In any situation, be truthful than being tactful. When you are true to yourself, nothing – and no one – can embarrass you.
Some weeks ago, we were at a wedding of a close friend’s daughter. It was among the top-billed weddings in Chennai that season. Our friend is a very successful professional and is very well networked in social and business circles. There were 3000 guests at the wedding and the traffic cops had a huge job on their hands regulating vehicle movement outside the wedding venue. As we were exiting from the venue, one of the families we know was also coming out. There was our friend, his wife and their two young sons. They don’t live in India. They had flown down from the Middle East for the wedding. Our friend’s wife was unable to reach their driver and so she wondered if we could drop them to their hotel before we went home.
“Hey can we squeeze in and hitch a ride to our hotel in your car,” asked the lady.
“Sure,” replied my wife, “except that we don’t have a car. And you will have to come with us in an auto-rickshaw. However, we will need to engage two auto-rickshaws if all of us need to make it.”
“What? You don’t have a car?” the lady exclaimed.
“No. We don’t. Not sure if you know this, but, we are going through a financial crisis. We sold our car some time ago. We now use public transport,” explained my wife.
The lady was aghast. She stared at me and my wife in utter disbelief. Here we were, all of us guests at a big, fat, rich, Indian wedding. It is that sort of an event where the clothes you wear, the perfume you use, the jewelry you flaunt and the vehicle you arrive in really determine how you are perceived by everyone else. And here was someone who says they used public transport to get here?
The lady did not hide her sense of shock. “Oh! I didn’t know this. Don’t worry, we will manage,” she said, trying to sound both apologetic and reassuring. The family soon found their car, while we found an auto-rickshaw. We all bade our goodbyes and went our ways.
Saying the truth as it is, in any situation, has always worked out for us. We prefer wearing our Life on our sleeves than pretending to be different from who we actually are. And, honestly, this is the best way to live. Be open. Be transparent. Be truthful.
One of the most important aspects of intelligent living to remember is that we are not what we wear, what we drive or where we live. All these are impermanent and perishable aspects of our Life. What is permanent, and will live on, even beyond our physical form is the real Self – our soul. And even if the soul theory doesn’t make immediate sense, a practical perspective to consider is that how we are perceived by others is really irrelevant in the context of our lives. If someone does not want to respect you as a human being because you no longer have the means to afford an upwardly mobile lifestyle, such a friendship – if you can call it one – is really flaky and meaningless. On the other hand, if people will flock to you only because you flaunt an “impressive and socially inspiring” lifestyle, then again they are not friends – they are opportunists.
I don’t mean to say that it is okay to dress inappropriately or disregard social customs or tradition. Nor am I saying that we should be apologetic – and brooding – for circumstances beyond our control. What I am saying though is that, in any context, just feel good and feel proud of who you are – the way you are! The simple thumb rule to follow is this – never project an image of yourself that you really are not. When you are this way, you are at peace with your circumstances, with your reality. This is the key to happiness. If people around you are uncomfortable with you and your reality, well, it really is their problem. Not yours! Isn’t that plain and simple?