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     Volume 5 Issue 89 | April 7, 2006 |

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Slice of Life

My Experiment With Truth…

Richa Jha

Preposterous as this title may sound, given that it is a straight lift from Gandhiji's autobiography encapsulating his lifetime's ideology, I couldn't help plagiarising. The day my son pointed out that we adults, including me, the high priestess of goodness and propriety, lie as much as the children do, if not more, I sat back to think about it. There were several aspects to it. One, who, in all his insanity, put this thought into the mind of a five year old (some self-proclaimed philosopher with no published theories, I am sure). Two, what on earth prompted my son to adopt this cynic's exposition so early on in life. And three, am I such a bad liar that even a child could see through the truckloads of them!

Besides, I also wanted to know if his reference to 'adults' was a mere euphemism for me in particular; children have the potential of being the best diplomats. Noticed how, by the time they have learnt to speak, they have mastered the art of dodging the most basic and most commonly asked question thrown at them: "So beta, who do you love more?" The list thereafter is an inexhaustible one comprising all species of moms vs. dads, grannys vs grandpas, nani vs dadi, mama vs. chacha, and so on. And yes, the most eagerly asked, most keenly contested, and most dreaded of all choices: moms vs teachers!

I decided I needed some time with the young man. Cynism is a greater devil than rabid opinions at this age! So I took him to a corner where the little daughter could not trace us, where the sounds of his cartoons would not distract him, where the domestic help couldn't eavesdrop on us, and where his Hot Wheels wouldn't emerge, on their own, from under the table or bed or from behind the books. Shutting the door behind us, I took him on my lap and was about to pose to him the vital query, when he jumped off and pointed out that he was no longer a small boy. Laps and cuddling are for the little sister.

I said, ok son. Share your views on truth? He said he had been told at school (his teacher, but of course, I ought to have guessed!) that from then on, they were not to lie, and point out the same to others doing it. He had caught me lying over the phone to that aunty saying she wanted to be excused from something on pretext of fever, but that, I knew as well as he did, was a lie. He said he was ashamed to have a mamma like me.

And so, for the sake of not letting this young boy down, I decided to speak only the truth, and nothing but the truth. But then, as The Hubby rightly pointed out, it couldn't be a unidirectional traffic; accepting truth is just as critical. I nodded reluctantly.

And so started my experiment(s) with truth.
I clarified to The Hubby that between going out on a dinner date with him and mall-hopping, I preferred the latter; told my son that there is little pleasure in reading the same book the hundredth time; informed the cook that I was tolerating his rotten cooking only because the alternative of having to do it myself was an even scarier proposition; called up the Mother-in-law to get my views known on the issue of her son having been the most adorable child ever born. Also, the fact that hearing the same anecdotes about her son's cuteness (when young) has numbed my senses to their power to delight; I politely remarked to one friend that for a breath of fresh air in her life and of others around her, she needed to be introduced to deodorants; told another that I didn't think too highly of the frock she had brought for my daughter, and that it would have to be circulated anyway; that I was not available for dinner at this other acquaintance's place because her big brag of a husband bored me to death; And so on. I said what came to my mind, without blinking, without thinking, without pausing for a breath of reason or reward, and without lacing it with sugar coated niceties.

The flip side of the deal was more unpleasant than I had thought, even when it was limited to The Hubby alone unpeeling shades of truth before me (the others knew nothing of my experiments…). He was unsparing in his verbal dispensation, even less poetic in expressing the naked truths to me than I was being to the rest of the world. And since truth needs to be told, I admit that the most difficult thing to do is to hear bare truths about oneself.

By the end of one week, I had made enough enemies to carry over into my next life, The Hubby and I were seriously contemplating finishing some small legal procedural formalities; my own self esteem was refusing to come out of the black hole it had been pushed into; and I felt like the most forsaken creature born ever! The power of raw, uncoated truth, for sure!

Lesson learnt, never again, I have decided. Give me half truths, any day, but spare me the ordeal of being told that I am the most self opinionated, selfishly stubborn, pointedly over-critical person known to mankind.

As for dealing with my precocious progeny, I am sure he will forgive me when he is old enough to understand that it is not all that polite to tell his mother that her face has started resembling that of a frog's lately. She might not express her grief openly, but it does give her nightmares, you see! Certain truths, are best not told.

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