Modesty Anyone?

A friend opened a Pandora’s box inside my head today.

At the crack of dawn (read 10 o’clock) she posted a status on FB asking why we seem to have lost the art of gracious giving- and what’s even worse- gracious receiving (compliments). To top it all, she asked for opinions.

It is my policy never to stint when being asked for my opinion. Mean people would go so far as to say I have a tendency to pontificate and be pompously pedantic. Gosh, I sound like that ghastly secretary in  the movie Mr. Poppins Penguins (starring Jim Carrey and six blessed penguins). The said secretary, in case you didn’t know, determinedly spoke in a vocabulary comprising of words beginning- and liberally interspersed with- the alphabet P.

Why P you ask? I don’t know. Maybe her nanny Polly Perkins popped in preparatory only to propping her up with a pretzel. (I defy you to say that quickly ten times and not tie yourself up in knots! Go on, I dare you!)

But I digress… as always.

Let me list out a few scenarios for you. When I tell you that these are real life example I was compelled to live through, I hope your heart will melt at the note of pure suffering in my voice. Here goes then:

Scenario #1:

Picture from Google Images
Picture from Google Images

Self: Hey, your handwriting is so beautiful!

You: Oh this? Nooo! I wrote this in a terrible hurry. Moreover my writing looks better in black ink.

Scenario #2:

Self: You have such lovely hair!

You: Now my hair is ruined. The water doesn’t suit me here; my hair is falling in clumps. You should have seen it two years ago.

Scenario #3:

Self: This is so tasty! You are a wonderful cook!

You: I can hardly cook anything. My mother/ Mother- in- law could really work magic in the kitchen. I just get by somehow.

Scenario #4:

Self: How brilliant you are! I struggled with this for weeks and you’ve solved it within half an hour!

You: Oh this was just a lucky guess. You should see my handwriting. When I write the page looks as if drunken ants dipped in ink have crawled over it. You would surely not call me brilliant if you saw that.

Scenario #5:

Self: I love your saree. It is so beautiful and the color suits you so well!

You: This! Oh but this is all faded now. You should have seen it when it was new. Moreover your sarees are far more beautiful than anything I have.

Dude! I mean, come on!! This isn’t modesty or any disease remotely close! It SO isn’t!

Let me let you into a little secret here.

If someone told you that responses of the above ilk, or a variation thereof, would establish you solidly as a modest, humble citizen, that person was the biggest, most colossal ass you’ve ever had the misfortune of meeting. I hate to be the one to break it you, but the truth is that the person got the wrong handle on things entirely. I am sure his childhood wouldn’t bear looking into. Many a skeleton there, I am sure. Talk about being gross!

My earnest advice to you would be to scrape the dumb dear’s silly advice out of the farthest corners of your grey matter and to wash it out with strong soap and water for good measure. Then find find the fool and drown him, just to put him out of his misery. I mean, life can’t be any fun for the poor thing as it is.

These responses, far from being modest, are merely you asking- nay clamoring- for someone to bop you over the head with the heaviest chair in the neighborhood. Seriously. It is beyond annoying. It is enough to let me get away with ‘justifiable homicide’ from the right thinking judge. Trust me, I know what I am saying.

If my words sound to you as if I have been getting away with ‘justifiable homicide’ from right thinking judges since I was a slip of a girl… I shall keep mum with the utmost dignity. I shall neither confirm nor deny your assumptions. I don’t mind dropping a wee hint though. Just ask around and find what happened to one of my second grade classmates one evening when I went to her house to copy the homework since I hadn’t gone to school that day. Just ask, that’s all I am saying. That’s all you’ll get out me, I’ll have you know.

I would change my act in a hurry if I were you. Which brings me to the other point.

What’s with this whole modesty axis? I mean, WHY? Can you just tell me that? If I am awesome, I simply am. Why would me denying it prove me anything but a weak minded nincompoop who ought not to be let out of the play- pen for the next odd century? You know what I’m saying, yes?

