Chedi dada – our house help for over 50 years now – is usually the grumbling, irritated, frowning man that you’d expect 70-year-0lds to be. Some of it has to do with me – I’m always cribbing about how oily the food that he cooks is and how unhealthy. But he’s been smiling a lot lately. And been exceptionally nice to all of us. No, he’s not in love! He’s just been told he makes excellent parathas and we want to have them every single day. So he’s beaming, elated with a simple compliment and that’s all the reason he needs to be happy!
Now don’t blame Chedi dada’s old age for his reactions. If truth be told, we all love hearing nice things about ourselves. And not just women! All it takes to make someone feel special is a compliment. And yet, we’re so stingy with just a little bit of harmless flattery.
I had a friend in school who made sure to never say anything nice about me. So when I got a haircut, she told me she hated it and went ahead and got the exact same haircut a day later! At an Ethnic theme party, she told me my lehanga was not-so-pretty as others thought it was and wanted to borrow it a month later for her cousin’s wedding! Such back-handed compliments are called jealousy.
I learnt the art (and reason) of complimenting from an Uncle – a family friend who later became my sister’s father-in-law. At 13, he made me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world. And he made sure he found something nice to say about everyone – my mom’s laughter, my granny’s skin, my aunt’s cooking, my new dress, my sister’s coyness, my brother’s swagger, my dad’s witty one-liners, Bahadur’s hospitality… It was almost unbelievable how he could bring a smile on our faces with his compliments. At one point, I’d almost begun to believe that they were just a bunch of lies. And I was precocious enough to ask him that. Which is when he explained that it took nothing to make somebody’s day and that’s why the profuse compliments.
Of course, some people totally overdo it. Like this aunt who’ll rave about anyone’s cooking even before she’s tasted the food! Now nobody believes her even if her compliments are genuine.
And some people, like presumptuous 3-year-old husbands who forget to tell their wives they’re looking hot in that sexy number, just assume the other person would know they’re looking lovely! And yes, that’s why this post!