Next time someone asks me an obvious question, I may give a weird answer. Ask at your own risk
I have a theory. To explain stupidity. I don’t think it’s scientifically possible that we are born with an in-built idiotic gene, so it has to be something we acquire. And yesterday, I realised why it’s not tough at all to acquire it. In fact we are fully conditioned, and groomed since childhood to accept and reciprocate stupidity. We are surrounded by people who excel in the art, so we don’t even realise when we start emulating them. At least I do. Here’s an example.
Recently, at a relative’s wedding, I met a whole lot of, well, relatives. A whole lot because as I had mentioned earlier, my grandparents really loved each other. And if yours too were as affectionate as mine, I’m sure you also have several chachas, mausis and buas. Anyway, its great fun to meet the extended family but this time I noticed what exactly we say when we meet. And mind you, this is typical of most families and I’m taking mine, who I love unconditionally, only as an example (mom, please don’t kill me). As soon as I entered, three aunts asked, "Aa gayi?" (have you come?) Without even questioning the relevance of such a question, when they could see every inch of my it’s-big-you-can’t-miss-it frame with their eyes, I replied ‘yes’… to all three of them (conditioning, you see).
When it was time to leave, suddenly a flurry of ‘achha jis’ started. Everyone was saying achha ji or ‘okay then’ to every one else, but still not leaving. I counted 248 achha jis and then gave it up. I’m still trying to figure out how this phrase is relevant when you are leaving a gathering. Nonetheless I said 17 ‘achha jis’ of my own!
Whether you belong to such a loving Punjabi family or are from any other part of the country, am sure you’d have an equivalent of this trait in your culture. Asking harmless questions but that are painfully obvious and saying things that may not mean anything. You come out of the washroom wearing a towel with dripping hair and someone says, "Naha liya?" (have you taken a bath?) Are you ever tempted to say, "Of course not, this was just a demo. I came outside to take a stroll. I’ve been told it kills germs". I’m sure you haven’t because we don’t even realise we are being asked an obvious question. Because even as children, we are not conditioned to accept and not question the obvious, inane statements. When we teach a child to ask "How are you?," we simultaneously also teach him that the answer has to be "Fine, thank you." And he goes through life giving the same answer, no matter whether he’s actually feeling fine at that moment or not. And this, when the person who has asked mostly doesn’t even wait for, or care about the answer.
Just for fun, next time someone asks me ‘How are you?’ and moves on without listening to my answer, I may physically stop him and tell him how am I actually doing, including the current state of my dental and mental health. In fact, just for fun, I will change my usual answers to the following OHS (Obvious, hence stupid) questions, in the hope that someday people would stop throwing them my way, or yours. Will you?
1. You enter a restaurant and the manager asks:
“Would you like a table?” Answer: Not at all. We love eating on the floor. A carpet for three please!
2. A guest who is visiting your home for dinner asks,
“Is there a toilet in here?” Answer: Sorry, no. We belong to a tribe that follows a ritual to relieve ourselves at the railway track sharp at 3am. Next time you travel by Swarna Shatabdi express, don’t forget to wave hi from the window.
3. You happen to be the serving staff in a restaurant and the guest asks, “Is this dish good?” Answer: No way, sir. I would kill myself before eating it. We sprinkle it with phenyl and sometimes also spit in it.
4. You come out of the salon with visibly short, cropped hair and a friend asks, “Did you get a haircut?” Answer: Wish I had. I’m just shedding. It’s autumn, you see.
5. You reach the check-out counter of a department store carrying piles of groceries and the clerk asks,
“Would you like to pay for them?” Answer: Oh no. These I’m going to steal. But, I stood in the queue just to ask you why you look familiar.
6. Someone stamps on your foot in a crowded place and asks, “Did I hurt you?”
Answer: You can’t. I’m on local anesthesia. Try it sometimes, it’s pretty cool.
7. A friend calls you on your landline after a party and asks, “Have you reached home ?” Answer: No, I was murdered on the way. This is my spirit answering an auto-forwarded call. Well, now that I’ve vented, here’s a piece of sane advice. Don’t try this at home. Only professional weirdos like me can pull this off, that too under the guidance of mental health experts. Okay then. Have you read the column? Achha ji.
Sonal Kalra tried filing this write-up through email and got an error with the message “Sending failed. Do you wish to retry?” Well, OBVIOUSLY. I was sending it for a reason. Uff. Mail your own OHS questions at email@example.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/sonalkalra13 Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra.
(On reader feedback, this write-up is a re-run of the one previously published on 16th October 2011)