Tag Archives: Etiquettes

Swachh Bharat: C’mon, it’s time to come clean

I recently saw a video that­ people have been sharing on Facebook. It shows a ­helmet clad, unidentified woman biker in Russia, who waits by the road side.

The moment she sees someone roll down their car- window and throw trash on the road, she picks up the trash, follows the car till the next traffic signal, knocks on the window and throws the trash back into the car. This form of vigilante made me wonder if such an idea of shaming a litter-bug would ever work in India.

Swachh Bharat C'mon, it's time to come clean

Even if we were to discount the fact that in this case, a woman was being a brave anti-litter crusader, back home in India, even a man would run the risk of ugly quarrels and threats if he were to object.

Hamein toh ji apni apni si lagti hain hamaari roads. Ice cream kha kar wrapper phenkna ho, yah thandi hawa mein open-air susu karna, hamaari dharti maata welcomes us with open arms. Someone dare not take this right away. Democracy hai, after all. Right?

Actually, the shamelessness when it comes to thinking of public spaces as dustbins-with-no-boundaries is so deeply engrained in our psyche, that this trait is a big leveller of status, race, caste or cultures. There’s no discrimination- we are equally indifferent when someone throws a crushed cola can from a Mercedes, as we are if someone threw a banana peel from an autorickshaw.

Aur haan, those empty beer bottles tossed out of loud music-blaring SUVs are actually symbolic of our values and love for humanity. We don’t want parents to know that we’ve been drinking in the car. So, you know, such evident respect for elders. Then we know that some poor road-side beggar will get a rupee or two by selling the empty bottle (if it hasn’t hit him in the head, that is), so it’s also donation for a good cause.

One of my rather shameless friends (I have several) once even joked that her ‘cleanliness drive’ is to ensure that the car she drives is clean, and hence she can’t hold used tissues or burger wrappers in it even for a minute. It suffocates her to see her car dirty, so she tosses them out of the car, dustbin or no dustbin.

‘Roads are anyway so dirty, and we pay taxes to have them cleaned by the sarkari sweepers’ was her defence. The fact that I made her stop the car, picked up the used tissues and held them in my hand till we reached a trash-bin, and that marked the end of me partaking in her ‘clean-drive’ is another matter.

For years after that, I was branded as this foolish activist fighting for a lost cause, by the same people who would chew gum for two hours before they saw a dustbin in Singapore, but would stick it on a park bench here in India in no time. I learned to live with it, with a sense of hopelessness, just like a lot of us activist-types.

Something suddenly changed this week. It started with our Prime Minister’s speech in America. While political pundits in Armani suites debated in TV studios about whether the focus will be on foreign investment or industrial growth, he gave the call of ‘Swachh Bharat‘ or ‘Clean India’.

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He followed it up later with an challenge to celebrities from various fields, urging them to use their influence to turn our country clean, before we embark on our mission to make India the superpower it so richly deserves to be.

‘If every Indian takes a step forward, we would take 125 crore steps forward,’ he said.

Now I’m leaving the task of smelling political motive in all this, to the intellectual columnists and intelligent TV-debaters. Mujhe toh zyada samajhdaar baatein­ samajh bhi nahi aati. But what I saw the next morning was a Diwali gift much before Diwali for all those like me who time had turned from activist-types to pessimist-types over the years.

Everyone, especially the Gen-X seemed ultra-kicked about the idea of a clean India. Right from schools to college canteens to Facebook to Whatsapp, people seemed to be motivating each other about cleaning up our country.

Also Read:  Is Modi using Kejriwal’s Broom?

Basis our individual political-affiliations, we can, of course, find faults with this campaign, like all others. But at least it woke everyone up to the very desperate need of cleanliness as a pre-requisite before we think of bigger plans for India. So, for all those who, like me, have been seeking calmness from the stress of muck all around us, here’s what we need to do…

1. First of all, don’t let the tempo die. Public memory and interest span over things, especially good ones, is dismally short. Before some stupid scandal of a voyeuristic nature takes over peoples’ attention, do promise that you’ll keep up the momentum of the Clean India drive, in your own way.

Forwarded jokes, chori ke quotes aur cute puppies ke pics toh hum whatsapp or FB pe daalte hi hain, beech beech mein keep reminding your friends about your continued promise to work towards Swachh Bharat. It’ll give you a great feeling, trust me. And don’t worry, you’ll get as many likes, if not more, than the obviously photoshopped DP 🙂

2. If you see someone throwing trash on the road, don’t just shake your head and feel sad for the state of our country. If you can’t go up to that person and politely tell them to not do it, or if they’ve conveniently sped away, do take a minute to pick up the trash and toss it in a bin.

What’s the point in getting repulsed by the thought of picking up someone’s discarded ice cream wrapper? It’s just a mindset. Okay, if the thought of germs bother you, which, by the way, would anyway spread with that trash lying on the road, then keep a pair of disposable gloves in the car with you, and do the good deed. Full nakhre ke saath karo but karo toh sahi yaar.

3. Take the pledge of at least making small changes in your own behaviour. If chewing paan or tobacco is that very important to your happiness, keep doing it but wait a minute longer to spot a trash bin and then spit out. Keep a small ­paper bag in the car to discard a ­wrapper till you spot a dustbin.

