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     Volume 4 Issue 38 | March 18, 2005 |

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Slice of Life

Too Many
Good People
A Parable

Richa Jha

Last Friday, the unthinkable happened.

People decided to be nice to one another. And it didn't have to stop there. They had to refer to only nice things about people they know when talking about them. What a gargantuan and complex task. Oh! Think about what women would do from now on the phone and at kitties. Think about what the men would do in the public lavatories. Think about the spark-less atmosphere at the work place when men and women generate data upon data of pure facts without spicing it up with tales of the manager on the third floor or the secretary in the elevator. Ah gossip! The elixir of life! What were we to do from now on?

Now you must understand, as I'm sure you already know, that it is not all that easy to be nice all the time and to every body. One, it doesn't come naturally to any of us; two, since people are not used to niceties from others, too much of it all of a sudden from all sides would be nauseating.

Apart from these practical considerations, one big foreseeable glitch was in getting people around to complimenting others with honest, heartfelt words. That would still not be that difficult. What really would be, was having to have them THINK positive about the second person without any malice, whatsoever. Impossible, don't you feel? There are three kinds of people in this world. One, and these genuine souls are the next best alternatives to angels on earth (and therefore, an endangered species), people who see only the good in you, and say only the most genuinely wonderful things about you all the while meaning every word they've spoken. When you are down in the dumps, give them a tinkle and see the dark clouds above you disappear in a jiffy. Two, there are people who feel you are devil incarnates but want you to believe that they see you as messiahs (easy to spot, one doesn't usually pay any attention to their opinions); and three, those who know you are essentially good or harmless, but still go out of their ways to disturb your peace of mind.

Barring the first category (who would not get in the least bit affected by this new law of the land), the other two sets of people (which includes most of us) were to have their lives completely transformed henceforth. Oh! How were we to survive with so much meanness bottled up inside us? The solution came in the form of hypnotic mantras handed to us, free of cost, to chant and soothe our nerves. "You are nice, I am nice, The world is nice, You are…"

It worked! For two full days, only positive energy flowed through the city. So strongly polarised the city became that the world sat up and took notice of the wonder model of goodness. It was all honey, sugar and jaggery, and nothing short of the dreams of utopia that had died with Sir Thomas More. For two days, it was perfect. No crime and no bodily harm was reported from any corner of the city, but more significantly, no one spoke ill of the other, there were praises for one and all in the air. For once, Goodness was seen to be triumphing over Meanness. So picture perfect it all appeared that the Gods were contemplating switching their abode from up there to the Earth. Grapevine (the non-malicious one, of course) was that suitcases were seen floating around in the stratosphere all packed and ready to make their descent.

But around day three, characterised by a marked complacency among the believers and non-believers alike, the trance of the mantra began to wane, probably because they stopped chanting it enough number of times. The not-so-nice thoughts tried to force their way up to the surface only to be pushed back by the accumulated goodness of the last two days, which created such tremendous bi-polar energies that our bodies began to twitch. Initially, we all faced our occasional twitches bravely. Since we all felt uncomfortable around our temples or our chest some time or the other, we tried to accept it as our regular bodily functions as any other. We itch, but not at the same time; similarly, we twitched, but not at the same time.

Soon these twitches became uncontrollable, spreading like an epidemic. How much longer can you curb your natural instincts and play saint without facing an acute shortage of meanness (the oxygen equivalent of the mind and soul) in the system. We gasped for some relief, our bodies convulsed, some tried to help themselves by throwing up their extra goodness that they had accumulated in their minds.

By day five, the doctors' chambers were spilling over with patients diagnosed with diarrhoea, indigestion, heart burns, anginas, and similar maladies showing a partial malfunctioning of the systems. Acquaintances, well wishers, friends, supposed best of friends, confidantes, bosom pals, all bumped into one another, and managed feeble sheepish nods, not knowing what to do upon being exposed thus. But one thing was clear. Something needed to be done, and done quickly.

Last evening, in an emergency meeting of the administrative body of medical practitioners in the city, tough decisions were taken unanimously. The doctors prescribed immediate and complete reversal of the niceness mantra, and recommended a strong daily mandatory dosage of nastiness to one and all.

The effects of this treatment started showing up late last evening, with people feeling themselves again. There were jubilations on the streets to celebrate the fact that people were no longer needed to be nice when they didn't want to be.

It has been a week since the decision was taken collectively at the Town Hall, and for the first time since then, we felt unrestricted this Friday morning. Within a short span of six days, it was concluded that it is not wise for humans to tamper with basic human nature. It is not easy to be nice. Nor is it good for health. Period.


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