Monday, May 1, 2017

Serve my neighbor

There are these wonderful social lessons that most people in my generation learned in their childhood and applied effectively all their lives. Something, though, always seems to go wrong in the works when I try to apply them. Story of my life.

Take this 'Serve my neighbor' thing for example. It is more pithy when I say it in the Tamil original - "Pakkatthu elaikku payasam". Literally, it means 'Serve kheer to my neighbor' and it generally is meant as being used in a festive occasion when a huge crowd is being fed simultaneously.  The intent of using that phrase is to say that you do so to ensure that YOU get more of the sweet dish and not because you are worried that your neighbor at the meal will feel deprived. (I know, that the current generation probably finds it a quaint idea that you cannot ask for it for yourself if you want it. My generation, though, felt it would appear too greedy on your part to do so, especially when you had to scream out aloud for what you needed, with a crowd listening in.)

Even in the literal sense, it never really worked for me. I mean, the idea was to call for the payasam for the benefit of the guy sitting next to you and, when the server came around with the dish, you could ask him to serve you, too, sotto voce, without letting the entire world know of your sweet tooth. Everyone around me used it very effectively but when it came to me...

The first time I tried it, the idiot next to me screams that he has diabetes and he certainly does not want any more of it. The second occasion was entirely my fault. I tried it without noticing that the guys sitting on either side of me had finished their meals and walked away, leaving no real neighbor to be pining for the payasam. The third time, the server came like a whirlwind, served the indicated neighbor and was nearly 100 meters away before the words, "And some for me, too" traveled the distance from my vocal chords to my mouth.

Given this track record of failure when I tried this thing literally, is it a wonder that I could not use it to any great effect when I figuratively applied it? Like the time I was making the case on Facebook for why people should comment on blog posts when they like it. I thought people would understand that it was also indicated that they comment on mine (primarily meant for that? Shhh!). SO many people came around to 'Like' that post and agree wholeheartedly with it that I was ecstatic. As it turned out, though...Well! My fault for not realizing that all those people meant that they should also GET comments, not that they were agreeing to GIVE them.

Needless to say, it works the same way with books. The plight of co-authors so moves me - that people would spend their money, read and review books by known authors, even if only to pan them, while the newbies would have to keep pleading for reviews even after giving away free copies; and all the while would also talk of how new authors had to be encouraged - that I post a plea on that. And find, as usual, a lot of people loving the post usual, it is all authors who only want to GET reviews - not GIVE them. (What about me and what I do? Stick to the point, will ya? I don't like all this whataboutery!) Where o where is the serving that I expect to get out of it?

But, then, I am expecting too much of the poor chaps. I mean, much though they like my writing, even clicking on a link to read my writing tires them so much. So, how can I expect the poor chaps to open a link, pay money to buy the book, open the link again and leave a review? When they only want to rest content after praising my writing, when it is free and easier to access! So, yes, maybe this 'Serve my neighbor' is pretty unlikely to help even other people so I cannot really blame my peculiar abilities for why it does not work for me. Where it has worked, it probably has only because they were people who were the sort to do it anyway.

There is this friend who tells me that the whole problem with me is that I make it too obvious that my intention is only to help myself. Somewhat like screaming 'Serve my neighbor' while violently gesturing at MY own plate. Maybe. If acting abilities were being distributed when I was getting made, I probably was snoozing around then and missed my quota.

Considering that, anyway, I am not good at this 'Serve my neighbor' business...



  1. There is simply no justice in this world! The totally undeserving get everything handed to them on a platter while the deserving scream "Serve me, Please!!!!"

    Thanks Suresh, now I must stop grinning or 'people' will begin to wonder if I have lost my senses...

  2. Ha ha ha Suresh. Lovely read as always. "Serve me too," please. I am with you there. :) Enjoyed reading it. :)