Old-fashioned decency is an attractive trait

Tags: Op-ed
Old-fashioned decency is an attractive trait
Sajith Kumar
When the party is about gossip and badmouthing people, there is no shame in switching to good old-fashioned decency. There is no shame in being a wallflower, especially when the party is about excess — sex, drugs and rock and roll. When the party is about backstabbing and crossing personal boundaries. There is no shame in saying, “no”, “I don’t know”, “sorry”, “I have my reasons”, “my principles won’t let me”, “I have a budget”, “I have a deadline” and “I can’t do this”, among other things.

There is no shame in saying “no” and looking different. In not merging with the pack, the fast and formidable, who lay the ground rules for dudes. It’s when you say, “No, not tonight, can’t stay tonight,” that the hard-nosed furious party animals turn into an aggressive pack trying to control you.

There is no established pedigree when it comes to decency as a character trait. It’s a trait we all possess, we just lose it along the way. To be nice to an old lady at a store, to hold the door open for a lady, to smile when you meet someone, to be courteous, to be kind and wait your turn in a queue, to be sensitive to anyone — old people, children or animals — there are a hundred ways to be decent and caring. Caring is normally accompanied by reliability, and this virtue is even more impressive in today’s world of aggression and zero tolerance.

Let me share a story with you. About an old fashioned boy who fell in love with this modern, sophisticated, spoilt brat of a girl. He was tall, slim and good-looking in an earnest way. He was quiet and sensitive and she was extrovert and flamboyant. She wanted to stand out in a crowd, while he wanted to negotiate his way through it. He pleased her in all ways he could; even when the girl’s friends joked about him, he took it in good humour.

The story went just like such stories predictably go: downhill. She dumped him one day to marry a rich fellow chosen by her father. Her friends goaded her to invite the humble ex-boyfriend, “just for fun!” He went, took her a gift and did the most decent thing, said bye like a gentleman! It took him a long time to forget the girl, but he did. He got married ten years later. Another decade later, he bumped into her at an airport, learning she was divorced and an alcoholic. She sobbed into his arms hoping to wheedle her way back into his life. He did what all decent boys do: heard her out, gave her advice and carried her cabin bag to her seat. He traded his aisle seat for a window one and got off before any further encounter took place. He is still slim and earnest looking, though she is plump, with a downturned mouth and a bitter laugh. How do I know all this? He is my cousin. Still goes unrecognised and unappreciated. But we all know he is a balanced and decent guy and I love him for it.

Decency, such an attractive trait!

(The writer is a theatre director and novelist)

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