Respectful or disrespectful? Smart or foolish?

One afternoon, I was with a customer in his office, when he received a call on his mobile from somebody whom he addressed as Chachaji (Uncle). My customer immediately stubbed out the cigarette he was smoking, shouted for the peon, switched off the air conditioner, opened the windows, put on the fan, asked the peon to take the ashtray away and spray room freshener, and ran to the washroom while the peon did as instructed. A few minutes later, the peon put off the fan, closed the windows, and switched on the air conditioner. By then, my customer had returned from the washroom after having washed his face and gargled with mouthwash. The smoke and smell of tobacco had almost totally vanished! It was an efficient military operation!

A minute later, an elderly gentleman entered the room. My customer stood up and, saying, “Namaste, Chachaji!” touched his feet, and introduced me to his uncle. Chachaji was collecting funds for the construction of a new wing in the school run by the Trust of which he was Secretary. My customer dutifully handed over his cheque and touched Chachaji’s feet again. His work done, Chachaji left.

“Thank God!” my customer exclaimed as he sat down in his chair. “I have a lot of respect for Chachaji. To me, he is like God! He considers smoking a sin. If he had seen me smoking, he would have been terribly upset,” my 40 years old customer said.

I knew this customer quite well, so I responded, “If you really respect your uncle so much, and if he considers smoking a sin, you should stop smoking.”

“Boss, I’m under too much stress. Right now, I can’t even think of giving up smoking!” he declared.

“I think that, by continuing to smoke and concealing from your uncle the fact that you smoke, you are not respecting your uncle. On the contrary, this is utter disrespect,” I replied.

My customer is not an exception. He is the rule. Many men smoke, drink, etc. without the knowledge of their families. I know of some men, paragons of virtue at home, who ‘freak out’ on alcohol and tobacco when they go out of town, only to become ‘goody-goody boys’ when they return home!

I also know of women from conservative families leaving home dressed in traditional clothes, ostensibly to attend a ‘ladies get-together’ (or a ‘family get-together’ if they’re accompanied by their husbands), but actually headed for a discotheque. Under the traditional clothes are worn ‘daring’, ‘modern’ outfits. The traditional clothes are shed before they reach their destination. After enjoying themselves at the discotheque, they again don the traditional clothes before reaching home!

If a person believes that there is nothing morally or ethically wrong with whatever he/she is doing, why can’t that person do it openly? (While I’ve confined my comments to smoking, drinking and dressing, this applies to many other matters. Please read this Firstpost report about an engineer committing suicide because his wife posted photographs of their ‘secret’ wedding on Facebook.) If he/she faces disapproval from his/her elders, he/she should discuss the matter with the elders and come to a mutually acceptable conclusion. If he/she feels very strongly about the matter and if the elders are just not willing to accept his/her opinion, then he/she should do whatever he/she thinks is right and be prepared to face the consequences. Doing anything on the sly is not the solution.

At the same time, elders should understand that they cannot expect their children and children-in-law to stick to the same lifestyle as theirs. Change is inevitable.

Most importantly, youngsters must resolve that, when they become elders, they will not forget that they were once youngsters themselves

What do you think?

(This post was originally published on Oct 31, 2013.)


7 thoughts on “Respectful or disrespectful? Smart or foolish?

  1. ‘If a person believes that there is nothing morally or ethically wrong with whatever he/she is doing, why can’t that person do it openly?’ – I think this is the crux of your article and the real question we should be considering. Perhaps along with it could be the question of what constitutes a ‘morally or ethically wrong’ action – is this dependent on age? Culture?

  2. anything which we try to hide is wrong somewhere in our mind, but sometimes there are some harmless things too where elders its ok to hide and make them happy.

  3. This smoking thing is so common, smoking but hiding from parents, spouse etc.

    I am in my mid twenties, have lived in joint family all my life and till date, except in workplace,
    I have not come across a single person from my previous generation who considers me an adult and
    can maintain cordial relation with me after knowing that we might have mutually exclusive view points on a single topic.
    Not a single person.

