Society: Free for all

It is for you, for free! You receive it all the time, unsought, and more often than not, unwelcome and irritating! Anytime and anywhere, you just have to mention a problem! Advice will pour in from all quarters.

We love to meddle in everyone’s affairs, whether asked for or not, we think it is our birthright to dole out our valuable advice, even in areas we have little knowledge ourselves. Be it major issues like an illness, problems at your workplace, parenting, selecting the perfect spouse for your children, differences with the in-laws, or minor day to day issues like where to shop for what, which colour or style you should choose for your dresses, how to cook a perfect qorma or nihari or maid problems, we have something or other under our cap which we gleefully dole out to friends, family and even distant acquaintances.

Sometimes we casually mention a problem just to feel better after a bit of unwinding, but we are taken aback by the flurry of advice we are bombarded with. Minding other people’s business is the most popular hobby of the majority of people in our part of the world. Very few wait to give advice only when it is sought. People just love to flood you with their opinion about what course of action you should take in a given situation.

Sumeira, a young home maker says, “In the early years of my marriage I had problems with my in-laws. My husband was too attached to his parents to understand my point of view. I was young and inexperienced and at times, in frustration, I discussed my woes with my friends because I just needed a sympathetic ear and someone who could sympathise with me.

But now I have learnt to keep my troubles to myself, as the unwanted counsel I got was not only impractical but even sometimes got me into trouble. Over the years I have developed strong bonds with my in-laws. I thank God that I did not pay heed to the advices of my well meaning but immature friends”.

Sheema, a young mother, says, “Experience taught me never to talk about baby problems in company. When my first child was born, I just had to mention one and I was flooded with unlimited suggestions on how to feed, burp, bathe or even dress the baby. If the child was sick, senior mothers were quick to recommend the medicines they used for similar symptoms.

Elderly women offered home-made remedies and were actually annoyed if I did not follow their valuable advice”.

Rehan says sarcastically, “I wonder why people have to meddle in the personal affairs of everyone they can reach out to. If I am sick and under the treatment of an allopath, acquaintances will tell me to go to a hakim or a homeopath! The choice of school I made for my children was always wrong for some people who were quick to suggest better options. When my daughter chose red for her wedding dress, her friends insisted that that it was outdated and white was the ‘in’ colour for the bride those days. I mentioned to my friends that I was having problems with my boss? ‘Resign immediately’ was their prompt advice! ‘After all your self esteem is more important than a job!’ If, in the heat of the moment, I had been foolish enough to follow their advice I am sure I would have found myself jobless for the next six months”.

Anisa Zia, a friend, sums up the issue in a practical manner, “Many times I have been a victim of unsolicited advice and ended up listening intently only out of respect. Actually I think the purpose in most cases is not altogether bad because the eagerness to help us resolve our problem may be the only reason why people come up with unasked for advice. But making it a ritual is what one must abstain from. I think the ability to judge whether to give in or control the urge to add our two bits comes from practicing our listening skills rather than exercising our speaking ones”.

Unwanted advice may be in good faith but before giving out our qeemti mashwara, we should understand the fact that circumstances vary from case to case and decisions have to be made according to them. Thus no hard and fast rules can be set which everyone can blindly follow! So unless someone seeks our advice, and lets us know the pros and cons and the consequences of different choices or decisions, we should not give in to the temptation of giving it away!

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