And yeah, the RWAs can do well to offer one less samosa per person at community festivals and donating that money to put up bins or make a loo for the poor drivers waiting all day outside fancy cars. If art colleges come forward, the creativity of their students can be used to give a makeover to the boring old dustbins and turn them into funky works of art. Here’s to a cleaner, prettier India. Kar ke dekhein?

Sonal Kalra spotted Chaddhaji sneakily putting his trash bag in the neighbour’s dustbin early morning. She now knows what to gift him this Diwali.

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A Calmer You: Yahan toh baat mat karo, please!

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A meaningful guide to avoiding meaningless conversation. Last kab karwaya thaa?’, she asked. I closed my eyes tighter, pretending I didn’t hear her, but I knew she’d repeat the question before 10 seconds passed. She did.

I mumbled ‘last month’, though I was so tempted to say ‘Kal hi karwaya thaa. Roz nahi karwaana chahiye?’ to the girl who was doing my pedicure. But that would have prolonged a needless conversation. Needless, yes, that is the word. I guess the staff at beauty salons and spas are told to strike a conversation with the clients so that the latter don’t get bored but what they are not taught is when not to start a conversation. In fact, ‘when not to strike a conversation’ is a question most of us would fail to answer.

A Calmer You Yahan toh baat mat karo, please

In a way, it’s a very sweet thing that we Indians are people-friendly, unlike the West, where people refuse to acknowledge even the next door neighbours. But then sometimes we take this friendly nature too far. Just as in a spa when all that one would want is peaceful silence, there are so many other situations where small talk is not welcome. But most people just don’t get it. Minakshi from my team, who travels by the metro, says she hates it when after a hectic day, the moment she sits in the train for her journey back home and begins to relax, some stranger decides to dive into a Modi Vs Rahul Gandhi debate.

Chalo that’s still topical and shows we care about who’s gonna lead us, but then people insist on discussing everything, right from the weather to the next episode of Bigg Boss — especially with the person who is visibly reluctant to talk. ‘The worst is when someone decides to ask personal questions,’ adds Navdeep, who recently got married and sports a ‘chooda’, narrating how she gets free advice to ‘deal with the in-laws’ in the metro, when she had never asked for it. Well, I am of a rather talkative nature and think of small talk as a good way to pass the time, but then I do see a point in what these girls said. More than what is being discussed, it is the setting or the situation which sometimes makes conversations needless, pointless and if I may say so, inappropriate.

So here are some situations where, if you start a needless conversation, be sure that someone will go home and crib about you. 1Elevator chit-chat: I’ve always seen people behave very oddly, inside a lift. Some of them cut off what they are speaking mid-sentence the second the elevator door closes, and almost stop to breathe till it opens, as if they are being held hostage. Some depressingly stare at the ceiling like it’s going to fall any second. And some decide to start the most uncomfortable conversation ever. ‘Phir uske boss ko pata toh nahi chala?’ is what a colleague recently asked me in a lift full of people, going up by 17 floors. I silently slapped her thrice in my head but not sure if she got them, because my silence was met by ‘hain?’

All I could reply was ‘I’ll just tell you’, wondering why she would not have the common sense to not indulge in risky office gossip in a lift full of colleagues. We just don’t know how to behave in an elevator, period. As it is, it’s tough to deal with the irritation of people stopping the lift only to go up by one floor, and paranoids repeating their floor number like maniacs to the lift operator. On top of that, an inappropriate, loud conversation in front of strangers could be a killer. My advice? Save the oxygen being used up in talking. Who knows when the lift may get stuck for hours? 🙂 2Hospital sympathy talk: The logic for people wanting to talk in the hospital waiting rooms is mostly anxiety. You are worried about your loved one admitted for treatment, and you reach out to someone else who may be in a similar position. All that is understandable. But sample this. ‘Hua kaise yeh?’ ‘Kya kehta hai doctor?’ The answers to these questions have to be repeatedly given by the patient’s attendant to all the visiting relatives, and also to all the strangers who decide to talk. In a mental state that sometimes craves only for some peaceful moments to pray.

If you feel that an anxious soul in the hospital waiting room is looking for someone to share the anxiety with, by all means reach out. But if all you’re getting is uncomfortable looks and one-word answers, it’s time you got the message, no? 3Loo Hullabaloo: I know, I know, you don’t want to hear this when you are reading your morning newspaper over a hot cuppa. But then some of you may also be reading this in exactly the place I can’t help but talk about here. What is with people wanting to talk while peeing? See, I don’t know how it goes with the guys but one of the biggest mysteries which I’ve finally given up exploring the cause of, is why girls don’t like going to the washroom alone. It’s like a community thing to do, perhaps it encourages bonding. ‘Who’s coming to the loo?’ is usually announced with much festive cheer in classrooms, restaurants, offices. And then 2-3 women chirpily move towards a place meant to answer the nature’s call — IN PEACE!. But no, that won’t happen, because, you know, girls and lips. They have to move. So a conversation that starts on the way, carries on even when one of them has closed the door and deposited herself on the seat. Now here’s why I have a problem with it. n It’s weird, it’s unnecessary, it can wait n Others can hear you. Among other sounds they can’t avoid hearing n It can cause…umm… performance anxiety if the topic of discussion is intense. What if it stops mid-stream? Think about it. Before the girls decide to kill me, Let me say that I’m sure the guys do this too.

