Turn the other cheek? Or offer to slap back?

Early one morning, while I was walking down my street to the local park for my daily walk, I saw a young man come out of the house where he worked as a domestic help, carrying a garbage bag. Just as he was about to drop the garbage bag on the footpath, next to the gate of the house, a middle-aged woman, who was sweeping the courtyard of the opposite house, where she worked as a domestic help, politely requested him to throw the garbage bag into the dustbin barely 50 feet away.

Giving the woman an insolent look, the young man replied, “This street does not belong to you or your employer. You bother about keeping your employer’s house clean,” and dropped the bag on the footpath. The woman replied in a slightly raised voice, “If you don’t pick up that bag right now and throw it in the dustbin, I’ll open it and empty the contents in your employer’s house! This street belongs to all of us. Nobody has the right to dirty it.” The young man realised he had met his match. He quietly picked up the garbage bag, walked down the street and threw the garbage bag into the dustbin.

I was filled with admiration and respect for the woman.

When I related this incident to a friend who lives in another city, he recalled that, a few years back, his neighbours, both educated, English-speaking persons, used to keep their garbage bag not outside their own flat, but across the corridor outside my friend’s flat. My friend politely requested his neighbours a number of times to refrain from doing this, but without any result. The neighbours’ invariable reply was, “We’ve told the maid so many times! OK, we’ll tell her again.” My friend knew the neighbours were bluffing, but didn’t want to make a big issue of a seemingly trivial matter. One day, when he ran out of patience, my friend told his neighbours almost exactly what I had heard the woman tell the young man: that he would empty the contents of the neighbour’s garbage bag in the neighbour’s drawing room! That yielded the desired result!!

These are only two examples of how polite requests often fall on deaf ears. If you ‘turn the other cheek’ to some people, they will reward you with a second slap! With such people, it is only a real threat of penalty or retaliation that works! This is not restricted to any particular category of people. Educational qualification, socio-economic status, etc. have absolutely nothing to do with it.

If more of us emulate the attitude and behaviour that the woman and my friend had displayed, people like the young man and my friend’s neighbour will change for the better! Then, we will have no need to ‘turn the other cheek’ because there would no ‘slap’ in the first place!!

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23 thoughts on “Turn the other cheek? Or offer to slap back?

  1. This post resonates so much with me. Nowadays the garbage cleaning situation in Bangalore is so bad that incidents like these are everyday occurrences and therefore this post only serves to remind me of the horrid garbage situation in Bangalore.

    That being said, I completely agree with you that sometimes offering to slap back is the best option that all of us have.

  2. These people are called bullies. A bully will harass you as long as you keep quiet. Once you stand up to him, the bully will not bother you again.

  3. Indians are the same anywhere. In Mumbai, to prevent them spitting on the staircase and walls, pictures of gods and goddeses are fixed! The Mumbai Municipal Corporation has ‘outsourced’ the activity to an NGO aptly named “Clean Up!” but the exclamation mark is reverted for reasons best known to themselves.The NGO has appointed Nuisance Detectors supervised by Clean Up Marshals.

    There is an old Hindi adage – “Laaton ke bhoot baaton sey nahi maantey hai.” Translated: he who can be changed by delivering a kick cannot be changed by words; meaning thereby that arm-twisting or use of force can achieve better action when polite words fail. While this is true for dealings with civic authorities, that it has to be used with the so-called civilized educated citizenry is sad indeed!

  4. Just today I was having a conversation with my husband and I was saying how I don’t like to have to tell people things that should be so obvious to them and that too in a raised voice. He told me that some people only understand a particular kind of language.
    I wish we didn’t have to do this, but for the greater good we must be harsh at times.

  5. That’s so very true. Some people force you to leave your goodness behind and yell back at them to understand the smallest of things. The garbage thing is pretty common in flats.

  6. Great post, PI! Being an NRI from US, I cannot help comparing and contrasting with some better experiences which we could try and emulate. When people walk their dogs here, they carry plastic bags in their hands to pick up their dog droppings (even though the plentiful grass could use some free manure … but their private owners will not appreciate!).

    Here are a couple of disgusting things which come to the top of my mind from recent visits back home. I encourage your bloggers to brainstorm fixes. The private call taxi drivers open the door and spit on the roads while waiting in congested traffic. My thought was to report this to their despatch office or write comments in the bill since confronting the driver may spoil the trip.

    Another one is, outside my brother’s flat in Chennai, there runs an open drainage canal (“kawa” in Tamil). This offers an open toilet to the truck drivers who spend the night in their lorries and sometimes we see them in action. There is a police chowky (mostly unmanned) right across the intersection, but my brother does not want to rake up any trouble by complaining (and me too since I am on short visits). Writing to the municipality (nowadays thru their website?) to close the “kawa” would perhaps work?

    • Sometimes, speaking up could worsen the problem or create new problems. However, you or your brother could figure out some way of removing this menace. Yes, getting the ‘kawa’ closed could be one way.

      • The ‘kawa’ got closed permanently (ideas and telepathy ?!) but…. the urination continues (on the wall, on lampost bases …. or wherever). Wonder if posting discreet (not dirty) viral videos on the web might embarrass the ‘right’ authorities. Perhaps every road should have a ‘portable’ potty for the benefit of transient workers. The ‘dabba’ shops will not have room but the multi-national fastfood chains should / would allow access to the general public to their restrooms (the latter two are common in US).

  7. Hello there! This post could not be written any better!
    Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He constantly kept preaching about this. I most certainly will forward this post to him. Fairly certain he
    will have a very good read. Thank youu for sharing!

  8. I have screamed, lost patience and shown my middle finger to so many people that I am really tired now. People have this huge, fragile ego that always stop them from doing the correct thing even when they know that they are in the wrong.

  9. Pingback: ‘A**hole’ or ‘Idiot’? | Proactive Indian

  10. Pingback: Turn the other cheek? Or offer to slap back? | Proactive Indian

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