think before you speak 2

“Why are your children so thin? Aren’t you feeding them well?’”

“Ask her to use chironji with milk; that will brighten her complexion. Otherwise, who will marry her?”

“Why haven’t you conceived this far? I can suggest medication and postures!”

“Why is your husband at home? Who earns?”

“How much are you earning?  Give me exact figures.”

“So what if she is good at studies, she is only a girl! Once she grows up, all she will do is raise kids and do housework.”

These are all face-to-face conversations, each one I have been party to. They are relentless, annoying and they hurt too. At the bottom of it all is the way we are as Indians. I am sure other cultures have their fair share of intrusive relatives and nosy neighbors. But what I’ve experienced in India would have been utterly unbelievable if I had not experienced it first-hand. Is it that we are generally ill mannered or used to putting our feet in our mouth?

Now I do agree that everyone gossips. We are not blind and we do have opinions about others – how they live, what they wear and how they lead their lives. Fair enough! But what makes these people walk up to someone they barely share a smile with and say these intrusive and hurtful things is completely beyond comprehension.

In a country, where comedy and fun is synonymous with making fun of people’s physical traits and even disabilities, how much sensitivity can really be expected? Growing up in this scenario, all of us have cultivated our coping mechanisms. When I was younger, I would try to ignore or seek shelter in the soothing words of a loved one. I was painfully shy and could not answer back. But I hated every word. Why couldn’t they leave me alone?

As I grew older and grew more confident, I began to take it in my stride. It helps to have people in your life — your immediate family, your friends and your teachers who love and boost your self image.The exposure to other cultures and reading helped a lot. It widened my horizons, helped me appreciate my own qualities and convictions. Then blogging happened. And speaking with other people made me realize that this is a national disease so to speak. The barbs are even harsher on the women who are scrutinized, taunted, traumatized and hassled every step of the way for every choice they make – whether it is to study, work, stay single, get married, have children, not have children and so on. Every decision of ours is insanely analyzed threadbare. The offensive aunties or your own age women (why isn’t it the uncles) never miss an opportunity to bring you down. Perhaps they are idle, have really low self esteem or they may be jealous, and this is their only way to make them feel good about themselves.

Whatever be it, as I got older I started fighting back. No one will say something rude about my family to my face and expect to get away. I will give it back, sometimes sarcastically at other times in amusing retorts. But yes, the underlying message always from me is “Mind your own business!”

The underlying motto is: My Life, My Choice!

You have a problem with that then keep it to yourself. Unless you are planning to raise my kids or run my home, I have no interest in hearing what you think about my life choices. I would suggest that instead of stewing in misery and feeling hurt for days by these awful comments that people regularly offload on us, we give it back and let it out of our system. Rationalize or even understand that it is lack of exposure or etiquette that makes them shoot their mouths off, and let it go. But don’t let it affect you. Acceptance that some people will just be morons certainly helps. 

Think before you speak!Words cannot be taken back.

Do you any experiences to share and your tips to cope?
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think before you speak

71 Thoughts on “Think before you speak!

  1. We are a nation of ” Free Consultants” and everybody’s problem is ours.. We can win world cup also sitting in front of our TV 🙂

    Really people should think before giving unwanted suggestions and stop meddling in others affair. I just met one guy last week who gave me gyan about eating less salt to benefits of Curd to why to wear red on Friday.. In the end I had to avoid him like plague by end of tour….

    • Indeed, we can just about solve any problem in the world without so much as getting up from our armchair. I can see that you had some spectacular company in that guy :). How does one ever convey the message to them? Thanks for reading, Prasad!

  2. I think the fundamental problem with our nation may be that everything thinks they can walk better in someone else’s shoes. It produces a strange kind of jealousy tinged superiority complex that might be unique to us alone!

    • Yes, it must be that. But, it surely is extremely distressing to experience. I used to love Bombay in that sense. People left you alone. Thanks for reading, Rickie.

  3. The biggest problem in India is that everyone is more concerned about the affairs of others than their own. I think humour or sarcasm helps. Getting angry never does !

    • I agree. Either they are completely jobless or really evil that their only source of entertainment is by being offensive to others. There were times when my blood would boil. These days I just pity their intelligence and move on. It does sting sometimes though.

  4. This is the big Indian problem, what happens in my life doesn’t matter but I need to know everything that is going on in yours. It is rather sad and something that is so deeply entrenched that it is tough to get rid off, it will take a few generations to really wipe off this inquisitiveness and interference.
    I have tried being sarcastic and witty but many a times people do not get it.. reached a point now where I some times give back but that depends on how far reaching the consequences of my lashing out will be… but most of the times I have learnt to ignore… like you said my life, my choice.. I try not to let people bother me cos in the long run most of them do not matter…

    • I completely agree, Seeta. I don’t see this nosy attitude and more importantly this offensive trait to harm or injure with words going away soon.