And from whatever I have seen in movies, they stand too close to each other in the act, and that should make it more awkward to have conversations. 2-4 minute wait kar lo yaar, aisa kya toofan hai? And yeah, sometimes it can cause acute embarrassment. I once went to the public loo in a market, the one which had two cubicles. The first one was occupied, so I got inside the second one. The moment I, well, started, a girl’s voice from the adjoining cubicle said, ‘Hi, how are you doing?’ Finding it most weird but not wanting to be rude, I mumbled ‘fine, thanks.’

After a few seconds, the voice said, ‘So what are you up to?’ Rather shocked at the gall, I snapped back ‘exactly what you are up to’. The next thing I heard was ‘Sorry, I’ll call you back. Some idiot woman in the next toilet is answering all my questions.’

Lesson learnt.

Sonal Kalra used to take lectures on how to start a conversation. Now after this, no one will invite her anymore.

What a sad end to a career.

A calmer you: how to irritate irritating people

Disclaimer: Some of you would write hate mail to me after this one. At least the boring ones out of you will. And you’ll give me gyan on how we are not supposed to respond in the same coin if someone behaves badly. And actually you won’t be wrong in saying that. We’ve all grown up on moral science lessons about patiently waiting for bad to turn good someday. But aisa hai, while that logic may be right when it comes to serious stuff in life, it’s the minor day-to-day irritants that allow us the unmatchable fun of being able to get even. I’m gonna talk about a few such irritants today. Since some of you have rightly guessed that I stay perpetually annoyed with most things, I decided to not use my biased judgment on these rants. I simply asked some of my friends to take a poll on some highly irritating ‘body-language’ habits people exhibit in public. The top three turned out to be unmentionable here, considering this is a saaf-suthra family newspaper. If, at this point, you mockingly turn to the back page with a raised eyebrow, I will be forced to remind you about that page’s crucial contribution in re-assuring you time and again that you can indeed have a family. Coming back to the point, here are four annoying kinds of people that irritate the hell out of those around them. Let’s give it back this time…

calmness-tips-irritating-people-sonal-kalra

1. Stare-stalkers: These people can almost make a living out of staring at others, in public. Just like that. Maybe because God gave them eyes. Maybe because he forgot to add that those eyes need not be fixed on people’s faces. Be it at a bus-stop or in a crowded metro, five minutes won’t pass before you spot a bonafide member of the stare-stalker community. You usually look away and keep feeling agitated within. Next time it happens, don’t punish your own blood pressure. Widen your eyes, raise your eyebrows and stare back, without blinking. Till everyone’s attention is on the one staring. Your eyes may water, you may feel weird but do.not.blink.
Remind yourself that you owe it to the society to scare or embarrass a stare-stalker out of work forever. If he/she doesn’t back off at this, try blinking your eyes rapidly, looking straight at them. That usually does it, as long as you know the difference between blinking and winking. Warning: Those who wear contact lenses, please don’t try this or you’ll curse me. Also, not recommended if the other person looks very shady, as he may just consider your action to be an invite of sorts. For clarity, refer to the Shakti Kapoor or Gulshan Grover look in your head. Sometimes, having fun at the expense of the annoyance also happens to do the trick. Once I saw a girl in the metro, who seemed fairly irritated by the constant staring of a middle-aged man. She suddenly decided to take him on, and while everyone expected a show-down, she suddenly covered her face with her hands, then lowered them slowly to reveal her face to the starer, and said peek-a-boo. I can’t describe the look on that man’s face as he hastily retreated.
2. Leg shakers: These kind of people may or may not know how to dance, but one of their legs surely does. Maybe because of constant practice. No matter whether they are in public transport or in a business meeting, they don’t stop shaking their leg, even if it means sending earthquake like vibrations to those sitting next to them.
Medical science has a name for the condition — the restless leg syndrome — and attributes it to some pent-up nervous energy or simply an adolescent habit that stuck forever. Once a guy came over to my office for a meeting. The fact that he sat flat on his back in such a manner that his legs would have reached Bihar is still forgivable, but then he started shaking one of them while talking about some really serious work-related matter. Maybe this was a unique test by God to see if I can hold forth my concentration while the furniture around me gets a mini epileptic seizure. I failed miserably. And ended up asking him if he needed something…err…like a flower pot to put on his leg so that it could stop moving. He didn’t find it funny but that bothers me less than how much the shaking leg would be bothering everyone around him everyday. Tell them to stop and take a walk to utilise the energy. If the dancing leg belongs to a colleague or classmate who you have to sit next to everyday, consider slapping the leg into senses. As an ultimate resort, get up and hug the leg, begging it to stop. Warning: Please do this action discreetly or you could end up looking like a dog in heat if their leg continues to shake.
3. The knuckle-crackers: You know this annoyance normally goes un-discussed but a lot of my friends mentioned it as the thing that bugs the hell out of them. When people suddenly start cracking the knuckles of their fingers one by one, making that weird ‘pop’ noise each time. Why, some people even crack their neck or back when they get up after staying in a position for long. Great indulgence if you are alone, but OMG, it’s the most Godawful noise, and sight, for the person sitting next to you. If someone does that around you any longer, take out a notebook and pen and tell them you are ready to keep a record of how many of their 206 or more joints have popped so far. Tell them that you love the sound and won’t rest in peace till you get them an award for having an entire orchestra inside their body. It’ll work.
4. The nose-pickers: Do I need to elaborate on this one? Really? Keep a torch handy. The moment they start digging for the treasure, volunteer to help them look for it. Tell them you are willing to even try taking it out for them if they agree to give you 50%. Sorry, that was gross. But needed.
Sonal Kalra plans to write a book on how utterly boring life would be if everyone behaved with good manners.

