"Iniya uLavaga innatha kooral kani iruppa kai kavarndaRRu" - Tirukkural by Thiruvalluvar
"To choose to insult, when it is possible to compliment, is akin to preferring the unripe fruit over the ripe' - Loose translation
You know what - either this wisdom of the yester-years is all dated wisdom or it was particularly easy to say anything and be accounted as wise in the days gone by. Take this one for example. (No, I do not want to get into whether the semi-ripe guava is preferable to the unripe guava; or the preference for a cooked unripe plantain - with multiple recipes and colorful pics - to the ripe one; and all that. Let us take it as read that we are talking of raw unripe fruit to raw ripe fruit, as would be applicable to a majority of fruits. In other words, let us not act like a corporate meeting, where we spend almost all the time in discussing the aptness of the metaphor rather than discussing the message.)
It is the message that is so funny. Ah! No, no, no! I do not mean that we need to say unpalatable things if we really want the other guy to improve. Not because I know that no-one really accepts good advice and certainly not from any passer-by - as most people seem to be to most other people, unless they are close family - though that, too, is true. I do not say that because our man Thiru may rise from his grave and complain that he speaks of 'Iniya uLavaga', which means there really IS a compliment to be said, there, and not merely flattery.
So, well, what is my complaint, do you ask? After all, if the dish is great, except for being a smidgen more spicy that you are used to, why would you keep talking of that one minor flaw, instead of praising the dish as a whole and, perhaps, adding that a smidgen less spiciness would have made it perfect? You really ask that??? Man! Do you really belong in the human race?
Well, for one, it all depends on who is on the other side, does it not? If it is my boss, obviously it is my taste for spiciness that is at fault. His dish is obviously perfect. If it is my competitor...well, don't you see, it is THAT lack of control over spiciness that absolutely ruins the dish and, if only I were in his place, everything would be perfect? If it is some third party, well, how is he to respect my acumen if I praise him? AND this chap Thiru talks as if there is some formula for every occasion and I ought to praise what needs praising! Sheer idiocy, I tell you.
AND, of course, the man had not even heard of Social Media! What sort of following will I get if all I say are compliments? "Lovely dish" will get me some 3 likes from the friends of the cook, maybe, and people who are hungry at that moment may say, "Yum! Want to eat, now." If it were MY dish, then I may get more of both...but shares, going viral? Nonsense!
On the other hand, think of "If this chap thinks he can cook, he must have been certified by some charcoal-burner", even if it is only ONE grain of Urad dal that is charred, can you see the interest? Especially, if THAT chap has some status as a good cook? Arguments, counter-arguments, shares, tweets, re-tweets...AND, if you do it often enough, fans, followers, what have you! Come on, where is the drama in a compliment...except if you compliment something that everyone considers slimy trash! But THAT is not what our man Thiru is saying...'Iniya uLavaga' would rule out complimenting the entirely insult-worthy, so I cannot even give him THAT much credit.
True, the poor chap IS dated, so maybe that can excuse him. Leave alone Social media, there was NO media and people were still scratching around on palm leaves or some such. THAT, possibly, explains the difference in orientation. I mean, with all that much effort to put in to writing and preserving something, they were clearly not going to be spending time on preserving for posterity the fact that a king was a messy eater, when they could write of how many temples he built. If communications had been easy, who knows, we may have ended up with a complete record of all the palace gossip, so what if it came at the cost of losing out on every other sort of information?
Yeah - there is a lot of need to take care when we look up old wisdom. Oh! Actually, there is no need. We have junked it all anyway!