lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Open mouth, insert foot.

No, this is not about the Dubya Man and his most recent gaffe.

(How he thought he could get away with referring to citizens of Pakistan as Paks does not require as much thought as I need to employ to solve a cryptic clue; it is a no-brainer. He did not think.

While on the subject of Dubya Man, may I register that my Rupee worth. I don't want him visiting us. He is a habitual and serial killer; that he does it by proxy doesn't make him any less guilty. He is a torturer even if he doesn't menace poor sad innocent bystanders himself or threaten them with dogs. He condones it and tacitly supports it. He spies on his own country, for gods' sake!

What does he know about cricket anyway, huh? Can he recite statistics? )

Okay, finished ranting. :D

Have you ever found your mouth running away with you, without bothering to inform your brain? We don't always think before saying something, and we end up trying to retract or justify statements that jumped out of our mouths before our brains threw up a warning.

I was a gullible young girl. I had a mistaken idea about speaking truth always being a virtue, and it got me into a lot of trouble as a teenager. I had to learn that stating a truth isn't always welcome, and that speaking truth needs timing.

Saying a saree looks awful after a person has gone and bought it and wore it might be true, but is not very tactful. The right time to say it is when the person is contemplating the purchase.

Facts and truth don't have much beyond a nodding acquaintance with social graces and it is good manners to ignore them and be non-committal.

Saying a dish cooked lovingly by your mother (not that my mother ever cooked) tastes like cellulose might be close to truth, but is also rank rudeness. A small digression: if you can't cook, you have no business criticising the food, unless you are in a restaurant and paying for the meal. Personally, I think the only remark on food that can be offered safely is about salt.

More tricky are truths that have to be stated very carefully: 'Do I look fat?' is a question I dread most. The person asking that question is almost never expecting an affirmative while knowing full well the true answer would be a resounding "Yes." The person is asking for re-assurance he or she is looking okay, not a critical rating of their BMI.

As a teenager, when my mother asked if she was as large as some passing woman, I used to give an honest assessment. It was only when I asked my son the same question, "Am I as big as her?" and got a candid "Um, a bit bigger, I think", from him that I realised that my answer should have been "No way, you aren't." Isn't it marvellous what age and adipose tissue do to you? :D

Truth and good manners don't go together, obviously. It took a while to figure this out, and learn to be silent or answer in a creative fashion when asked awkward questions, but I think I manage it. This is called tact. Etiquette requires us to admire the human race. :D

Basic honesty has to be put aside when answering questions like "Do I look okay", especially if the person asking the question doesn't in truth look okay. But honesty doesn't have to be brutal, right, so tact enters the picture... And then, you better pray you have a large vocabulary and a convincing manner of telling social or the so called white lies.

Unthinking statements of utter truth have a way of wounding. Better to be politely non-committal. Good manners is avoiding giving the sort of offence you would be hurt to be on the receiving end of, after all. GK Chesterton said that truth is sacred, and if you tell the truth too often nobody will believe it. And trust me, he knew what he was talking about. :)

And congratulations, Praveen. One hundred thousand hits and climbing, you rock, dude.

Please, folks. Help me out here, and gimme responses, reactions and post comments. I love it that you send me mails, but post the comments on my blog please, pretty please with sugar on top, if you need such bribes. :D



Anonymous dipali said...

I think it was the Quakers who had this policy, that before saying anything, it had to pass the criteria of being true, kind, and necessary. Which probably led to loads and loads of golden silence!

10:42 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Dipali- They had it right, though. I'd rather not hurt the sentiments of others, so a tactful silence is what I resort to, most of the time. But that silence itself is damning. Damned if you do and damned if you don't. What a quandary!

12:35 pm  

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