However diverse we are in our culture, there are certain common traits that run through our society and connect us all. One such characteristic is the compulsive urge to dole out unsolicited advice. It is given by relatives, friends or even total strangers. In fact, the less acquainted you are with the adviser the more forceful is the advice.

Consider this: I have two sons — the first is a professor abroad and the second, who is now with me, is contemplating studying in Europe. Here comes this old gentleman to my home to collect a donation for a local temple festival. After eliciting information from me about my family, he pronounces: “Don't send your son abroad. Your first son will not return after tasting the life on a foreign soil. Who will take care of you and your wife in old age?”

My son blanched as his plans went up in smoke, for the stranger's declaration had all the sternness of a draconian dictator.

Here is another case. It took my recently retired teacher-friend to convince his wife about taking up a well-paid job in a private college. Unsolicited advice from a friend of his neighbour's father-in-law that he should be satisfied with his pension and that he should not sell his self-respect by working for someone at this age put him back at square one — re-convincing his wife.

But the best scenario for the advisers is when you are not well and in need of medical attention. Invariably, the doctor whom you consulted, the hospital you chose or the treatment given to you are all wrong. “Why on earth you are going to this doctor? He always over-diagnoses and fleeces. Surgery is not indicated for this ailment. My nephew was completely cured of this by taking plant extracts and the concoction given by so and so.”

Advisers also keep up with the rapid progress in technology. “CT is scan is less invasive than MRI.” And, there is nothing that fresh lime juice with honey or grass leaf juice taken on an empty stomach early in the morning can't cure. God help those who have stomach ulcers.

The sadist in me is delighted when I hear parents of children in the final years of schooling being besieged with suggestions about their future.

One person predicted that with the ever-increasing demand for electricity, a time will come when there will not be enough power to run all the computers and hence IT as a field has no future. Another said to a parent whose daughter joined a basic science degree course: whatever be the state of affairs, the world cannot exist without trade. So, doing a degree in commerce is the most prudent thing.

Why is it that according to the adviser all our decisions are always wrong? You would have cogitated for ages to sink your hard-earned money in a flat. This lady says, “A flat? You have made a terrible mistake. How can you get the happiness of living in an independent house? I am sure that in due course the residents in the flats will not cooperate in anything from paying the maintenance fee to hiring a night watchman. Poor you.”

If you think you are smart in owning an independent house, listen to this adviser: “Oh! If you reside in a flat you don't have to worry about finding someone to repair an electrical or plumbing fault. The secretary of the association will do it for you. Also, you have forgotten the safety aspect. You are a sitting duck in an independent house.”

A mental wreck

Invariably, the adviser is neither an expert nor has he any experience in the field but says what he has read or heard somewhere.

Perhaps, offering advice makes him feel important and worthy of existence. But then the receiver can become a mental wreck faced with a multitude of contrasting suggestions coming from various advisers. He can become depressed and lose his self-esteem. The only way he can redeem his self-esteem is to feel important and be worthy by doling out unsolicited advice himself. Ah, inadvertently, I have found out why people give unsolicited advice.

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