MISUNDERSTANDINGS…EHM..EHM…

To misunderstand and to be misunderstood are two sticky roadblocks to stumble upon. And as the age old saying goes – ‘A stitch in time saves nine’,  small misunderstandings resolved early and duly prevent major conflicts. No one can claim to be immune from misunderstandings, no matter how well you manage the relationships around you.

A beautiful relationship does not merely depend on how well we understand someone; but, it also depends on how well we avoid/handle misunderstandings.

Let me share a misunderstanding of which I was a victim just a month back.

It was World Mental Health Day (October 10). The theme for this year was – Mental Health at the Workplace. As a Counsellor and Psychology teacher, I had trained some of the senior students to make the day special for all the teaching and non-teaching staff at school. One of their tasks was to meet each staff personally, greet him/her and pin a badge onto them. The badges were beautifully designed and had lines of encouragement and appreciation printed on them. It was a big task for the students and took them a whole day to cover all the staff. Meanwhile, they were being appreciated for their gesture. So far so good.

Almost towards the end, they went to the Music Department. There they pinned the badge onto one teacher and left out the other teacher thinking that they had already given her in the morning as they had seen her in the corridor. That was an open invitation for disaster!! Though I had not accompanied the students all through the school, I was standing outside the Music Department just at that time!

The teacher who was left out, felt humiliated and burst out accusing me of being partial. She wouldn’t understand when I tried explaining that there was absolutely no question of any partiality at all, but just a mistaken assumption on the part of the students. It was quite a scene! She refused to accept a badge which I personally offered her. I felt very bad as the intention was to make the staff feel good and special, but it made somebody upset instead. Also, I felt her reaction to be a bit childish as she is a very senior faculty and has always been a motherly figure towards many.

I went back to her after ten minutes and found her in tears narrating the whole episode to another staff. I gave her a hug and apologised for the whole incident, all the while reiterating that it was just a mistaken assumption of the students and no further meaning ought be attached to it. What she told me in response, made me see sense to her reaction. She said that her husband has been struggling with depression for years now. As a result she and her children have had a very tough life (I didn’t know this at all as she is always jolly and offers a word of encouragement to all around). On knowing that a day has been designated to recognize mental health, she felt very happy and was eagerly waiting all through the day for the students to come up to her with the token. So on being ignored and that too in the presence of another staff who was being given the badge, she felt shattered within.

Though it helped put the pieces together, I felt really bad to know the reason behind her reaction. I, once again apologized gave her a hug and offered a badge. This time she accepted it and said that she held nothing against me….it was just an outburst of long suppressed emotions. And she has been normal with me, as before from that time onwards.

I don’t get into misunderstandings often. But, do bump into some such episodes at times. No amount of caution can ever guarantee anybody that misunderstandings will never happen.

So then, what causes misunderstandings?

  1. Expectations and lack of fulfillment of them
  2. Prejudices and stereotypes
  3. Lack of complete understanding on an issue
  4. Rigidity and lack of flexibility to yield
  5. Self-centered (I, me, my) attitude
  6. Emotional baggage
  7. Denial of a root cause
  8. Displacement of response from one person/situation to another
  9. Being influenced by others
  10. Impulsive and thoughtless reactions

The above list is not exhaustive and I’m sure if we think carefully about each of these points, we will find enough incidents of our own to relate to.

Is there a way out?

Well, as I have mentioned before, no one can claim immunity from misunderstandings. Even if you are the most self-controlled, tolerant and peaceable person around, someone or the other, some incident or the other is bound to provoke you sooner or later.

One of the best way out is negotiation according to the merit of the case. Forgiving and seeking forgiveness helps iron out differences. There are enough instances where people not agreeing on major issues have continued to live peacably with each other. So, its not altogether undoable. But yes, settling misunderstandings requires the cooperation of both the parties involved. In the absence of cooperation from either of the parties, misunderstandings tend to persist and even blow out of proportion thus causing great damages.

Resolve to be understanding. Take care to negotiate. Don’t hold things against others for long. Above all, pray for the difficult people in your life. Its only God who can transform the hearts of men!

 

IS THE MOB JUSTICE JUSTIFIED?

Hello Everyone,

Recently I saw a news clipping which brought forth the news of a mentally ill woman lynched to death by village people on the basis of suspicion that she has kidnapped a child. I emphasize on the word “suspicion“.  There was no proof whatsoever.

This is not something out of the blue.  Such lynchings have become more or less a routine.  People get killed by the mob because of their eating preferences (read beef), their religious beliefs, their voice being voiced (example: a young auto driver killed because he asked two men not to urinate in public, Reference: Times of India news site).

Reason behind this brutality:  Being hurt!  Yes people get brutalised by people because the later set of crowd gets hurt, I mean  when their religious sentiment gets hurt they don the robe of anger;  when their ego gets hurt on being pointed out they let their emotion flow with the blood of innocents.  And suspicion plays a pivotal role in such atrocities. People are losing their confidence in the slow judicial system; patience is pedestal.  Under such circumstances a slightest streak of provocation leads to news headlines for the next day which says “Mob lynched…..”.

