Saturday, December 6, 2014

column for The Chandigarh Tribune which was published today,

MUSINGS The Speaking Self Ratna Raman$largeimg05_Dec_2014_225300810.jpg . The human child sees herself/himself for the first time in a mirror and learns that she/he has a separate self. This is a magical moment. Subsequently, children respond to names and lisp them for indulgent adults delighting in baby prattle. Inching towards adulthood, post schooling, the young person is constantly required to introduce himself/herself, in public, in private, in professional capacity and sometimes over the telephone. The most flamboyant introduction ever is that popularised by England’s well-loved secret agent 007. ‘Bond, James Bond’, he says in a laid-back manner and dazzles everyone. Of course, Bond’s spectacular looks and gizmos add to the allure. Most of us have to introduce ourselves in the social sphere without the celluloid advantages available to James Bond. We must begin at ground zero by listing incorrect practice and steering clear of faux pas (false steps). At interviews, candidates often get off on the wrong foot. When introducing themselves, they incorrectly prefix the word ‘myself’ before the actual name. Far more males are guilty of this than females. Possibly, men have a stronger sense of self in patriarchal societies or perhaps there are far more men in the public sphere. For a correct formal introduction, it is sufficient to offer a name and a surname, eg, “My name is Jatin Das.” At an informal social gathering, it is enough to mention a first name. If the person being addressed seems reticent, maybe two half sentences would be most effective. The correct response would be: “I’m Subhash, and you are…..?” Or “My name is Nikhila, what’s yours?” Prefixes such as ‘myself, Dr, Mr, Mrs, Ms, etc., are best avoided. Inform someone that you have a doctorate if your pay scale depends on it. If it doesn’t, prefixing a degree to a name is pedantic. Only in case of a medical emergency is there a requirement for a doctor. In social gatherings, personal qualifications or marital status need to be revealed only when asked for. Look at how stilted and awkward conversation becomes with incorrect usage: “Myself Kamal Kumar ....and what about your good self….?” Or "What is your good name?” Sentences such as these are best expunged from memory. It is important to remember that preliminary introductions only permit the exchange of names. All names are chosen with care and must be presumed good. Only prolonged association enables the discovery of good and bad selves. Telephone callers often make strange statements such as , “Harish, this side,” leaving the listener curious as to whether numerous sides exist on a telephone line. The correct usage when speaking on the phone should be, “This is Harish or Rekha.” If it is not a personal call then the caller could say; “This is Harish Dhawan from Watercare. Could I speak to Mr. Sondhi? It is incorrect to dial a number and interrogate whoever responds with: “Who is speaking? (“Kaun bole raha hai?”) The exasperated reply can only be: “Why should I tell you?” Equally annoying are geographers enquiring: “Where are you speaking from? (“kahan se bol rahe ho?”) A friend who was woken up with this asinine query responded icily: “I speak from my mouth. What about you?” (“Mae mooh se bol raha hoon. Aap kidhar se bolte hain?”)


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