      Yes, the humor escapes some of them. As you rightly pointed out, sometimes we hold back depending upon how far reaching the consequences will be and that makes me even more mad. Over the years, I have developed thick skin but I would surely love to see people display the same sensitivity to others that they expect towards themselves. Thanks for your lovely comment, as always.

  5. Agree. For me, if such jobless nosy-parkers shoot their mouth off assuming things about me, sorry not my problem, but theirs! Thankfully, I have a good self-esteem, and can keep my head above my shoulders to handle such “I will always be a moron” attitude!

  6. I would perhaps say that this is more of a human problem than Indian problem. Others have just developed more sophisticated ways to poke their noses where they don’t belong. They have institutionalized it, in a sense. Look at the various US commissions on International Human Rights, Right to Religious Freedom, etc etc….what are these but unnecessary interference in other societies and national affairs in the guise of being the world’s watchdog?!
    But I understand that your point here is more on the individual level. And perhaps there we Indians are still quite unsophisticated and therefore we blurt out our curiosities in the most ruthless and crude manner. I give you that. I have myself been at the receiving end of many such questions to which I just smile and nod. Maybe it comes from our bent of mind which is “less individualistic” and more of a joint-family/clan-oriented background, which is still quite strong in our collective DNA. Remember in such a “communal’ set-up everything is everyone’s business and the concept of individual privacy is practically non-existent. But having lived in the US for many years I recognized that many Americans actually miss this part of a more close-knit living experience and feel rather harshly the brunt of isolation existing under the garb of individualism. So there are positives and negatives to both, I suppose.
    In any case I must add that we can certainly do very well with less of some of our extremely nosy aunties and relatives. With the way things are going, we are certainly on road to becoming more individualistic, whether it will be a good thing or bad thing only time will tell. But if it helps to keep some of those aunties off our backs, I am all for it 🙂
    Sorry for this rather long rant, but your posts are quite provocative and I can’t help but….

    • I agree with many of your points here. Indeed, others may have found more sophisticated methods of being intrusive which are not as brusque or brazen as we witness here. I know what you are saying when you say that one does miss that close-knit feeling when away from India. I remember missing it too. Yet, I feel that this almost brash inquisitiveness coupled with rude comments is extremely damaging. We have generations of girls who grow up hating themselves because they were always picked on due to their physical attributes. I wonder if it is too much to expect healthy social interactions without an inbuilt freedom to do away with niceties. We all love sharing intimate details with those we like including our friends and relatives. But casual acquaintances really have no right to intrude; so how does one get the message across? And till the time we continue to indulge them or ignore, they move on to the next victim. I have a vast circle of friends yet I would exercise a lot of judgment before blurting something embarrassing in public. I would just expect others to exhibit a little more sensitivity in their interactions. I have had people even teaches say rude things about children right to their faces. Who does that and why? It makes me wonder if it has more to do with being insensitive and just plain callous in our social interactions.

      Beloo, I look forward to your comments because you always bring new perspective to the topic. Please never hesitate to express your opinions here no matter how divergent your views may be from my own. And, I love long comments! Thanks so much for reading.

  7. Jenny Shetty on August 18, 2014 at 2:31 pm said:

    Its funny but true. Some people take special pains to find that point(which may not necessarily be a negative one) and use it to their enjoyment. After I lost my father, my mother used to stay alone since I work in Pune (away from home). My mom was buying fruits for herself from the vendor on the road. A neighbor had the audacity to ask my mom from her balcony, as to why she is buying so many fruits, if she doesn’t have a husband to feed anymore. And really does she want to buy all those fruits for herself. People can be insensitive, rude and shameless.

    • That is exactly the kind of stuff I am talking about, Jenny. Ah, the cruelty of it all. What is wrong with these people deriving happiness in someone’s pain.

  8. I respect your motto and so should others. Sometimes I wonder why women are the worst tormentors when it comes to asking uncomfortable questions.

    • Thank you, Alka. If only more people would respect each other’s right to live their lives we would have fewer insensitivity on display everyday. Indeed, a woman is another woman’s enemy. Perhaps, because they are more talkative and social? Thanks for reading.

  9. It is sad that sensitivity is lacking and so are basic manners when it comes to choosing subjects for discussions! No one should forget that thos who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others!

    • Aptly said, Rahul. What can be the excuse for being insensitive, I often wonder except a callous disregard for basic social niceties. Thanks for reading.

  10. well the title itself says volumes .. of what we all should be doing .. it is sad that people dont realise what they are saying most of the time … a joke can be taken only for so long and then it becomes hurt..

    I think the world is become more and more inhumane, and insensitive to anything and everything.. we are just interested in our own world and think we are better , hence we make such stupid remarks about others ..

    i do wish people mind their own business and stop taking the mick out of others ..


