Thursday, March 04, 2010

On Calculative People

"You know what’s wrong with you, Miss Whoever-you-are? You’re chicken, you’ve got no guts. You’re afraid to stick out your chin and say, “Okay, life’s a fact, people do fall in love, people do belong to each other, because that’s the only chance anybody’s got for real happiness.” You call yourself a free spirit, a “wild thing,” and you’re terrified somebody’s gonna stick you in a cage. Well baby, you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself. And it’s not bounded in the west by Tulip, Texas, or in the east by Somali-land. It’s wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself. ” 

There are many side effects of being good at penmanship but one of the most taxing of them is the constant stream of request you receive  from friends and family to help them with their docs. I can't count how many speeches ,CVs ,Cover letters,SOP,party invitations, Resignation Letter and farewell speech I have ghost written . In my college days I used to be a busy man writing Valentine cards and love notes during V Day and Friendship Days. I used to enjoy it initially, It got somewhat mechanical later on but i keep on complying with requests as my schedule and energy allowed. However I was under the impression that I have seen all sort of request . So I was pleasantly surprised when I received an unusual request from an ex colleague of mine .She pinged me couple of month back.We weren't in touch for long time .We used to work together long back , when I was fresh out of college. I had a vague recollection of her.A sweet little non descriptive girl of fair skin tone . somewhat shy but ambitious and hardworking. She had borrowed my copy of Pickwick Paper and returned it only when i explicitly asked for it (twice) while leaving job. She had pinged me because she  wanted me to help her with filling up registration form on matrimonial website. This was new to me . So I agreed to help her in exchange of a weekend breakfast at Kaffia . so we meet at appointed hour , after 10-20 minute of catching up and remembering the good time at out first jobs . we got down to business . that's when I realized that I was in for some rude shock.

Deal was that I will provide the appropriate words, some well written broad theme for write up , some quotes and She will fill in the details.She pulled out her notepad and we started with writing brief indicative words to highlight desired personality traits for potential partner. she explained that she is a  shy, reclusive , un reasonable at times , moody ,rude with a me first attitude (only child syndrome at work here) so She wants some one who is socially charming , not very assertive ,who pamper her and don't think too much of her action .to quote her verbatim "you know na ..husband material ..not an intellectual type.just put it in such words that it doesn't come across like a pappu,rest I will handle" . She had done her research right , she said that she want some one who is professionally accomplished  but not aggressive . To my great surprise she said (and i am quoting her verbatim)"Guys from infy and programmer type because they are "manageable" MBA type are not Manageable". (Holy God!!) .

In short she was looking for someone who can put up with her abuse , Human equivalent of a doormat. while I appreciated her honesty and clarity of thought but I was amused to see her line of thinking .I looked at her, wide eyed. 

"What ? Why you are looking at me like that ?"   She said

"Well Nothing .. nothing just a bit surprised to hear your thought I guess " I said 

"You think I am acting mean , scheming and calculative don't you ? " she asked with a total calmness

"Yes ..In a way" I said as politely as possible.

"I guess I am , All my friends say i am difficult person and I don't have many friends.I know myself, I am spoiled by my parents I want same from my partner.its too late for me to change and I think I am not asking for too much I can find someone". She said ..nonstop seemingly talking to justify herself  to herself.

"Ya you can always find a sucker"  I said attacking her on personal front .I shouldn't .

"Sucker ?? You call it sucker ? I think its compatibility . I will be compatible with a person like that " She said.

"Yeah,Like a crack head  is compatible with drugs. That's not compatibility.its a type of hopeless dependence,an addiction,and trust me it will only get worse as year roll on" I said  

"see you can deny right now ..if you feel like its beneath your dignity " She said ,clipping me off in the middle of sentence . 

I didn't deny , maybe because it would have been very awkward , may be because of some social rule of politeness drilled in to my head or may be because something in me told me that She don't believe it .she is  just being "practical" .

" Have you wondered how your spouse will feel about it ? if he got to know why you choose to marry him ? " I enquired 
"He will never know .Actually That's why I asked you to help, I can't talk all this to my immediate social circle , we hardly talk na so you are just like stranger " She said with a apologetic smile . I was fucked in day light on breakfast table .

