I’m not preaching. Sadly, I’m a case in point. Or I was until it hit me recently. In my defense, I’m always surrounded by people. It feels unnatural to not ask or run it by the next soul in the vicinity. But from now on, I’m a different person. Well at least I hope to be.

Here’s my new plan. Giving every routine scenario a thought can be demanding and tedious. So I’m gonna have some imaginary friends. Not to the extent that it sounds ludicrous. Nothing crazy like that. Just within reasonable limits. For instance, if I am lost in the end game of chess, I’m going to ask Kasparov what strategy he would use. Or may be I’ll ask our own V. Anand. Not aloud, silly. God no. I’m just going to have a silent dialogue with him and may be the solution will come to me. If I need fashion help, I’m going to catch Sarah Jessica Parker on her way to a movie premier or something. And if don’t agree with the reviews about a book, I’m going to strike up a fun debate with Salman Rushdie and hopefully I’ll see both sides of the story.

I’m not sure if I’ll end up making the right decisions in the process. But I’ll be doing my brain a huge favor by inducing some imagination and by brushing away the rust from my thinking neurons. And no, those imaginary conversations will not be making it to this column, in case you were curious.

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