  11. When I read ‘face to face’ conversations, I was taken aback. I have encountered many but I have one quality (that’s what my family says) I don’t care what others say. I have always been like that. I live in my own world.

    • That’s a spectacular quality to have especially when you are growing up here. Truthfully, personally, it does hurt at times. Yes, all those conversations were either directed to me or directly told to my face. My mom and dad had to hear that first comment pretty often as we were very thin :(.

  12. Good comeback to all the insensitive people out there! And I love your header 🙂

  13. Insensitivity runs in the Indian genes I guess!
    I’ve heard them all too.. and the latest barb continues to be about the fact that we are childless still.
    I have heard it all when it comes to procreating! Sometimes, I give it back and at times I shrug it off.
    My motto is the same – “My life; my choices” . unfortunately not a lot of people seem to understand or respect another person’s choices or individuality.

  14. hehehe…..this is the thing that everyone gets encountered every single day………infact I see many people who ask others about their view on everything they do…………..I don’t understand these people

  15. Some people really need to keep their bloody, f****** mouth shout. I had my fair share of bad experiences with people that can make me turn a murderer. There is not one but 1000 stuffs, why you not married till now? Why u stay at home and dunt work..uff! Exhaustive list..The reason I avoid wedding events coz I know one moron will walk up to me and ask, “Next time, your turn!”
    I mean, its so stupid how some can’t keep their mouth shut and mind their own businesses.

  16. Experiences many, tips none. I still don’t know how to handle it. I have just decided to take it in my stride and give as dumb a smile as I possibly can. Few days back, a friend on seeing my son’s pic for the first time said, “Why is he so thin?” and I was shocked. Not because he is not thin 🙂 but because on seeing him for the first time, that’s not what I expected her to say.

  17. How I agree with you! I too have always been on the receiving end but unfortunately I don’t have enough of wit to make sarcastic reply or amusing retort. Generally, I don’t speak anything and stew on it for couple of hours or few hours, depending on the extent of the hurt, and then get over it. It’s even one of the reasons for being generally dettached from people. 🙂

    • Pankti, one has to really learn to give back or these people get even more bold. Like you said due to constant harassment, many start avoiding social gatherings and interactions. Terrible, really! Thanks for reading.

  18. BINGO! I just loved the quote you opened the post with!

    Completely agree with you! The problem with those so called well wishers is that they don’t realize that they have got their feet in their mouth when they utter the rubbish! They fail to understand that it is not their business or right to poke their noses in others’ affairs.

  19. Unasked advice and over-officiousness turns into intrusion.Such people think they are way smarter than others.As you say-perhaps they have nothing better to do in their own lives and are insensitive to boot.
    Let me complete your heading:–
    Think before you utter,words that cause another pain,
    Wounded hearts are slow in healing,if they ever beat again.

  20. “Think before you speak” – If only more people followed that; When I was small, my dad used to tell me a proverb in my native language. It roughly translates as “A weapon that has gone off, or a word that has left your mouth cannot be taken back”. Sadly, not many seem to follow what they preach or even think before they go cribbing on social media these days. Interesting post, Rachna – And pretty spot on.

    • I agree, Sid. Social media has brought out the worst in all of us. We rant; we insinuate; we harangue. I am sure I am guilty of the same sometimes. I am trying to be better. But face to face it is shocking. Yet people do it incessantly and persistently.

  21. It is not that most Indians are Vellas….its just that by character we are keen to peep into everyone else’s life..

  22. Remember how when we were younger and when we fell down our elders laughed so that we would feel it was a comic situation rather than a serious one. It all started there. And then came Kyunki saas which made it mandatory for joint families to have bitches!!

    I don’t know when will we understand that it is better not to make any conversation that to ask personal questions which might be very hurtful. Talk about politics, cricket, bollywood or even be labeled as a reserved/rude person… but please don’t start with ‘when will you have a baby’!!!

    • You have summed it up so well, Nisha. Seriously talk anything but don’t say something that can wound another person. I sometimes wonder if they are unaware of the damage they cause or it is just their way of feeling superior.

  23. The one thing I have found is that most people need to pull down the others in order to feel Ok with themselves. You know, “My chintu may be a ill-mannered lout but still not as bad as that woman’s kid” OR “I may be ugly enough to curdle milk but, still, I am not as thin as her” etc.

    The problem with India is not that we have worse people than elsewhere BUT that social conventions are not strong enough to keep people from voicing what they try to reassure themselves with 🙂

    • Yes, the crab mentality. It is dismaying how often we do that. Some parents even take pride in their children’s obnoxious behavior. Your last paragraph aptly sums up the angst I face. Thanks for reading, Suresh.

