Gone are the days when a conversation with a stranger was considered harmless.

“Is the seat beside you empty or is someone coming?” asked an elderly woman who wore a charismatic smile along with her silk saree. “Nobody is coming.” I replied and smiled back at her. I was watching a classical dance performance which was part of the Margazhi festival. Her head bobbed mechanically coinciding with the captivating mirdhangam beats which filled the auditorium.

As I hummed the song she asked me if I was a dancer as well and thus began our light-hearted conversation. We continued to talk in the tiny breaks when we could hear each other’s voice. At the end of the show, as I got up to leave she held my hand and wished me good luck with another one of her trademark smiles.

I was mesmerised. How often do we go out of the way to engage in a conversation with someone we meet in a train, offer popcorn to a stranger in a cinema hall, wish a stranger on her/his birthday when we see them celebrating or compliment someone who is not an acquaintance? Gone are the days when random conversations (not chatroom conversations!) with total strangers were considered harmless and necessary as part of the socialising process.

Nowadays everybody is being treated and is treating everybody with a cold shoulder and an innocent smile is considered “creepy”. At times, we fail to engage in a conversation even with people who mean a lot to us. As we are constantly socialising in social networking sites, we look through the people who are right beside us!

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