While we are on the subject, will you also tell me one more thing? When you tell me my saree is awesome, why does it offend your sensibilities so deeply if I agree with you? One would think I’d snicked off your favorite ice cream cone when you weren’t looking, the way you carry on. Don’t  you think you’re being horribly immature?

Look at it logically, shall we? If my saree (or car or food processor or pen) weren’t awesome I wouldn’t have bought it in the first place. Even if I bought it because someone was holding a gun to my head, I surely would not be seen wearing it, would I? Ergo, I love the saree (or car or…. you get the point without me being obvious, right?).

Why do you expect me to pretend it is ugly just because it is mine? That’s hardly fair. If you were wearing it, I’d have admired it as much- and I would have expressed it frankly. To which you would have given me one of the fruity replies recorded above. Is it  my fault that you choose to be a basket case, eh sunshine?

I wouldn’t go so far as to sing this song below, but a reasonable facsimile should hit exactly the right spot I’m thinking. There’s a lot to be said for it. Listen to it with an open mind. I shouldn’t be surprised if the thing grew on you too.

You could do worse, you know.


45 thoughts on “Modesty Anyone?”

  1. I am one of those people who would act totally 180 to the compliments. I know a lot of people post pictures on facebook fishing for compliments. And I know few of them who would explicitly ask me to say something good about a post online. I am almost always one of those people who would never say “cute picture” and ” you two look lovely together”. I consider such uncreative comments as waste of computing resource as they contribute to nothing but inflate someone’s ego. And there are a lot of young ladies which will post pictures of themselves saying not so so good about themselves and then there would be myriads of comments complimenting them on their loveliness. I am still to understand what is with the whole approval process, why do we need our deeds and appearance to be approved by a lot of people to feel good about ourselves. And anyway what is this feeling good about ourselves mean? I believe you should feel good about yourself by your accomplishment or atleast from your attempts not by someone pointing out the obvious aesthetics of your natural or obtained possessions. Besides I think once you have lured enough ladies and gents with your beauty, you should stop as soon as the very purpose is solved. I find the online compliments are becoming new opiate for the people. I generally see people with suspicion when they are complimenting and consider people who bring constructive criticism in much better light.
    One of the worst offenders of this false compliments are Marriage pictures. The Groom would look like he was part of some really bad “Raas Leela” company and bride would look like someone put a plastic mask from some creepy doll. I mean these people would normally look nice but in their wedding photograph, they would look horribly bad and still there are a zillion people lying to them and telling them they do look lovely. I am so tempted to tell them reality, but that would just make me one big meaning, not that I mind(MUHAHAHAA) but its their wedding picture which for all wrong reasons they think is awesome.

    1. My darling Anuz,

      I have long adored you but today the thing has hit me betwixt the eyes with renewed vigor. I will make two very gleeful observations:

      1. You are TOTALLY devoid of social (read internet) skills.
      2. I can see your lip curled in scathing disdain… and it pleases me more than I can put into words.
      3. Remind me to tell you what a priceless ass you look in your wedding pics- when you do get married. And yes, you are getting married. You SO are. I want a DIL to do the tu-tu main- main with… pronto.

      Hugs… <3

      1. Actually no. I might be devoid of REAL social skills but as far as internet goes I am tier 0 internet overlord simply because I was on internet since the dawn of dinosaurs and used all social platform even before they went mainstream(Let me put my hipster glasses on). Pretty much no corner of internet or type of internet interaction have ever escaped me. To put things in more perspective I once wrote net-etiquettes for one of the most prestigious mailing lists on internet. That being said I generally resort to all sorts of internet elitism(snobbery) and thus any less mortal generally will feel the wrath in the way. I absolutely hate facebook because of it is one of worst platform of existence, but I am there because some other people(technologically challenged) are unable to use better mode of communication and they would be out of touch.
        One of the reasons I am still not married is those dreadful photographs, given that I am old enough to have my kids going to school and having affairs with other kids in school. So no marriage is happening though I like the idea of Gandharv vivah and there are no cameras in the woods.

