Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Being positive under provocation

This New Year I resolved to stay unruffled about nasty things people might say. "Don't be provoked, think positive," I said to myself. I soon realised that this was easier resolved than done.

Let me explain. In response to something I wrote, I got a mail, saying, "What the f--- r u",without as much as a question mark by way of punctuation. I didn't mind the f-word, a graphic speech form some people adopt to drive home their point. But his use of 'u' and 'r' was inexcusable. I sent a reply, saying I wish my anonymous friend showed a semblance of e-mail etiquette the next time he sent an abusive mail.

Now, how does one give a positive spin to such mail? Columnist Art Buchwald, they say, hung on his office wall framed copies of selected mail he received. Nastier ones merited the pride of wall space. Some stinkers on display at his office read:
"You are a nasty, ugly old man."
"Get the hell out of the US. Try Siberia."
"We girls think you most contemptible."

"Are you a writer or an idiot?"

Art's point is that you cannot be said to have arrived till you begin getting hate mail. I only wish my anonymous ill-wisher had spelt out his 'u' and 'r' and abbreviated the f-word.

Speaking of English, the language spoken by today's youth doesn't quite conform to grammar and the ground rules of English usage as laid down in Wren & Martin. During my last US trip to visit our son and daughter-in-law, some of their friends addressed my wife and me as "Hi, guys," without making a gender distinction. My wife, who is forgiving by nature, didn't think much of this. I, being a stickler for form, found this 'Hi, guy' thing disagreeable.

Typical snatches of conversation we had to cope with ran like this:
What's up, guys!
You smile, not quite knowing what to say to this 25-year-old who asked the question.
So, what did you, guys, see in LA ?
You list places - Universal Studios, Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Museum of Tolerance and so on.
"What, you guys were in LA and came away without seeing Disneyland?"

I got so worked up over this 'guy' talk by 'desi' friends that I posted a message on an NRI web site, giving vent to my smouldering indignation. My message evoked an e-mail response: "Tumhe aur kaam nahin hai kya? Are you unemployed, or something?"

This was deflating. This happened a while before my New Year resolve . Now, with my new-found positive mindset, I reckon, I shouldn’t have dripped over this 'Hi, guy' thing, in the first place. I can see this as a generation leveller. Viewed in this light I would rather have a young thing address me, 'Hi, guy,' than 'Uncleji.'

Recycled from Dateline Mysore,

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