Have you ever observed the very first thing people say when they meet you? Well, they actually do not say anything immediately, but they do a quick scan and end up saying, “Hey dear, looks like you’ve put on some extra pounds” or “Oh dear, what’s wrong with you? Why do you look so undernourished?” or “Haven’t you got your thyroid checked recently?” Sadly, many people have forgotten to greet each other in any other way. Yet, this often kills the enthusiasm in the person greeted to prolong the conversation.
These days, everyone is busy and stress is a significant part of our lives. Now, imagine this! You are taking a break and you go out for a holiday to rejuvenate yourself, and suddenly an old friend bumps into you. While you are about to jump in excitement at meeting your old friend, that friend quickly scans you out and instantly mentions that you have slightly grown darker/fairer than before. Or, that your hair was much thicker than before or you looked prettier before. I’m reminded of Mahesh Babu’s dialogue from his popular family entertainer, Seethamma Vaakitlo Sirimalle Chettu: “Rangu taggadu, sanna paddadu, laavu ekkadu… Mundu ivi maneyandi ra dariddrullara, desam sagam baagu padtundi”. (Always worried about someone’s getting shrunk or plump, or lost a shade of complexion. You meddlesome creatures! Abstain from all these. You will do a favor for the country’s development!)
To think of it, why does every conversation start with the mention of someone’s skin tone,weight etc? A strand of grey hair is noticed by a neighbor who comes to return cutlery and makes sure it is rediscovered and informed to you. After all, it’s just a strand of hair that falls, re-grows, fades and falls out again. Will a grey strand on someone’s head spread like head lice? If not, why bother! One getting a haircut could also be a conversation starter:”Why did you chop your hair? You had such long beautiful ‘Rapunzel’ like hair”. Or, “Why did you color your hair? Now, you will have to bear its after effects. You will witness a drastic hair fall.” Give it a break, folks! Some people need to be reminded of what the Coco Chanel says:“A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life”. You may never know what a good haircut means to that person! I think, a good haircut makes you feel confident. For someone, that could be her way of trying to get out of her comfort zone. Or, just an attempt to try something different from the regular, the ordinary. Whatever the case may be, it is safe to follow the adage, “Never give advice until asked”.
Wait a minute! Did I violate that one now?
Friends are essential in our life. Often, one turns to a friend to find solace, especially when in trouble or distress. But, these friends can sometimes really be a pain in the rear. One not-so-fine morning, when one comes to workplace bearing the piercing effect of a heat boil on the nose, is it unimaginable that a friendly colleague (or two) passes by as usual conveying morning greetings, and they suddenly stop to take one close look at you, only to have their eureka moment of the day? “Hey! this isn’t a pimple. Pimples are smaller. I guess, it’s a heat boil!”
After a long sick leave when one resumes work, out of concern for that person one may ask them if s/he is feeling any better. Yes, one feels good when there are people who express their care for you. Nobody wants to feel deserted in difficult times. But things become awkward when one constantly inquires about a person’s health day in and day out. Give a person some time and space to recover, lest s/he becomes sick of us and our overly applied etiquette.
All of us must have come across many annoying questions, especially presumptive ones. The most frequently asked question in our part of the world though – and irrespective of gender – seems to be about one’s marital status. Somehow, an individual’s marriage becomes everyone’s business. No sooner does a person hits 21 years of age than people start their bothersome inquiries. There are various ways in which the uncontrollable curiosity gets articulated. Sometimes it is, “Shaadi ka laddu kab khila rahi ho”? (When are you distributing wedding laddus?) Imagine one having to get married because some distant relative wants to eat laddus! Once a distant aunt of mine who came from Vijayawada asked me in Telugu,” Pappannam (dalrice) eppudu pettistave thalli?”(When will you serve me dal-rice?) Well, I got my cook to make dal-chawwal for lunch that day. Turned out, unfortunately, that it wasn’t what she wanted! A joke that has gone viral on WhatsApp goes like this: “Old people at weddings were always poking me and saying,”you are next”. But, that was until I started doing the same to them at funerals”. There must be a reason why that joke went viral!
And once, whether by chance or by choice or under societal pressure, one gets married, the questions continue, but now they are about BABIES: “Wheeeere aaaaare the babieeeees?” How is an individual’s home production supposed to be everyone’s business? Well, it looks like there is nothing which is not everyone’s business. Then, there are the experts who tell you whether to give birth to a boy or a girl or how many one should give birth to. How does anyone get to barge into such personal choices of life? Beats me!
Getting married or not getting married or getting remarried, staying single and wanting to have children or no children or adopting children are all choices that ought to be left to the individual. Others, whatever their subjective experience was, can’t decide what is appropriate for another individual. Our noses need to stay away from other’s businesses. But, as fellow human beings, we can choose to use our ability to communicate to encourage and uplift others and not demoralize,demotivate and demean them. Let us have some enriching chat with someone when we meet them the next time. Let us do that while minding our own business.
P.S. Since it is Sankranthi, to those who still can’t get their noses to stay away, we should safely be able to say, Go Fly a Kite!