"I feel like a pen whore hired in exchange for a breakfast" I said sarcastically ( It Cost 150 INR in case you are interested).

I wasn't very keen to help her now . I was feeling like a fellow conspirator , helping her to set a trap of word to lure someone . but romantic in me somewhere believe that she was just overwhelmed by the social pressure and anxiety associated with wedding so against my better judgment I tried to explain implication of her action . 

"You are not understanding the long term effect of your choice here " I said, in a big brother tone " from your way of speaking it looks like that you won't be respecting this person very much . you are starting the process with a compromise . is it a good idea ? seriously ? why would you like to spend your life with someone you don't respect and who don't inspire you .from what little I remember of our time together you used to be very inspired by our MD, he was your role model. he was not at all like that"  I guess I was trying to  reproach her . 

"You don't understand how things are . I read your blog you are a romantic . I am not . Life run like that only .no one is perfect ."she said  with firm conviction.
"Well if your are OK with imperfect Life than you are living one right now ..why you want to drag someone into it " I was agitated.   

"See if you don't wanna help me ,say so. I don't want a lecture" She was visibly upset and uncomfortable.

"All right. I will " I said and for next 20 minute or so helped her in drafting some content . it was mechanical ,a formality because I was stuck there .She knew it too. We bid adieu after that . I doubt I will see her again any time soon. I am sure that I am not getting invited to her wedding .I didn't finished the breakfast too . 

I decided to take a walk home . during that 5 Km walk from Kafia to my place I was thinking about her .  I realized that Her flaw was that she was naive enough to admit her ulterior motives wasn't verbose enough to sugarcoat it . but fundamentally her line of thinking was not very different from many folks I encountered in life .some of them were very close to my heart . 

Strangely I thought of my fave romantic movie "serendipity ". I remembered that about a year and half  back a friend had asked me that "Why i like the movie so much ? how its different from any other nicely done love story" . I had no convincing answer to him at that time . But today I have . In that movie protagonist Jonathan Trager calls off his wedding even when he know that he won't be getting his soul mate . same was the case with female lead . they both realised that they don't love the person they are going to marry .so they act honest to other person and call things  off . eventually find each other in a serendipitous way . they were not calculative. They were true to them self . That's what I like about the movie .I was happy that my gut reaction in cafe was in line with my inner standard of morality . 

I know Life is not a movie. I know that serendipity is a very uncertain approach to life . but for now I choose it over being calculative.for my Ex colleague , I hope good sense prevail to her and she change her prespective .  I have one last thing to say to girls (and boys) like her and its based on my personal experience " Every human being have a breaking point , everyone develop a spine, a backbone over a course of time and when HE/She will develop that your calculation will fail you. Make your choices carefully"


tarun upadhyay said...

oh you young kids !!

dont you know - it does not matter whom you marry. they will turn out to be somebody else anyways :-)

Prashant Singh said...

Really ? While I admire the humor in your quote I am afraid if this thing is really that random ? Since you are more experienced in this matter . What's the best course of action ?

Alaknanda said...

so, ok, this is the last post i can see. I hv spent far too much time here than i shud..i shud be writing my dissertation chapters!!
(Just to tell u, that i liked ur posts.) Some I enjoyed a lot. Some were fine. But what comes thru is the amazing honesty and brutality with which u face life, and the soft river of pain that is running underneath.
And that is what is the answer to your question, i think- (tho tarun is free to give his experience based answer) Ppl change, and that's a fact. Especially after marriage. But that has to do with so many other things changing in life too. The best course of action is find a person who agrees with your values (and believe me, honesty and non-manipulative behaviour is a good starting point) , shares some concerns (environment, kids :)), has concerns (and a mind) of her own and can appreciate what is the best thing(s) about you. Rest, as u said somewhere, is romance/clutter.
Best luck, keep writing.

Prashant Singh said...

Thanks Alaknanda :

you have provided a nice framework for shortlisting :)

BTW I am amazed by your observation power . I wasn't aware that I am so obvious here . not that i mind that though.

sachingaur said...