Saddening part is that the ire of mob vanishes without a trace when it actually matters.  When a girl gets molested or eve-teased or a defenseless is being troubled in full public glare no one bothers to raise a voice because everyone is worried about the fury of few preparators of the crime.  But they forget if few can be powerful then how much more power they collectively as a mob would have.  If suspicion can motivate a mob to kill someone then why not a mob be motivated enough to take a right decision to oppose something which is evidently wrong and something not based on suspicion or instigation. Note: opposing doesn’t mean killing here.

My question:  I understand very well how sentimental one can be when it comes to sensitive issues like religion especially in a country like India but agitation based on clueless accusations leading to brutality can leave a family devastated and sobbing for life.  What if there is a fallout of the very base of suspicion that led to the fury.  Can lives be given back?  And why no one is feared of law and order and thinks twice before taking it into own hands.   Is it the failure of governance that they are assured of the mob power.  How justified is it?

As my friend Kuljeet mentioned  two days ago in her article “Salad Bowl Folks!” we have many more issues to deal with  collectively rather than passing verdicts in a fit of rage under the disguise of “Mob”.

BE ‘JUST’ WITH LOVE

A couple of days back, a colleague of mine fell victim to a purse-snatcher. She lost her mobile phone, tab, internet dongle, wallet with a lot of money and some other things – all of which were in her handbag. Her handbag was grabbed by bikers while she was returning from work in an auto rickshaw in the afternoon. Shaken by the incident, she approached the nearest Police Station to lodge an FIR. To her utter dismay, the police personnel hardly bothered and she was made to wait for a long time for no good reason before she approached them and requested them to lodge the complaint soon as she had to return home to her little child. Finally, a complaint was lodged and she was told that this was not the complete FIR and that some other details would be taken in the coming days, before the FIR was formally lodged. As she narrated the incident, she made the statement, “I don’t expect any justice from this system.”

A friend of mine who is currently pursuing Ph.D from a University in North India shared several stories of how upper caste male professors sexually exploited the lower caste female researchers who were pursuing their Ph.D under them. Is this just?

In many Indian homes, the boy child gets to study in an English medium private school, whereas the girl child has to be satisfied with being educated in a vernacular language government school. The boy child gets a major share in the goodies, whereas the girl child has to be satisfied with the crumbs. I heard a lady say a few years back that her brother (who was the youngest among the siblings) was given non-vegetarian food everyday – at least an egg, while the two elder sisters were contented with vegetarian food. The sisters didn’t mind it at all, as it had been ingrained in their minds that a boy ought to have better nourishment than girls! Is this just?

As we look around and see injustice in various forms, the question that arises is – “Where is justice?” The idea of justice has been badly mutilated by prejudices, preconceived notions, stereotypes, cultural biases, parochialism and a lackadaisical attitude not only by those in power but also by the common man. And no, it is not always the poor who are at the receiving end of injustice, but those with the ‘means’ and the ‘contacts’ also face injustice in various forms.

It makes one squirm in helplessness to see outrageous atrocities being perpetrated in the name of religion, caste, race, ethnicity and gender. Is it a sin to belong to a particular religion? Is it a sin to belong to the lower caste? Is it a sin to belong to a particular race or ethnicity? Is it a sin to be born a female? The so-called makers and guardians of justice quote religious scriptures and ancient legendary accounts to justify their acts of horrendous injustice without any guilt or regret?

Lives are lost. Families are broken. Society is in utter chaos. There is hatred spreading everywhere. Emotions are converted into numbness. Who cares? Ideology, honour, prestige, selfish interests gain predominance over and above all other things. Those with might, think that they are right.

Are stricter legal reforms, the answer to the prevailing injustice? Would sentencing the perpetrators to jail, put an end to various forms of injustice?

Hardly!

What is needed is ‘awareness’. Awareness that all human beings have been created in the image of God – irrespective of race, colour, gender, religion, caste or creed. Believe for a moment that the colleague sitting next to you, your domestic help, the vegetable vendor, that neighbour from another religion/caste/race have all been created in the likeness and image of the Almighty God. Would you still dare to be unjust towards them?

The diversity among human beings ought to be a reason for celebration and not discrimination and injustice. Have you ever pondered over the fact that the billions of people on the face of this earth are so unique? All normal human beings have a pair of eyes, ears, hands, legs, a nose and a mouth – yet each person looks and behaves so different from the other. Isn’t it amazing? The differences among us give us the opportunity to marvel at the creative potential of the Creator God. When that is learnt all is learnt!

Knowing well that some of his handmade human beings are perpetrators of injustice, God still deals with them with love – so that they would turn from their unjust ways. He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust’. It’s a mystery to fathom the love of God, but a necessary realization to abhor injustice. God is patient and kind to all now, but won’t remain so forever.

Every unrepentant injustice will be brought to just judgement. If you have been a victim of injustice and there seems to be no hope for you to get justice while on earth, remember GOD IS JUST. His justice is not always meted at our time and in our way. But, always comes to pass – without fail. If you have been the perpetrator of injustice in any form, small or big – whether in your family or on a larger scale, it is a humble plea to repent and turn back on your ways before God deals with you with a heavy hand.

Let the numerous sagas of injustice turn into remarkable examples of justice!