You call me fat, I call you mannerless. Howzzat?

When good manners flew out of the window, why did they not take some of us with them! Last week, a stranger called me fat and weird on Facebook. While those of you who hang around one of the fan pages of this column sweetly jumped to my defence, the comment, frankly, didn’t bother me. One, because I don’t really see anything wrong with being fat. Or weird. Or both. And two, because I’ve mostly followed the policy that the ones who don’t know better than to resort to personal attacks on strangers just to express a difference of opinion, are best ignored.

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But then something happened that challenged my ignore-and-laugh-it-away policy. Two things happened, actually. You may have read about these two incidents in the papers but if you haven’t, let me recap for you. Balpreet, a young, Indian-origin girl studying medicine in Ohio, US, was photographed by a stranger in a shopping mall. He then uploaded the photo on a fun website, mocking the fact that Balpreet had too much hair on her face.

The photo went viral on the Internet and Balpreet’s friends told her about it. She could have chosen the seemingly obvious path of feeling hurt and angry. Instead, she shocked everyone by logging onto that website, commenting under her own pic, and in an extremely sensible manner, informing the stranger about how being a devout follower of the Sikh religion, she has made a conscious choice of not removing the hair. And how she’s proud — and not ashamed, of how she looks. Her comment got an overwhelming response and the guy who had posted her photo ended up writing a long, and well-meant apology to her.

The other incident also happened in the US, when a TV anchor and mother-of-three, Jennifer Livingstone, got a mail from a viewer where instead of commenting on the content of the show, he asked her to lose weight or not appear on TV. Jennifer surprised everyone by reading out the email on the show itself, and told the sender in so many words that he had no business passing a personal comment on her physical appearance without even knowing her or the reasons behind her weight.

Anyway, the reason why I’ve quoted these two of the many such instances is to tell you that perhaps my policy of ignoring a bully is as outdated as some people mistakenly think good manners are. When there was no Internet, bullies were found in schools, colleges and neighbourhood. They would lose in a game, and not knowing how better to hurt you, call you too fat or too short or too dark or too fair and so on. But they always ran the risk of being confronted or complained about to the teacher, or the parents. Now we have a safety wall in the Internet. In the comfort zone of anonymity and not having to face the other person, people are freely trading insults on Facebook or Twitter.

Did not like what the TV anchor said on the show last evening?… tweet about how he has lost all hair and opted for a transplant. Want to dump the girlfriend?… change the relationship status to ‘single’ and post a message about how she doesn’t look as pretty anymore (another true incident, and this led to the girl ending her life). Thrilled about technology having changed our lives, we’ve forgotten that two things haven’t changed — insults still hurt, and bad manners are bad, whether exhibited in person or over a mesh of unseen cables. Here are lessons I’ve learnt from these incidents. Hope you, too, do.

1 It’s not okay to bully – online or otherwise, a stranger or otherwise:

Do you go up to strangers in shopping malls and tell them that they are looking tacky, even if you feel they are? Do you go up to classmates or neighbours and mock at their skin colour or how fat/thin they are, even if you may joke about it privately? No, you don’t. Not just because they may slap you back, but because it is bad manners to do so. And precisely that’s why when you are sitting at a safe distance in front of a computer screen, you suddenly do not get the right to look at peoples’ profile pics and randomly fling an insulting comment their way. It is still bad manners.

2 An obvious reaction may not always be the wisest:

Anyone in Balpreet Kaur’s position would have first thought of taking legal action against a stranger posting her photo on the net without her permission.  And it’s well within your rights to do so, if your privacy has been compromised. That said, I doubt if an action of that nature would have fetched anything more than the website taking her photo off and the disgruntled guy doing the same with someone else someday. But how she chose to deal with it made people sit up and take notice. And made the perpetrator feel remorseful of his actions. Sometimes in life, getting angry at an insult is less important than feeling truly proud of yourself and showing it off, calmly. Actually not sometimes, always.