    So if there is any difference of opinion it leads to pure drama.
    Day by day I am astonished how much dramabazi an elderly person can do.
    Frankly, I have hardly any respect left for anybody of my previous generation.

    Imagine, your customer being 40. Even at that age he is not comfortable sharing his thoughts.
    The effort for developing comfort level should come from both sides, his uncle as well as him.
    Even I would say mostly his uncle because he is the older one.
    Would his uncle be comfortable knowing that he smokes, or will he create a fuss and reprimand him ?
    If it is the second, most people would prefer not getting into unwanted stressful situation.
    By showing respect means, that by not doing what he disapproves of in-front of him.
    Being respectful, I guess has different meaning for everybody.

    Personally, I hate not being true about myself to anybody.
    But then, most elderly people or also some people from my generation cannot handle it and it creates problems.
    So the advice I get from other elderly people, or elders from my generation is that you have to hide it from them since they do not like it.
    That is the proper way for doing it.
    Otherwise if you be yourself there will be drama, hurtful words said to each other and lot of other problems.

    This hiding thing is pretty commons for women, many I know, do not like wearing indian clothes and symbols of marriage.
    They do not wear it when they are away. But infront of inlaws they do even if they do not like it. Else, lots of problems.

  4. I am stumped here because I am probably one of those .. I hide a lot or did so my parents did not find out..
    But that I think does not mean I don’t respect them.. I think I don’t want to make them sad hence I hide.
    I know there is not much parents could do if they find out probably stay annoyed for a couple of days but they will never like it .

    .so what they don’t know won’t hurt them..

    I guess many a things we hide just so we can avoid a confrontation. . Or argument and the usual family drama…
    Thankfully I live far away alone so I can get away with a lot of things..

  5. It’s not that simple, is it? While I don’t smoke or do anything seriously objectionable by my parents, I have lied to them when I used to go meet my date. To top that, the person I date is the intelligent, academically bright and very successful, comes from a very good and well-to-do family – the kind of person they would choose as my husband (if I let them). But I still don’t tell them. It’s just to make things a lot less complicated. Who knows what might happen in the future? I will tell them when the time is right, after I have built the career I want for myself and I am pretty sure they will approve of my choice.

  6. I am one of the ‘older generation’. I am not surprised to read Simple Girl’s opinion. The two following her also had the same ideas. It does save everyone disappointments, drama and confrontations, when we give information on a ‘need to know basis’. There should not be lies or outright dishonesty in relationships. You reveal something when you have to reveal it. But if one’s lifestyle or habits hurt other people, isn’t it better to not blatantly reveal it to parents or elders who are troubled by these facts? I am talking only about adults who are treated like they are still children. In an ideal situation, we can all totally be ourselves, and also be accepted just the way we are by elders and others. But it is not that kind of a world.

    A word about hypocrisy. If a person vehemently opposes something like smoking and then secretly smokes, then that is hypocrisy. That is rampant in society. Where people with an ‘holier than thou’ attitude are doing something that they are preaching against.

    The customer, who did not want his uncle to know he was a smoker was lucky that he could get rid of all the evidence of his smoking before the uncle entered. 🙂

  7. I’ve been on the side of fence where I believed life is better for everybody when we share information on ‘need to know basis’ and I’m happily on the side of fence where I believe that mostly when we’re hiding information, it is to avoid confrontations than to save anyone’s feelings. Most often, we’re just looking for excuses for our shameful behavior. If I truly believe that I’m right in doing something which my elders do not approve of because of the generation gap, I try and convince them as much as possible. I do not stop from doing it. I make it clear that I will continue to do that. And, continue to try to make them okay with it. The road of honesty is tough but it brings long-lasting results in the end. The relationship is much healthier and the feelings are lighter.

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