‘I’m Too Busy’ is an anthem for self-preservation. You see, I’ve long suspected that there’s a miniscule battery embedded in my soul — which burns out far too easily if I risk spending more than a few hours out on a Friday night. Apparently, I’m already 75 years old, wearing socks, and drinking tea in the Bombay heat. But this means I’ve always had very few friends I was regularly in touch with from the start.

The first being my sister — because of the mere convenience of sharing a roof, and the abject inconvenience of her having witnessed all my embarrassing moments, first hand. The remaining friends, who used to live down the road are now scattered across the globe, pursuing excellent jobs and lovely marriages. Old-school Skype sessions, swapping grocery lists and debunking Dalgona — therefore — had always been my ‘normal’. But I’m not completely callous, I do realise why ‘‘I’m Too Busy’’ is seen as a lousy excuse. A gold standard; a classic super-nice way of saying ‘‘You’re Not My Priority’’.

My first encounter with this notion was way back in the fifth grade, texting that bizarro crush I had, and then not hearing back. ‘He’s too busy’, went the best friend, and the ever-hopeful voice in my head, even as we watched him go Offline. Flash forward a thousand years later, living a life that should have bashed better sense into me, still sitting behind a computer screen, waiting for a positive revert on a work email. “Sorry, I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, because I’ve been caught up.” “Can we cancel today, please? It’s been hell. “Crap. I just saw your text. Missed this.”

The truth is, I’ve received and been guilty of using all of the above, at some point. Adulthood has morbidly twisted into becoming a series of these texts, going back and forth, until one of you kicks it. It’s our way of keeping in touch, zero patience — It’s efficient. But you could call it a bit sad, considering just a couple of centuries ago, the whole lot of us were chuffed with a quill. Plodding along with the dip-per-word process, scratching out a ‘Hello, how are thee’ on parchment, and locating the nearest pigeon to stick it on. But the fact is that today — we’re simply overwhelmed with information we don’t know what to do with. We know what everyone’s having for lunch, the interiors of their home, and occasionally the intimate story of a first kiss, thrown into a photo caption.

If everyone is a priority — then no one is. We already know too much about each other to bother catching up. And then — it finally happened. The minute we were all collectively forced to step off-grid, realisation dawned. Just like the recommended serving of jam (a teaspoon!) wouldn’t cover even the corner of a respectably-sized piece of toast, we all realised we had been spreading ourselves too thin. Because the people we were stuffing our days with, weren’t the ones we were checking in on.

So then how does one figure out who matters? Here are a few giveaways.

The person whose number you know by heart. The one with the cringy email ID they made back in third grade, which you still remember. Someone who feels familiar, like an old book. Comfort. What, we as humans have always craved for. Comfort from a warm fire, hot chocolate, and in the hearts of the people we trust. These are the ones we’re never busy for. Because when something matters, we know how to make time. We make it happen. The most important person you may have been too busy for, not reached out to, or simply fallen out of touch with, might be yourself. Even if your innermost thoughts scare the crap out of you, do try and check-in with yourself sometimes.

It might sound like a cliché, but clichés are clichés; because they generally tend to be true. Which brings me back to the opening line of this piece.