3 Physical appearance is just that — an appearance:

And appearances are deceptive. Before you judge anyone on the basis of just how good or bad looking they are, do remember that someone else may be doing the same to you… and your loved ones. And it would just not feel good to even hypothetically imagine for a second that your sister is being called insulting names because of the acne on her face or your dad being called a fatso by strangers. Then why do that to anyone else?  You would think there’s much more to your dad than the pot belly or the balding head. Because you know and love the person that he is. A stranger doesn’t know. And has no right to comment. Do remember that there’s always a story behind how a person looks like what he looks like. You don’t know the story, so keep your mouth shut. And even if you did, it is their story and not yours. Keep it shut, anyway.

Sonal Kalra knows about some crash diets to lose weight. Do you know of some programmes to lose weirdness?

Do you have money to spare?

Ladies and not-so-gentle men of the world, please keep the newspaper aside for a second and give an applause to Shivani. Oh, you don’t know her? So what, neither do I. But when you’ll hear what she’s going through, you’ll all see a bit of yourself in her. Shivani, like you is a regular reader of this column and sits nicely in the TF category- Trusting Fools. Please don’t mind Shivani, a lot of us are in the same boat as you. Trusting, because it’s a very nice quality in human beings, fools because we first allow others to take an advantage of our niceness and then torture ourselves regretting it.

tips to handle money borrowers

You see, Shivani’s problem is one of the most common stress factors around. If a friend asks her for money, she lends it. The friend mostly, and conveniently, forgets to return it. She feels terrible asking for it back, but does. The friend makes some excuse and forgets, again. She wonders if she should ever lend money to anyone again, but she does. And goes through the same I-feel-terrible cycle. In her case, the amount and reasons are relatively minor — someone asking for change in the college canteen, someone borrowing money to pay the autorickshaw etc. But a lot of people I know suffer from the next stage of this constant lending syndrome. They have friends, relatives, colleagues, business associates, asking for money in thousands. Of course with tales of how they’ll pakka return it when they get the next salary or the next payment. That ‘next’ often never arrives and strangely enough, it’s the lender who starts to feel embarrassed asking for his or her money back. Hota hai nah…bolo? What? Most of you are in the borrower category? I always knew that the abnormal and dysfunctional lot of the humankind reads my column, but you don’t have to make it so obvious. Chalo anyway, even if you are the one who borrows and forgets to return, I’m sure it somewhere sits heavy on your conscience. Let’s learn a thing or two from these calmness tips.

[stextbox id=”info”]Tips to Handle  People  with habit of borrowing money from others[/stextbox]

1 Learn to say the magic word: Not Abracadabra, genius. I meant ‘NO’. Itna simple hai, two piddly little letters, no scope of spelling or pronunciation mistake. And still the toughest for a lot of people to utter. We just can’t bring ourselves to say No – for the fear of looking rude, or selfish. I’m not asking you to turn selfish. I’m not even asking you to not help others in times of need. But deep inside, if you feel that a person has made a habit of asking you for money purely because you are an easy source, then you better learn to say the 14th and 15th letter of the alphabet together. There are, of course, ways of saying it nicely, and cleverly. A friend of mine is an expert. The moment someone asks her for money, she says, ‘Oh God, this is unbelievable. I was just going to ask you for some myself. I left the wallet at home.’ I suspect she’s never carried her wallet in her entire life.

2 Lend for the reason, not the person: This one’s tricky and some of you would disagree with me. But let me explain. The whole point of lending your money – pocket or earned – to someone else, is to help them out of a tricky situation. But often, we don’t base our judgment on how desperate or real the situation is. We decide to help the person based on how we feel about him or her. In doing that, we run the risk of that person taking us for granted and start expecting help at the drop of a hat. A guy I know politely refused money to a colleague when he wanted to pay his credit card bill for overspending on online shopping, but readily gave it when, on another occasion, the same colleague had to get his phone recharged to call his dad who was unwell. Focus on the reason, and you won’t contribute in making someone a habitual borrower. Of course, there are some who are totally shameless or dheeth, as we call them in Hindi. I’m actually one of them. I mostly borrow small amounts of money from colleagues when I order for food in the newsroom. Only because I feel too lazy to walk down to my bag in my cabin at a little distance. And, of course, several times, I forget to return it. But, you see, my reason is genuine. Human beings need food for survival. And also, I’m lucky to have a fairly large team. So, a different person ends up taking out the change each time, and no one in particular is impoverished. Okay fine, these are lame excuses. I won’t do it again. I’ll open a permanent credit account with the cafe. Heartless people, you 🙁

3 Golden rule: This one I have abided by all my life because I also have a tendency of lending money (only when I don’t have to walk to reach it), and not being able to ask for it back. ‘Never lend what you can’t afford to lose.’ This is the absolute, ultimate, truth. Before you lend money to anyone, always ask this question of yourself – Will I have a big problem if I never get this money back? If the answer is yes, please, for God’s sake, do not lend. The problem may not just be financial, it could also be emotional. If you’ll keep on thinking and killing your peace of mind about how someone’s not returning your money, please do not give it in the first place. Because my dear, some notes of any damn currency cannot and should not become a reason for spoiling your relationship with a person or robbing you of a good night’s sleep. So, remember the golden rule — Lend only what you can afford to lose. If you get it back, party. If you don’t, well, consider it God’s fee for opening your eyes for future.

