What I Miss
There are many things I miss. Top of the list is international travel. For the past two-and-a-half decades, the long flights have been my source of new ideas, deep reflections and big decisions. Being up in the air, without any of the earthly distractions makes one meditative and contemplative – hours can be spent on pushing the mind to probe deeper on a theme which is so hard to do with a live screen and interrupting people. Ever since I discovered business class travel for the long-haul flights in 1999 (thanks to the cheap round-the-world airfares that were common then), travel became something I started looking forward to. It will probably still be a year before the romance of the 15-hour non-stop comes back in my life.
One reason I used to travel a lot was to attend conferences – and I miss that a lot. While online has replaced the offline, for me it was about the setting. Being physically present and mentally undistracted, my complete focus was on the knowledge being imparted. In those moments, the speaker’s words melded with my own thinking to create new ideas for the future. Even though one can attend and listen to many more people now from the comforts of home, it is just not the same.
The other thing I miss is meeting friends in person. As we grow older, we develop our own small circle. The monthly lunch, the fortnightly group gathering, the periodic late night chat – all have been curtailed. The occasional phone call or a Zoom session does not make up for the proximity that sharing the same space brings. In that sense, while I have spoken to many more people than I otherwise would have met, these conversations do not lead to the same connection that a face-to-face meeting does. I hope this will resume soon.
We had a monthly review for Netcore recently. 16 of us discuss the past, present and future. We had all met last as a group at an offsite in late February. A week ago, some of us came together in our office conference room and a few others joined via Zoom. Over the past few months, I had become a much more silent participant – reduced to a small window on a large screen. Just being in the room with everyone made me so much more active and alive – I was less hesitant in making interventions or even interrupting. I was not distracted or bored as I sat through the four hours of discussion. This is what needs to come back – the jiu-jitsu of ideas flowing from people across the table.
Choosing to become a prisoner in one’s own home limits our experiences. We learn when we put ourselves in different situations. The drive to and from work, unexpected encounter with a long lost friend at an airport, the short weekend visit to meet relatives in Pune or Surat, the customer visits – all will probably have to wait for some more time. This is what the pandemic has taken away from us – and hopefully, we will cherish these moments much more when we get them back.
So, as I look ahead to 2021, it is with the optimism that we will treasure our relationships with people even more – in our personal lives and at work. Each of us has gone through difficult times in the past year. Some have even lost a loved one. What I hope we remember are what changed us for the better, the things we learnt, the new bonds we forged. Our experiences and past shape us – what we have to take away from 2020 are the happier moments even as we have had to live through some sad ones.
Tomorrow: Part 4