Turn the other cheek? Or offer to slap back?

(The “Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan” was launched on October 02, 2014. The least we as citizens can do to contribute to a cleaner India is to ensure that we, and everybody around us, dispose of garbage in the proper way. I am re-posting ‘Turn the other cheek? Or offer to slap back?’, which had originally been posted on October 03, 2013.)

Early one morning, while I was walking down my street to the local park for my daily walk, I saw a young man come out of the house where he worked as a domestic help, carrying a garbage bag. Just as he was about to drop the garbage bag on the footpath, next to the gate of the house, a middle-aged woman, who was sweeping the courtyard of the opposite house, where she worked as a domestic help, politely requested him to throw the garbage bag into the dustbin barely 50 feet away.

Giving the woman an insolent look, the young man replied, “This street does not belong to you or your employer. You bother about keeping your employer’s house clean,” and dropped the bag on the footpath. The woman replied in a slightly raised voice, “If you don’t pick up that bag right now and throw it in the dustbin, I’ll open it and empty the contents in your employer’s house! This street belongs to all of us. Nobody has the right to dirty it.” The young man realised he had met his match. He quietly picked up the garbage bag, walked down the street and threw the garbage bag into the dustbin.

I was filled with admiration and respect for the woman.

When I related this incident to a friend who lives in another city, he recalled that, a few years back, his neighbours, both educated, English-speaking persons, used to keep their garbage bag not outside their own flat, but across the corridor outside my friend’s flat. My friend politely requested his neighbours a number of times to refrain from doing this, but without any result. The neighbours’ invariable reply was, “We’ve told the maid so many times! OK, we’ll tell her again.” My friend knew the neighbours were bluffing, but didn’t want to make a big issue of a seemingly trivial matter. One day, when he ran out of patience, my friend told his neighbours almost exactly what I had heard the woman tell the young man: that he would empty the contents of the neighbour’s garbage bag in the neighbour’s drawing room! That yielded the desired result!!

These are only two examples of how polite requests often fall on deaf ears. If you ‘turn the other cheek’ to some people, they will reward you with a second slap! With such people, it is only a real threat of penalty or retaliation that works! This is not restricted to any particular category of people. Educational qualification, socio-economic status, etc. have absolutely nothing to do with it.

If more of us emulate the attitude and behaviour that the woman and my friend had displayed, people like the young man and my friend’s neighbour will change for the better! Then, we will have no need to ‘turn the other cheek’ because there would no ‘slap’ in the first place!!