Good post ...nice was gripping :)

amit said...

He he :) .. Someone is again assuming that lines are carved in stone. In reality, they are in sand, people change everyday.

Good thing to take out from this: Always pay for your food, avoid getting "f*****" on breakfast table.

And It takes a lot of guts for someone this daring to admit this about him/her self.

I recommend you go to the wedding if you get an invitation. :o)

Prashant Singh said...

@sachin: Thanks dude .

Prashant Singh said...

@amit : funny you mentioned about ppl changing . many ppl say that . i hope they are right.
" It takes a lot of guts for someone this daring to admit this about him/her self."
not sure she fits the description . her admission would have mattered if she would have told it to potential stake holder (future spouse ). what she was doing was two step short of a well thought out conspiracy and she was asking me to help her in that deception . sorry No benefit of doubt here .

TCI said...

you have good sense of humour...but try to write on hot or burning topics to get tremendous hits...
good luck buddy..

Anonymous said...

Interesting read, but I am not so sure if deliberate action can or should be replaced by luck. Agree that the reasoning might be flawed sometimes or in some cases it maybe too complex for a third person to understand...but banking on serendipity to achieve a desired goal doesnt seem to make sense. And no matter how much one calculates its impossible to overcome the risk that is inherent in life.

Shikha said...

So, i was having a leisure time in office, and thought of reading blogs. Started with Paulo Coelho blog and then reached on yours.
So, I guess I am getting some good luck (as you mentioned in the intro) while I am writing the comment.
Have you say, I enjoyed it much more than the blog posts of Mr Coelho. :-)
The narration was like a short story and I almost toppled from my chair laughing on "you are just like a stranger" episode.
Amazing post dude!!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Prashant.

My sister directed me here. Enjoyed reading your insights and feelings here. Saw you as an individual who knows himself and stands for his integrity and values. Good, very good. Keep it that way, most of us learn it the hard way. Got motivated to share my own exp:

On serendipity: Surely a fascinating and all of us want it to happen concept. Indian movies' USP, but in practicality, as far as our times go, won't work. We are still directed by several forms of conditioning and obligations that being with the person we should be comes as pure chance. So our parents, many in our Y generation came together for calculative reasons, be it was caste, social strata, natal charts, parent pressure... Hope for the best for all the teenagers now, they are going to make some changes.

On spine: Been there done that, yes, I grew a spine after being in a 7 year relationship. Yes, I did, but it took two severe beatings - from a well educated professional, tons of mental and emotional abuse, and some serious scarring of my heart, but faith in god I am my life changed. I am happily divorced and found myself a better man - serendipitously -

On calculative people: It's our brain, the primitive one, the limbic one, it's been looking out for us for 150 million years. It is just our primitive survival instincts that make us be misrepresent. As kids as soon as we learn about how we can manipulate our parents, we use our charm; use it in school to be in good books of teachers; then in jobs for we have reviews every six months, the list goes on and on. But sure Hail the Spine, people should know that there will be the day of the Spine, and when that day will come all their charms, dramas, words, and gifts would fail.

Thanks, and if you want to edit some portions of this post before posting, you can.

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J P said...

yes, people are calculative, cautious, manipulative... whatever words you use to describe them, even more when it comes to an important decision like marriage.

Isn't that how the indian matrimonial system works?
Isn't that how we all have been conditioned?

Marriage is just like another of those exams where you have to score higher than the people around you.

Searching for a bride / groom? you should be looking for caste, wealth, property, family status, permanent job, handsome salary, fair color etc etc...

and no, you will be a utter fool to ask for traits like good nature, honesty, truthfulness.. those are
the least sought-after things.
Compatibility ? we have that kundli matching thing to take care of that. :)

... and we all know, that despite all the odds, marriages in India survive.

so really, why waste time over things like mutual trust or respect or transparency?

Why not package yourself in a nice shiny wrapper so that you attract better buyers, even if that means reducing one's status to a lifeless product...
Albeit, it will be a shiny product to be sold at a high price...
or may be an exchange for an equally shiny, high priced, but not so great product.

Ain't I right?