  24. You hit the nail on the head Rachna ! I have been so irked by this trait of ours that I have found foreign locales much more suited to my temperament regarding this aspect. once when I was traveling by train, an aunty nearby wanted to know why I still didn’t have a baby even after 5 years, whether I was having a medical problem and how much I was earning as her son also worked in Wipro !!!

    • You know, Ash, when I lived abroad I felt liberated from the shackles of being judged. It was quite pleasant to find people so good natured and polite to your face. And these aunties, they should be all dumped in the ocean. The stuff they ask with a straight face!

  25. Well, the other day I was reading a post where the blogger, who had adopted two Chinese girls, spoke of the incident in which a relative stranger walked up to her and asked her, in front of her girls, how much they cost!
    So, it’s not that there are no insensitive brutes elsewhere, but I agree that the density of such a population in our country is alarming!!
    I’m glad you reply back, Rachna! A lot of times, I want to as well, but cannot since the culprit happens to be part of the in-laws’ family! :/

    • Ugh! How terrible! I agree that brutes thrive everywhere but it does get a bit too much in India. Yes, it can get a bit difficult to reply when it is your relatives. But I think most people know that they cannot say crazy stuff about my family and get away.

  26. Too often we let our elders get away when they say hurtful things, mostly because we’ve been taught to respect them.

    I see two ways to tackle them – either you don’t let them affect you, or you give it back to them.

  27. Being nosy and insensitive is in on our genes. Hate it when people can ask such brazen questions nonchalantly! Giving them back or ignoring is the only option we have, I believe!

  28. If someone is polite to me, I’ll be polite to them.

    If someone asks me reasons for which I am not obliged to answer them, I give it back to them either sarcastically or straight on their face, depending on how they irritated me.

    If we keep quiet and aim at pleasing everyone, we will lose our peace of mind.

    It’s pathetic to know that people don’t even think twice while asking such questions or making jokes about someone. Sad and Bad.

    • True everything you said, Ashwini. The only hitch is that sometimes these are relatives and one may not want to get into a war of words with them.

  29. Long comment alert 😛
    I would say I have been trained and tamed to respect elders and not say things on face. That has come to such a point that I got used to these things being said and don’t find fault with them anymore. Even if I feed my kid every other hour and the kid doesn’t eat, she will remain lean forever. No suggestion any aunty gives is helpful. I myself have a bucket full of them ready. Let me give you one small ex. My mom calls our cousins and inquires when are they expecting? It pisses me off so much. I tell her, amma, that’s none of your business. You don’t ask like that in this country. She just doesn’t get it…she says, “Who am I asking? my own family, right?” uffff…..bolke bolke thag gayi mein…
    Leave about these intrusions…other thing that bugs me is, when my neighbors keep talking stuff like, staying home is so imp for the kids in this age. Are they trying to say that I am ignoring my kids by going to work? oh wait, I need to write a post on this one ya…

  30. People tend to be too personal in India, or maybe the insecurities and unfulfillment of their own lives lead them toward this type of behaviour? I dont know. But I have heard some very brutal hurtful comments from people I thought loved me! Especially when you are not conforming to certain established norms these comments multiply. They think its their birthright to criticize others and have no shame doing so on the victims’ faces!

  31. We Indians have no concept of privacy…And yes I give it back to them most of the time..Earlier I used to be quiet but not anymore..’You mes with my family I mess with you in any way I can’ that’s my motto for these overbearing kinds..

  32. We are a curious lot, aren’t we? My own sister-in-law asked me how much insurance policy I have and how much premium we pay per year. That is the way they compare themselves with others. It is the movie they see, where they see, the restaurants they go to, the kind of dress they wear and their holiday destinations that determine their worth as a human being. Nothing to with, values, morals, feelings or emotions. And they think their way of living and thinking is THE perfect way.

  33. afshan on August 23, 2014 at 5:02 pm said:

    Oh ya I too have many such experiences but thankfully my parents always backed me up may b that’s why now it is more painful to face them or retort. Much needed post this is. We all need to talk for our selves
    Word for sure is sword 🙂

  34. I generally don’t get affected by people who poke their nose in my business. Of course, I’ve received my share of free, unsolicited advice. I don’t remember having received nasty comments because most people who know me also know that I’ll repay with high interest!

    You may be interested in reading my post

  35. Pingback: It's only hair! - Rachna Says

  36. Yeah – it is very tough fending off people who keep wanting to keep poking their noses. I have people badgering me about my salary. When I don’t reveal, they start quoting ranges and studying my facial reaction to guess which is the right one.

    When I was younger, there used to be a neigbouring house auntie who used to tear open all letters from FIITJEE and Brillaint and put them back to see how much I am scoring in the mocks. They were so happy to see my pathetic scores and it turned out to be a real bolt from the Blue when I finally cracked the real one.

Do not leave without commenting. I love a good conversation :).

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