There is something fantastic about the words of a poem. The stanzas manage to speak on so many factors within a poem that it is almost like a dialogue between two people, conveying two different points of view.
My favorite poem of all time shall remain Robert Frost’s- Mending Wall. Every single time I come across people crossing the line (which is almost on a daily basis!) about what is acceptable in a common conversation between two people and what isn’t, Frost’s line always echoes in my mind- Good fences make good neighbors.
It is amazing how the concept of personal boundary eludes us as Indians. The moment someone says “Hi” to us, we feel we have the liberty to ask” Why oh why did your daughters sister-in-law get divorced?” Not only will we ask something so absurdly personal, we will be naturally affronted when the answer is not forthcoming. Hmm….. What a snooty nosed person he/she is we say, and whisper amongst ourselves about the righteousness and good nature of our query and the base aloofness of the other person. The idea!
We have this innate curiousness of knowing just about everything of the other person, irrespective of the others age, sex, and nationality. We are very uniform in our probing. So when Frost was taught to us at School, I think the only bit we related to and retained was-
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
Why are we so pushy? Why is it so difficult to understand that just because one is polite it doesn’t mean that person wants to sit and discuss the in’s and out of his life with us. To be honest, it’s not really like we care, or we would do something about it, we feel it’s our right and the others obligation to make us privy to the nitty gritties. So whether it is speaking to a colleague and pointing our her dental cavities publicly, or pointing at someone’s face and saying “ eww, you look awful”, we see no line that we are not only crossing, but taking a whole damn bucket, spilling the water and scrubbing any remnants of the line clean! Alas the line never stood a chance! Imagine being shunned from a “popular” social group only because one wouldn’t partake in washing everyone’s dirty linen in public! The audacity!
The questions I have had to answer (even in the washroom) regarding my Hijab (and whether I was bald underneath) just becomes more fantastic with each question. It never ceases to amuse me. Its like one ought to carry a large IPAD strapped to ones chest, with interactive buttons- Press 1 for queries regarding A”s relationship, press 2 for Sexual preferences, press 3 for family background, and so on.. Each one of us has a right to decide which window to our being will be accessible to which group. We ought not to try and force open a door when a window is barred shut.
Even though we don’t recognize there are boundaries, we insist on being indignant when someone crosses ours. Hey, if you can dish it, learn to take it. The only way one has any right to be indignant is when one observes some decorum in probing the other. Why are most of us pushed to put up a rude barrier because most people do not want to take the hint that one doesn’t want to talk about something? No matter how close a relationship is, limits have to be maintained, because quite simply one can only be pushed so much before they get defensive and offensive.
My only hope, is that we Indians, with all our imitation of Western culture ought to adopt a bit of the British stiff upper lip along with the tiny clothes and pub culture, and to please have a second glance at Frost’s latter half of the poem-
He moves in darkness as it seems to me
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors”.