Saturday, September 28, 2013

Unpleasant exit of good old pleasantries

Being an Army kid does have its advantages! I remember mom admonishing me when I was a little more than a toddler for not wishing an uncle good morning. “You do not look through people, or act coy and peep out at them from behind me!” she warned. “You must wish them properly!” And so I did, and the habit has stayed with me for decades now.
I would sometimes even startle folks by jumping out at them from behind a tree, chirping cheerily, “Good afternoon, auntie, uncle!” It came to a point when they started looking over their shoulders any time they passed my house, for fear that they would suddenly be waylaid by my beaming little face and squeaky voice.
Not surprisingly, at a certain event my name was called out and I was given a little medal for being the best behaved child in the cantonment, a feat mom was rather proud of. My daughter too began lisping ‘Goomoning!” even when she was toddling about on her chubby legs.
However, it is distressful that this habit of wishing people, especially elders, has died out in today’s world. I have come across children who will either ignore you, as if that would make you disappear from sight, or glare at you, wondering why you were ever born to torture them. The other option is to smile shyly and hide behind a curtain, a chair or their mother’s sari, whichever is within arm’s length.
Of course, there are young souls who glance at you and say hi or hello in clear ringing tones, even if they are about four decades younger than you. But it is acceptable as a frivolous greeting is better than none!
It comes as a shock when you walk into someone’s house, and prepare to sit on their one free chair (the rest covered with books, magazines and pets!), only to find a small form ensconced comfortably within it, eyes glued to the television, hardly breathing, and in no mood to shift. Alternatively it could be a big hulk, sprawled out, hairy legs stretched out, straddling most of the room, accompanied by his friends. Not even by a flicker of an eyelid do they acknowledge there is a bewildered person in their vicinity!
In both cases, you look about feebly, even as the host says warmly, “Sit down please!” and disappears within to call his wife, his mother, his daughter in law, and the family dog!
It is sad to think that many youngsters miss out on the bountiful blessings of people older than them, blessings that go a long way to ensure that benevolence and love envelop them wherever they go. There is no denying that the good wishes of grandparents, teachers, elders and even compassionate strangers play a vital role in bringing positivity into young lives.
Our epics describe instances where irate gurus and ill-tempered sanyasis would curse those who disrespected them. Thank God those days have disappeared into the annals of history, or slipped into the Harry Potter chronicles.
Finally, to quote Thomas Sowell, “Politeness and consideration for others is like investing pennies and getting dollars back.” Now, there’s an inspiring thought!

New Indian Express
26th September 2013

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