        1. Elitism is surely to be frowned upon?! Just because you were born with a technological silver spoon, there is no need to look down your nose upon lesser mortals!! Tsk tsk…

          I hear the agony in your voice when you talk about the opportunities your unborn children are missing in having affairs with other born/ unborn progeny. The iron, one can see, has really entered your soul. My sympathies!

          What about the gandharva vivah then? 😀

  2. Thank you for writing it so effectively Dagny. 😀 You are awesome and we had great time on FB today. I am known to irk people by shaking their conscience. I am sure there are many who must be out to kill me today but then I don’t have teeth to mince words. Thank you again.

  3. I don’t know how to graciously accept compliments. Period. I’m serious. OK, so I don’t answer like the ones you have mentioned in your scenarios but whatever I mumble, I didn’t realize I do that until a colleague in Australia told me – you don’t have to modest, it’s a compliment – you can just accept it 😀 I really didn’t realize I was being this way! Now, I have started saying Thank Yous and You’re welcomes more easily 🙂 But that’s just me. Not a general observation.

    Deepa – Keeping Busy

    1. Another thought to it. If a kid is constantly berated – Why didn’t you come 1st? Why 2nd? Or even if he comes first 1st, then how come you lost that one mark? Why not 100/100? Or why did the other guy land the better job? It’s always something lacking. So when the kid finally encounters a compliment, he doesn’t know what to make of it! The act is so alien to him, he doesn’t know how to graciously accept it. I think that’s a problem too!

    2. As we’ve discussed Deepa, your observation is more general than you’ve suspected. I belonged to the shuffling me blessed fit and hoping the ground would swallow me brigade. My only saving grace is that I never contradicted the complimentor… I just didn’t thank them gracefully as I ought to have.

      As we’ve both agreed, this is probably because we’re not raised in a compliment- rich environment. Some of us would freak out if our parents paid us the lamest compliment… mostly it an uninterrupted dose of criticism. The focus is only on what has not been done. What has been done is no big deal. You had to do it; it was your duty. What’s the big deal about doing your duty? You’re supposed to do it!

      As I said before, this is a very INDIAN thing. Not only do parents and teachers never express a word of appreciation, nor does anyone else. Our peers too have grown up in a compliment-less world, so know neither to give nor to take. What a horrible thing it is!

      I learned to pay compliments first. I have gone up to complete strangers uncountable times and told them of something I liked. I have seen the pleasure it has given them. Learning to take compliments came much later. Even today I sometimes go all red and omg-omg-omg when someone praises me a lot. 😀

  4. oh yes! I have heard many such “excuses”!!
    I still don’t understand why it’s so hard for someone to accept and acknowledge a compliment graciously!!

    Loved your post!

    1. Pixie, a sense of false modesty is one of the commonest culprits I’ve found.

      Pleased that you liked the post. Thank for coming by 🙂

  5. I shall keep away from you then – especially if there is heavy furniture around 🙂

    Seriously, though, I think it is a lack of a social grace to not be able to accept compliments gracefully. And, since Social graces take the high road and I take the low road it is no wonder that I lack this too 🙂

    But, more often than not, what people take for my modesty is only my honesty. I mean if I honestly think that you write better humor than me and say so why should I be accused of modesty? 🙂

    1. Suresh, here’s a thought.

      Lets say you write better humor than I do (true story). When I am paying you a compliment on your humor writing skills am I likely to say:
      You write so much better than I do.
      or am I likely to say:
      You write humor beautifully.?

      My choice would be the latter. I don’t much go for comparisons- for good or bad. Why then would you want to reply with a “Oh you write better than I do.” In a compliment there is almost never a comparison… it only exists in the mind of the receiver… not in the mind of the person who is complimenting.

