Tuesday, October 10, 2023

My tryst with compliments

I noticed this lady at a cultural event recently. She was all decked up wearing a heavy blue jewelry set aesthetically matching her traditional blue attire. She wasn't smiling much trying to dance and match steps with other people. We were positioned at some distance to be able to talk. But I couldn't help but to gesture her how wonderful she was looking. We didn't know each other at all. She wouldn't even have noticed me, a regular woman in that whole crowd of exceptionally dressed beautiful men and women. But she was elated. And we continued in our respective groups. I didn't want to say anything else. Who was she, from where she did her shopping or any other effort that can help me in any way. No, I don't want to ruin it. Let her enjoy the admiration and let me enjoy seeing the effect of it on another soul. I might not even recognize her again. But that moment when her carefully crafted presence got my attention and made me admire her also made me realize how much I enjoy complimenting people there and then, even if there is no connection between us. I do it so easily. There are numerous stories I can tell if you would like to stop and listen about all the times when I complimented someone and I can also tell in detail for what and the effect it had. Like when I told an elderly receptionist how much she resembled Meryl Streep and she went on telling me and her colleague about her great aunt who was so exceptionally beautiful. What a lovely feeling, no burden of any expectation at all but just a freedom to express admiration and see its effect on the object of that affection. 

But it made me think about my own struggles with anxiety and how it makes it difficult for me to wholeheartedly accept any compliment myself. I am mostly quiet around strangers but I am super confident in extending praise and then leaving but it is exceptionally hard for me to accept any applause or accolades gracefully that come my way. This is totally in contrast to the way I give. I am not able to receive in the same manner. My general reaction is first an awkwardness, then a sheepish reaction and then an explanation of how that state that grabbed attention was completely undesired, unintentional, and actually its not a state worth attention at all. It's as if it doesn't belong to me or better I don't deserve it. Don't waste it on me. Or in short please ignore me, let me embrace the oblivion. Compliments are hard for me to process and digest. 

Feelings like these are rooted from the childhood (Isn't that true for all our strengths and weaknesses?). How much attention you were given when you were a child, how much you were encouraged? Were you praised enough when you put even a smallest of an effort or were you reprimanded more for silly little things like just for being present somewhere. My childhood saw more of criticism than accolades. I was used to getting ignored more than getting noticed. My spirit was let down more than getting uplifted. Hence, my challenges with praises in my adulthood. The reason I am sharing all of this is because I am sure I am not the only one here. The world is beautiful but let's get real the world can get really brutal. And many of us are on the receiving end of that brutality during our formative years only. And hence a lot of us are facing such challenges. 

But here is a key I found to unlock those hidden secrets of confidence that evaded us in the childhood. That there is a beauty in those challenges. Like my challenge somehow made me aware of how much power we hold in uplifting someone's spirit by giving. If I experienced lack of energy because of unhelpful criticism then how much energy I can help to bring in the environment around me by showering genuine admiration. And subconsciously I try to use that power wherever possible. When I compliment people the smile I get, the happiness I see fills my heart with joy. I see my inner child patting my back for doing something it missed badly.


I could have been someone different. What I didn't get I wouldn't have given. But seems like it doesn't work that way always. When we experience things which are unpleasant it actually makes us more aware, more sensitive to what pleasantness can actually offer. It's like hunger. The more you are deprived of food the more you understand the importance of it. What a hopeful thing deprivation is! What a wonderful thing struggle is! May we all have enough strength to see the complete picture a challenge really holds. 

Compliments make the world a nicer place. They motivates, encourages make the environment positive and happier. Which side of the compliment spectrum are you? The proud receiver or the humble giver? For all the proud receivers, well-done for being the source of inspiration. And all the humble givers - lets plough on. And the compliments, well, please don't stop them, keep them coming. One day, perhaps one day they will be comforting to us as much as they are supposed to be.


Tuesday, August 15, 2023

What's in the name? Tell me about it.

 ‘Ram’, I suddenly called my colleague in a group call as I struggled recalling his preferred name. I confess I am poor with remembering names and worse when I am not attentive enough to talk. It's a weakness that keeps people like me much to themselves. I am sure many would relate to this predicament. But that’s not the point here. The point is I called him Ram because out of his full long traditional Indian name which contained several small different names, that’s the only one that stood out for me when I quickly gazed at the screen to help myself out. And the real point of this story is I love the name Ram. Simply because I love Ram. 

Let's clear the air first before proceeding with the rest of this story. Yes I am talking about 'The Ram' from the epic Ramayana. But I insist there is nothing religious about it. Yeah yeah I agree, it started because of the religion I was born into. And the culture- yeah all those festivals. And the rituals. I get all that but to avoid wearing the religion on my sleeves, lets say my love started when I read the epic Ramayana and loved the character of the main protagonist, Ram. I loved it so much that I didn't care about what is right or wrong in that holy epic as many modern people debate. I like to stay away from ‘those’ sort of discussions. For me, there is this whole romance associated with Ram and Ramayana, a whole cult that has nothing to do with the story. It’s just positivity and complete devotion to an idea of someone who is very pure and kind. It’s the process of focusing and devoting one self on that pure form that I find very attractive. I don’t want anything negative between me and that feeling of devotion. Clear? Good lets go back to the story.

I felt very proud that I was factually correct while calling my colleague in my miserable state of absenteeism. I also felt very amused that I could chant Ram publicly while speaking with my colleagues. That’s the beauty of Indian names which are after our Gods. That’s why my daughters names are after the Hindu Goddesses. Calling these names ensure something spiritual at least in the whole busy day than doing nothing lol.  

BUT my colleague was not very happy about it. As I said earlier, ‘Ram’ is just part of his full name but of course, his first name which he prefers to be his calling name, is different. And everybody is used to calling him with that regular name. So after the meeting, much to my surprise and his annoyance, my little 'one second' faux pas ensued a kind of mayhem. People were confused in the office, some called him and asked what should they actually call him and some got so confused they were asking who is this new guy called ‘Ram’ in the team! And though he was able to clear some air in sometime yet his name as ‘Ram’ stayed with the project manager who is an Englishman. Ram is a name that has its own significance, its own magic, even people from other cultures pay attention to the name especially when someone say it with the kind of devotion like mine. Ram, Christ, Buddha, Mohammad these names make people around the world pause. They are not just names, they are the ideals of human life. The manager was adamant to call him only ‘Ram’ every time and not letting it go as he found it nice and easy to pronounce it. Especially after learning with much difficulty so many different kind of names in our multicultural team.  

Poor guy struggled to remind his real first name to the manager and rest of the team for sometime but finally gave up much to his dismay. Later whenever he talked to me, he would call me by different names, some times Ruchi, sometimes Rohini and sometimes just anything - he said he genuinely gets confused but I suspect he does it to get even which I honestly don’t mind. After all, I felt blessed as I get to hear ‘Ram’ ka ‘naam’ every morning in my work calls.  😂