Society rewards the easygoing extravert but fails to notice the profound contribution of the introvert
Yummm,” drooled Alka as Mummy brought in hot home-made pizza moist with cheese and tomato paste straight from the oven.
“What a treat,” exulted Avijit, throwing off his dreamy air. Dad, who loved food, gave his wife a thumbs up. Ajji and Ajoba looked faintly alarmed at the sight of the rich food. But Mom had thought of everything. Out came a tureen of soft delicious kichadi. There was kaddi and tomato chutney on the side. Everyone tucked in. Only Nisha seemed oblivious to the food, and sat, chewing her pizza slice silently, her mind elsewhere.
“What’s up?” asked Dad, as soon as he could distract himself from the food. Nisha’s eyes filled with tears. She shook her head. “Come on,” coaxed Dad. “It’s nothing,” she responded, then added in a rush, “Priya just called me to say that Sakshi told her that she thinks I am the one with the least personality in the class. I feel so bad,” she sobbed. Mom and Dad hastened to her side and hugged her.
“What do you think she means by personality?” asked Dad.
“Well, I guess, Dad, she means someone who is bold and says things in class, makes people laugh and is popular. I don’t do any of these things. I am quiet. I just have a few friends and rarely ever put up my hand to ask questions or to answer them.”
“That makes you a classic introvert,” said Dad. “And let me tell you there is nothing at all wrong with being an introvert. In fact, there are a whole lot of things that are right about it.”
“Dad, I would give my right arm to be like Sakshi – so friendly and easy to get along with. She’s so much fun. I freeze if I am with a stranger. I can get along only with people I know well.”
Dad threw a comforting arm around her. “It’s not easy to be an introvert, sweetie,” he said, “especially in today’s times, when society rewards only extraverts, but you must know that introverts play a most valuable part in society. And by the way, let me tell you that I am an introvert too.”
Nisha gaped, “You, Dad?” she asked. “But you hold your own in any gathering. I’ve never seen you to be shy or reclusive.”
“That is because I have accepted who I am, Nisha,” said Dad, “And so will you as you grow older. And guess who else is an introvert? MS Dhoni, considered to be the greatest captain in Indian cricket and the picture of confidence and poise. Well, he started off as shy and reticent!”
“Really,” exclaimed Nisha. “That is so cool.”
Dad continued, “Let me tell you why introverts are special. Carl Jung, the great psycho-analyst, and an introvert, had really keen insight on the role of the introvert. He used to say that introverts were in touch with the archetypes of the world, by which he meant with the source of truth and wisdom and perennial values. Because of this, they are the ones who guide the world and show it which direction to move towards.”
“Wow,” said Nisha, looking impressed.
“Yes,” said Dad. “He also said that the reason why introverts found it uncomfortable to be with others for a long time is because they get their energy from within themselves, while extraverts get their energies from others. So when you are in a gathering of many people, your energy gets depleted.”
”That is so me,” exclaimed Nisha, “I just need to dive into my room and listen to music after I have gone out to a party.”
“Fact number three,” said Dad, ticking them off on his fingers, “Introverts pursue depth while extraverts pursue breadth. Introverts make fewer friends but they cultivate these friendships intensely. Extraverts have lots more friends but they probably do not get as intimate with them.”
Nisha drew a deep breath of satisfaction. “That’s totally me, Dad,” she said. “Irene, Sheela, Kailash and I are such good friends. They know everything about me and vice versa.”
“The thing with introverts, darling,” said Dad, “is that on the surface they seem rather ordinary but deep inside they are anything but. They are like a treasure chest holding precious things inside because they have such rich inner lives. Now look at you. You are such a brilliant student.”
“A terrific artist,” chimed her mother. “A great writer,’ acknowledged Avijit. “A wonderful human being who is kind, compassionate and caring,” called out Ajoba. “My most loving grandchild,” chipped in Aji. “My best friend,” said Alka.
Nisha looked as if she was going to burst into tears all over again, this time out of joy.
“As you get older, dear, the gold in your nature, your enduring beauty, will be more visible to the outside world and then you will find that others are naturally drawn to you without your having to project any kind of personality,” added Dad.
Nisha turned a radiant face to her kind Dad and gave him a big hug. “Thanks,” she said, all choked up.
“Welcome, dear,” said Dad.
“There is just one last thing, sweetie,” said Mom. “I was a little uncomfortable with the fact that you allowed Priya to tell you what Sakshi may have told her in confidence.”
“Mom, she was just being a friend,” protested Nisha.
No, dear,” said her mother. “That is a false notion of friendship. If someone says anything negative about another, we should never ever relay it. We will just create bad blood between the two. How did you feel about Sakshi when you heard what she said? “I felt so humiliated. I wanted to scratch her eyes out,” said Nisha
“Exactly. And even if someone tells you, refuse to hear it out. This is the only way to safeguard relationships.”
“Oh,” said Nisha. “Well, I need to think about this.”
Avijit, who was listening to the exchange, looked thoughtful. “Mom, I think what you say makes sense. I remember I once told Ramesh about something derogatory that Kevin had said about him. The two never spoke to each other after that and they used to be such great friends.”
“Speak no evil,” chimed in Ajoba, imitating Gandhiji’s monkey figure with his fingers crossed over his lips.
“Okay, fine,” conceded Nisha.
“Whew, all this drama has made me faint with hunger. Mom, one more round of pizza, please,’ sang Alka.
“Coming up,” said Mom promptly, getting up to fetch it from the oven.
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