      Perhaps a simple Thanks is enough instead of the whole dance about who is better, what say?

      Thank you for coming by 😀

      1. Ah! Now there you are getting into cultural characteristics. Like bowing lower in the Japanese does not mean he is feeling inferior to you. It is only a manner of speech. This idea that such things reflect a Uriah Heep style of modesty is to adopt the meanings to phrases that the British give them which is certainly not the way Indians mean them. True, English is from the British but when we adopt is as a lingua franca it does not mean that we have adopted all the attitudes that back-up the phrases in Britain.

        The other thing is that you are assuming that a statement of fact – of the way I feel about how good your humor is vis-a-vis mine – should be dressed up in order to suit some mores of self-respecting behavior. Now me, I tend to say it as I feel but it does not mean that I think of myself as a lesser person because of that. In fact, if I did I probably could not say it.

        1. I think I understand with both your points.

          You are saying that though I may use seemingly self- deprecating words (as they would appear to the western mind), they do not necessarily mean that I think less of my abilities. It is just the way we Indians say them. In a way these responses are an integral part of our national ethos.

          Am I correct in my interpretation?

          1. Yup! I mean there are meaningless polite phrases that we say in all languages. When we say in English what is a meaningless politeness in Hindi, it seems odd because it is not a meaningless politeness in English.

            Something like “Khoon pee jaoonga” in Hindi is only a statement of extreme anger (arising out of Bhim’s oath and carrying out vis-a-vis Duhshasan, yes, but not meant literally now) but in English will seem incipient cannibalism 🙂

          2. This is surely something to think about. Never looked at it this way.

            Thank you Suresh. 🙂

          3. Just for fun Dagny – if “Thank you” is not considered a meaningless phrase by someone and taken literally, he could well say “What is the need to feel grateful just because someone is telling the fact that your sari looks beautiful? Don’t be so modest.” 🙂

          4. Ha ha… absolutely Suresh.

            So I can tell you that I truly admire your humor and you will not feel compelled to thank me. Makes us all happy… 😀

  6. Good gosh, I totally dig compliments and if someone pays me one, I dance a jig or go hug the person. This self depreciating act is so weird, I don’t get it

    1. Ritu, I don’t get it. I may get embarrassed and forget to thank you properly, but I have never walked the self depreciating path. I’ve never got that one either. 😀

  7. Also , there are adults who can not take love, caring, compliments and have an excuse that they have never received them before so don’t know how to react or that they aren’t “emo” so can’t “gush” which makes me think too. If i was devoid of something I would open completely to it when given. Why do we cringe at something we longed for all our lives and never got?

    1. Tiku, I was one of those shut down people too once. I simply didn’t know what to do when I was complimented. It was like encountering a Martian in the dead of night. You basically remember only to freak out, not to smile prettily and say Hello.

      And that is pathetically sad. The credit for this post goes ENTIRELY to you. 😀

      I so relate to your no teeth to mince words comment. 😀

    1. Thank you Corinne.

      God! That was a close one. I almost told you that I don’t do it half as well as you do. 😀 Saved by the skin of my teeth. I learn everyday. 😀 😀

      Such a pleasure to see you here 🙂

  8. LOL!!! So true and I love your pompously pedantic personality that allowed you to write such a superb post!!! Now, don’t tell me that your handwriting was really bad when you wrote it!! 😛

    1. Oh but Roshni I was in SUCH a hurry when I wrote it, I didn’t get time to polish my phrases. For all I know it must have a hundred typos… I didn’t even proofread it because I was in such a hurry to post it. After all, what can you expect from a post written in 20 mins.?

      So good to see you here. 😀

  9. A lovely rendition of our morning today, Dagny. You have summed up the whole scenario so very succinctly. And, yes, receiving compliments graciously is an art that comes from within the depths of our well-being.