Sonal Kalra wishes no one in her newsroom reads this week’s column. She doesn’t want to die of hunger, nor from exercising. Are you, too, a constant borrower or lender?

Hey, you facebook status criminal!

Ha! In view of my extreme fondness for the delightful virtue of exaggeration, I was going to suggest that we shoot those who have no regard for Facebook etiquettes and go on posting mind numbingly irritating status updates. But then a friend politely informed that in that case, I should be the first one shot. Okay fine, I do admit, with a heavy heart, that I too am guilty of having committed sometimes unknowingly etiquette blood-bath on Facebook.

However, in the spirit of universal hypocrisy, I shall go on and poke fun at others who do it. Hoping we’ll both learn from it.

Hey-you-facebook-status-criminal-calmer-you-column-29-jan-2012
By the way, those of you either medieval or intelligent who are not on Facebook and are about to quit reading any further, please don’t. This piece is as much for you as the Facebook junkies.

Ha! In view of my extreme fondness for the delightful virtue of exaggeration, I was going to suggest that we shoot those who have no regard for Facebook etiquettes and go on posting mind numbingly irritating status updates. But then a friend politely informed that in that case, I should be the first one shot. Okay fine, I do admit, with a heavy heart, that I too am guilty of having committed sometimes unknowingly etiquette blood-bath on Facebook.

However, in the spirit of universal hypocrisy, I shall go on and poke fun at others who do it. Hoping we’ll both learn from it.
By the way, those of you either medieval or intelligent who are not on Facebook and are about to quit reading any further, please don’t. This piece is as much for you as the Facebook junkies.

[stextbox id=”info”]Tips on Facebook (Social Networking) Status Updates Etiquettes[/stextbox]

It’ll give you a rare feeling of satisfaction and relief at not being privy to all the crap the rest of us have gotten ourselves into, in the holy name of social networking.

Freshly chastised by the friend who reminded me that Facebook was invented as a medium to stay in virtual touch with friends and family, by occasionally sharing photos and news about your well being and not as the copy-paste-tag monstrosity it has grown into let me begin with a solemn pledge that ought to be compulsory for all, including the three Hrithik Roshans and two Katrina Kaifs on my friends list, to take before Facebooking.
The Pledge: While aiming to try that all my waking moments of the day are not spent checking and wondering how many people have liked my last photo or status, I, hereby take the oath that I shall Not

Send friend request to absolute strangers and then message them to express incredulity that they’ve not accepted so far.

Ignore privacy settings that enable me to disallow the whole world, including the neighbour’s gardener from getting notifications each time someone comments on my photos of winning the samosa eating contest at work.

Tag my entire friends list on inane links or photos, totally unconnected to them, or sanity. Post status updates@ five-per-minute. Keep stalking the profiles of my ex, or his ex, or her current, and their dog mindlessly and without a reason. Go mental at a death-defying rate trying or spending money …to get the perfect photo clicked for the profile, or the dp. And finally, not start, or participate in the spectacularly dumb chain-mails asking everyone to forward it to all the women, or men, or cats, who’ve made your life special and worthy, because it is the World Thank-you-I’m-alive-because-of-you-Day.

With the pledge taken, our next mission is to ban these three kinds of irritating facebook status-givers, forever. Are you with me?

1. The weather tellers:

First, Here come the clouds, looks like it’s going to rain ha!. Then, Hey, it’s raining Okay, we can see that too. And then, I just love rains and the smell of wet earth one tight slap. Seriously, what’s with all the undercover weather reporters on Facebook? If you love rains so much, go, look out of the window and enjoy it, dummy. Trust me, it won’t go away if you will not put up a status welcoming it. Thankfully, the weather-god is not on Facebook yet.

2. The over-tellers:

It’s amazing how a lot of people on Facebook are perfect candidates to be the information-broadcasting minister, at least of their own lives. Pardon an involuntary disdain for the self-indulgent awfulness, but not everyone on your 3000-strong list of close friends want to know how long you’ve been waiting for the metro or how you squeezed a pimple this morning, or how you are going to take a shower, or visit the loo.

Really? I’m not sure I wish to partake in the saga of your gastro-intestinal activities. Does anyone care?

Some kind souls even prefer to offer a cordial invitation to the tech-savvy robbers by posting ‘Hey everyone, we are on vacation till next week’ kind of status messages.

Well, all the best! And the worst is to get unending notifications on who bought a new sheep and in sheer excitement, planted avocados on Farmville!! I’m not really big on avocados, though I’m so very, eternally, happy for your new sheep. But can I kill you please?

3. The gloom tellers:

We all have a secret compassion-seeker hidden within us but for some people, it pops out every time they log on to Facebook. The result is emotional song lyrics, long inspirational quotes by people with unpronounceable names, and sometimes a detailed description of the mess that your life is. Your status tells the world how you fell off the stairs, broke your left leg, and can’t pee.
Some moron goes ahead and even likes it. And then explains that the like was to thank God you didn’t die of the fall. Actually, you should have, before raising the depression quotient of the universe with such finer details of your misery. So, you decided to have a break-up with your girlfriend of 22-days.

