Life Hacks from Agony Akka Columns

Mind your manners

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi  

Dear Agony Akka,

I am a 22-year-old woman and I find that people are constantly telling me how to behave. One person tells me I should not wear low-neck dresses. Another one tells me I should not cut my hair. Someone else tells me who I should marry. Recently, some community members declared that our religion does not allow girls to have boyfriends. The other evening, as I was serving my father’s friend some tea, uncleji turned around and told my father not to let me go for evening guitar class. The bad-tempered old man in the bookshop told me I should always be polite. Enough is enough. Please tell me what to do.

— Rarely Understood, Disturbed & Enraged

Dear RUDE,

You’ve come to the right place. Only last week, one pious man in my colony came to me when I went to pick up the newspaper in the morning and he said, “You are encouraging bad behaviour in this neighbourhood. I believe in gender equality but I find your conduct abominable.”

I was forced to turn around and tell him (in a soft voice) that I found his very existence abominable but I could hardly ask him to stop existing, could I? Instead, I suggested usefully that he have a chat with god and arrange for a refresher course in the Love Thy Neighbour chapter. I even gave him a good tip — if four-five men of his age and mentality could be gathered, they might get discount.

Whenever you tell people to mind their own business, you must do it politely and with correct punctuation marks. That is important. So, for example, after you pour some hot tea on that uncle’s legs, you must immediately say sorry and then quickly bring some cold water and hand it to him with a courteous bow.

When your friend’s mother’s sister tells you not to cut your hair because only long hair looks nice on girls, you must immediately say thank you and inform her politely that since she admires long hair so much, you will cut off your hair and make it into a braid and sell it to her.

Good manners are important. It is first thing we are taught in school. I remember once reading about a thief who would always leave a little thank-you note behind in the same spot from which he had pilfered a spoon or bracelet or priceless painting. This is a good life hack to learn. Of course, it is difficult for chain-snatcher to stop and leave note, but you get the general idea, no?

Many years ago, when I was doing assignment with big marketing company, they held orientation session and said that women wearing sleeveless is not looking good in office. One woman stood up and said — very politely — that men’s paunches and hairy arms is also not looking good, can they ban them please? Next year onwards, no orientation session.

Never lose your poise. Maintaining correct balance is especially important when you have to give some people one tight slap. Remember the MTV programme where they would go around slapping the world’s most irritating people? Very satisfying. Like zapping mosquitoes with bat.

Being young woman means you will get free advice like soan papdi boxes on Diwali day. When life gives too much soan papdi, give chilli bajji in return. But courteously. When neighbour aunty says religion doesn’t allow boyfriends, send her a polite email informing that your boyfriend is an earthworm. Now that Jugmug Basudev has declared that all Indian earthworms are Hindus, she will be forced to shut up.

— AA

agony.akka@gmail.com


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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 5:38:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/mind-your-manners/article35096998.ece

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