Monday, July 13, 2009

A World Without Labels

Are you one of those people who can’t REST until you label other people? So much so, that you will take some half-assed impression you haven’t even bothered to verify with a second look, or by comparing notes with another acquaintance of the labelee, and just slap on a tag so you can feel better?

And of course labels are made for sharing, you’re too unselfish to keep them to yourself, so once you’ve come up with one you make sure everyone gets a persuasive speech in its favour. Those who resist of course get labels of their own, so it’s all good.

Once everybody is neatly labeled off( like what my mother in law did with all the spice bottles in my kitchen cabinet --“Jeera -cumin”-- with pieces of paper and a ballpoint pen); you can feel that you’ve introduced some order in the madness and uncertainty that is human existence.

Now-- you think, as you stretch your arms luxuriously over your head and congratulate yourself on a job well done – now I’ll know exactly what to expect from so and so person. There will be NO surprises and I can in fact predict and pre-empt everything he or she does.

Every action that confirms the label will be announced “I always TOOOOLD you she was clumsy, now she goes and falls off a five-storey building. No of COURSE it wasn’t depression, silly, it’s CLUMSINESS like I always said. We all know she was CHEERFUL but CLUMSY.” Every action that contradicts your summing up of a person will be instantly forgotten, because it’s unimportant.

I find, that people are full of surprises (both pleasant and unpleasant, I hasten to add.). Especially as they change (for the better or the worse) with years and experience . The same label can never cover the same person in different situations at different times. Those I would condemn as resoundingly stupid from their outlook and beliefs might turn out to be brilliant at their jobs. Those I think as gentle and wonderful will reveal an unaccountably vicious streak. People you think will pounce on you and kick you when you’re down sometimes turn out to be more understanding and supportive than the others you were counting on.

At the most you can, if you MUST, label a person like so: “she’s stupid, but only about things that matter to me. I daresay she thinks I’m stupid too because I don’t know what Vishnu’s fifth son was called.”

Somehow, that judgement lacks a certan something. It lacks the satisfying slap of a label stingingly and irrevocably delivered. And it leaves one confused. Shades of grey wherever one looks.

On second thoughts, bring on the labels. Atleast I’ll know how I’m expected to behave (clumsy but cheerful) and be able to deliver a stinging judgement on someone else when I’m irked.
If the option is chaos and murder; I choose labels.


Monica said...

So here is a label for you.....'a fab writer'....well-writen piece though somehow the caustic shasi flavor is missing....and yes of course another forever label 'our most beautiful TWT girl'.....keep writing!

shah_of_blah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
diya said...

But all my labels are extremely well-judged, perceptive appraisals of people all around me, cleverly summarised by the power of language into a single choice phrase! they're facts, really, not labels! ;-)

diya said...

And I've got labelled spice jars, like your mother-in-law! although why I have bothered with the dual language phenomenon on tiny bits of paper stuck to the jars is beyond me.