Now you’ve lost all trust in love and like a maniac, start posting senti song lyrics and links on Facebook. Sob, sob. Here, take a handkerchief. Laden with poison.

Sonal Kalra is suddenly mortified that after this nasty outburst, everyone will befriend her on Facebook. She’ll drink all evening in depression and post some heart-tugging poetry in status update tomorrow. Please ‘like’ it. And by the way, she, too, loves rains.

Thak gaye hain, pak gaye hain!

Did you know that India has the largest concentration of irritating people in this world? No, seriously. I’m quite sure if someone were to do this research, we would be right up there. One, there are human beings everywhere. And two, they all seem to want to talk. Chalo even that may still be acceptable, but there’s something in those talks that makes sanity seem like a big virtue.

tips-to-deal-with-irritating-people-calmer-you-column-11-dec-2011-Thak gaye hain, pak gaye hain

See, after your heart tugging response to last week’s column about homosexuality, I was all set to take up yet another thought provoking, serious topic this week. Between you and me, I thought this may just be the right opportunity to change my image from a weirdo joker to that of a serious columnist. But no, people of this nation wouldn’t let that happen.

No sooner did I sit to write intelligent, intellectual stuff, the king of boring times dropped in. My friendly neighbour Chaddha ji. My noteworthy achievements in the next forty-five minutes include managing to say ‘yes’ twice and uttering ‘hmmm’ full three times. Over a long winding account of how cumbersome it is to get oneself registered for the Unique Identification Card (UID) being issued by the government, He.Ate.My.Brain Up. All of it.

Pardon me but after this unsolicited verbal onslaught, I’ve deferred the idea of writing on that serious topic. Instead I’m dedicating this column to all the victims of a ‘PP’ attack. Pakaau Person. In other words, one who specializes in ensuring that the more boring a topic is, the longer it is discussed for.

I know so many PPs. They are mostly in love with the sound of their own voice, and possess a nauseating amount of knowledge on whatever bad is happening in the world — theirs and ours. Don’t misconstrue that I have a problem with people discussing topical, serious issues — those are what polite, social conversation actually ought to be made of.

I just have a problem with how the PPs are generally not sensitive at all to any signal that the other person has had enough of a topic and does not wish to engage in it till eternity. What if apocalypse strikes? I don’t want to die discussing registration of UID cards with Chaddha ji. I have stuff to do yaar. I’m sure so do you.

So, in the larger interest of mankind, I’m giving you my very own, secret wriggle-out-of-a-PP’s-attack tips. After today I’ll have to think of some new ones for myself, but what the heck. Anything for you.

 [stextbox id=”info”]Tips to Deal With Most Irritating People  (Pakaau Person)[/stextbox]

1 Emit ‘disinterested’ signals:

Warning: This works on amateur PPs, not the hard core ones. Use your body language to indicate that you are getting bored. Yawn (fake it, dummy). Scratch your nose, head — everywhere it won’t look vulgar. Look here and there. If the cacophony still doesn’t stop, increase the intensity of your signals. Check your watch — every three minutes. Nod vigorously as if you are physically dragging the conversation to its end. If you are lucky to get a chance to open your mouth, utter conclusive phrases that actually mean nothing but still could be said in any situation, like ‘anyway, that’s life’ or ‘khair jaane do’. If nothing works, kick yourself and move to step 2.

2 Use your phone’s magic:

I’m not particularly fond of that object called mobile phone, but boy, is it useful when it comes to getting out of a boring conversation. Keep it on vibration mode and at some unbearable point in the discussion, pretend as if you’ve suddenly got an important call. Run, run… while fake-mouthing some serious stuff into the phone. If nothing comes to your mind, just say ‘okay’ into the phone several times, with each okay signifying more urgency than the previous. Scare the Pakaau person into believing that something seriously urgent has come up. Just get away. Some models of cell phones even have an in-built applications that give you a fake call on the press of a button. Hail technology.

3 Your life-saver room:

If there’s any room that has contributed more to saving lives than any other architectural space, it is the washroom. And not just for the obvious reasons. trust me, toilet is a life saver in PP situations (suddenly, reading this sentence aloud makes it sound a bit obscene but I swear it was unintended). Anyway, wriggle out of a endless boring conversation by saying you’ve got to visit the washroom. Urgently. This works like magic, because some things in life, even the most pakaau people can’t question. Don’t come back.

4 Deviation therapy:

In the middle of a long winding diatribe by an irritating jabber jaw, suddenly narrow your eyes, take your face closer to his and say something alarming. Like ‘What’s that on your eye? Is that a sty? There’s some swelling’ They’ll instantly get worried about what’s wrong with them. Look around, call out to someone else standing nearby and ask them to reaffirm your observation. Leave that person to diagnose the imaginary swelling in the PP’s eye. Slip away. Apologise to that other person later. Unless he’s a PP too.

5 Tell them:

This one’s serious. The pakaau person may just be someone you are close to — a friend, a family member. They are not bad people, they just don’t realise when they inadvertantly turn a dialogue into a monologue.

If you want their good, you should tell them that they have a tendency to stretch their conversations much after the listener has lost interest. Don’t say it in a hurtful way, but get your point across, so that no one else avoids them in future. They’ll thank you for it.