    Joy always,

    1. Today was surely a blessed day Susan. We began the day in such a lovely way… all thanks to Tiku, Bhavana and you.

      Hugs <3 <3 <3

  10. I used to get a bit suspicious if someone I knew well, complimented me. I think it was because I grew up with a few dozen brothers who loved to butter me up when they wanted something badly 😥 So my first reaction when someone genuinely gives a compliment is to transform into a beetroot. But I have never ever tried to be modest 😉

    1. Beetroot- check.

      The routine is all too familiar to me. I haven’t ever tried to be modest either. As for brothers, I wouldn’t know. I don’t have any siblings.

      Good to see you here. 🙂

  11. U know just today morning a post on these lines came to my mind. I want to write on my journey from being the ugly duckling to the swan!

    And yes all it took was me and my thoughts. Nothing else changed except that.

    And slowly… though very slowly I am getting there.. I am not able to SMILE and say Thanks to compliments thoda sa.. 🙂

    1. Thoda sa is what is also called ‘turtle steps’. You reach major goals with turtle steps, as you are happily discovering for yourself. My best wishes to you for your journey. 😀

  12. I love compliments, Dagny! Even a minor one from a person that matters has the potential of making your day. But it is people who go on and on or wax eloquent who make me a bit wary and tired. I do always accept them with a thank you and a smile. And you are right, it is indeed linked to our self esteem. Sometimes the hardest person to appreciate is our own selves. And it is definitely an Indian thing because of the way we are brought up. Some people do think that too much praise will go to our heads. It never does. Not if it is genuine and is interspersed with constructive criticism as and when needed. Incidentally I wrote about self esteem as well in my last post.

    1. The people who go on a wax eloquent sort of exasperate me. I mean, do they really think I am so stupid that I can’t see that axe they want to grind? It is insulting.

      Too much praise will go to your head is the perception my mom and dad had too. They were mighty comfortable with telling me what I did wrong and conveniently assuming that I would ‘intuitively’ know what they found good. They also assumed that I would know that they loved me.

      I don’t blame them… that was all they knew. That was how they had been raised too. Conditioning again.

      I read your post on Purba’s blog. Brilliant, as always. Self- esteem has so many predators!

      1. We are on the same page, my dear! It is becoming repetitive :). And thank you for your warm words about my post. You know I cherish your appreciation a lot.

        1. We are indeed becoming repetitive. Me too! will soon become a perpetual chant between us. I see the day coming. Mark my words. 😀
          Your post on body image made me think a lot. I’ve come to the conclusion that my daughters have indeed absorbed their body image from my own faulty perceptions. As they say, awareness is half the battle won.
          What remedial action can I take? Can you suggest something?

  13. I so agree with Corinne. I do with a simple thank you and a compliment makes my day. However I can’t stand pretentious people who compliment when you know they are not being honest. A friend of mine has a regular opening line..ohh you have lost weight. She says it to everyone she greets.

    1. Alka, I have been known to look clueless people in the eye and tell them courteously that I too have a mirror- a full length mirror- in my house. Some of them have had the grace to look foolish. The rest never learn, of course. They ask for sterner measures and I am never loath to give it them across the windpipe. Alas!

      So pleased to see you here. 🙂

  14. Usually when someone compliments me, I look straight in that person’s eyes and go – Tell me something I don’t know.
    People have stopped complimenting me. 🙁

  15. That’s Dagny in her element. Its not about the topic, its about biggest, most colossal ass and the priceless ass. I really laughed imagining. Real good post.

    1. Thank you Jeevan. I pleased as punch that I could make you laugh. They say laughter is the gift of the Gods. 😀

    1. That surely seems to be the most common culprit Bhavya. Most of my readers- and I- agree with your observation. I think we should start paying lots of compliments to people so that everyone gets used to it. Kind of raising the bar… what say? 😀

  16. Pingback: Why “Aham” is so important | Pixie's Mytakeoneverything

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Connect with me!

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,954 other subscribers.


Latest Posts