Sonal Kalra wonders if anything in this week’s column made any sense. Khair jaane do.

Man, some people are just RUDE!!

I sometimes bump into this woman on my way back from work. Whenever she sees me, she asks me one, and only one question. “You look tired, are you unwell?” For a long time I kept telling myself ‘aww, how sweet. She is so concerned for me.’ And even though I didn’t really feel tired or unwell, I would politely reply, ‘yeah, it’s been an awfully tiring day at work’.

tips-to-deal-with-rude-questions-and-people

But, to be honest, I don’t quite enjoy being told everyday that I don’t seem okay, and it is now bugging the hell out of me. Yesterday, she said, ‘You are getting dark circles under your eyes. Have you been partying too much or are you sick?’ I could have gone and fretted in front of the mirror for an hour, but this time I took my face closer to hers and asked, ‘are they as dark as yours or even worse?’ The last I know, she had booked a doctor’s appointment for a check-up.

See, I know you are still wondering what’s the big deal in what she said, and, in all probability think my reply was rude. Well, yes it was, but so was her question. We, in India, are taught a skewed and rather limited definition of the term ‘rude’, while we are growing up. We are told that if a person raises his voice or speaks in a harsh, unpleasant way, it is rude.

So we tend to focus only on the packaging of the words and how they are being delivered, more than what is being said! We don’t realise that it is totally unacceptable even when the ‘packaging’ is super sweet but the content smacks of nothing but ill-manners.

A colleague of mine was visiting his hometown recently when a woman relative asked him what he does, for a living. ‘I work in a newspaper,’ he replied. “Achha? Kitna daal lete ho?” she asked. Wondering whether she mistook him for the newspaper vendor (in his place, I would’ve wondered if she was fond of making obscene remarks!), he stood quiet. And then she elaborated. ‘Har mahiney kitna daal lete ho bank mein?’ (how much goes in your bank every month?). Ahh, so she was asking him about his salary. No big deal, you may again say. Damn rude, I think.

[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips to Deal with Rude Questions of People[/stextbox]

Sadly, we see nothing wrong in crossing the boundary and asking fairly personal questions of people, sometimes even strangers. Well, I think it’s unfair to put up with them in the name of politeness. Here are some of the rude questions we Indians specialise in asking, as if it’s the compulsory thesis for a Phd in ill-manners. Since I don’t wish to be seen as advocating rudeness a la ‘an eye for an eye’,

I suggest two possible ways of coping up with the question — the polite answer (TPA), and the I-am-taking-you-on answer (TYOA). Choose yours, at your own risk.

1 What’s your salary?
TPA: (sheepish smile) “God’s been kind. Bas kaam chal jaata hai. It’s just the start of the career, but it will get better in a few years…etc etc” (ugh)
TYOA: I’m happy you asked. Do you want a loan? I charge really high interest but can afford to lend big amounts at a short notice. I didn’t know you were having trouble with finances. How much do you need? (disclaimer: don’t try with the tribe of chachis, maamis, mausis etc or your parents would kick you out)

2 When are you having kids?
(or in desi style: ‘good news’ kab de rahe ho?)
TPA: Smile. ‘When the right time comes. These things are in God’s hands.’ (go, cry in a corner)
TYOA: (Looking them in the eye): We are waiting to see how your kids turn out before we decide. And feeling very anxious at the way it’s going so far.

3 To the parents/siblings of a girl who got married recently – ‘She’s happy, no? (khush toh hai nah?)
TPA: Yeah, she calls me every evening and for two-and-a-half hours, tells me how happy she is.
TYOA: No, yaar. She tried to poison her mother-in-law yesterday but the neighbour’s stupid cat drank the milk. I’ve asked her to wait before the next attempt.
4 Have you noticed that you’re getting fat? How much do you weigh?
TPA:
(look down embarrassingly): Yeah, don’t ask. I’ll start working out from this New Year.
TYOA: Shit, really? It totally skipped me because the mirror at home is broken. 450 kgs isn’t much. And the paunch is the latest style trend in the west. You should try it, though it’s not easy.

5 Why exactly did you break-up?
TPA:
 We were just not compatible. It was not meant to be.
TYOA: (very seriously): She wanted to try her luck in Hollywood. And I was always in favour of our own cinema. You’ve got to be patriotic. No? By the way, the idiot-store called. They are running out of you. You better rush.

6 To a heavily pregnant woman: ‘Oh God, you look huge. Are you having twins?’
TPA: (sheepish): No, just one, a little healthy, I guess.
TYOA: No. Are you?

Okay, fine. My answers above are rude and perhaps you should not try them at all. But I hope you do get the point. Do not venture so much into peoples’ personal lives that you leave them awkward and embarrassed when it is you who is at fault here. If they feel like sharing personal stuff with you, they would do so on their own. Let’s try and not be experts in ill-manners. This is one Phd we should not mind dropping out of, mid-way. Whatsay?

Sonal Kalra is considering cosmetic surgery for non-existent under-eye circles. Maybe that woman indeed has the power to see things that others can’t. Will ask her about her family background in detail tomorrow.