Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stooping low to reach for the stars!?

Obsequiousness, foot scraping, meekness, extreme humility...I can go on, the Thesaurus in MS Word is pretty exhaustive when it comes to offering you Synonyms for extreme acts of self effacement's. Now if you are wondering what I am talking about….I am pointing out to a particular trait among TV Show contestants, especially those participating in music contests. The above traits of extreme humility and self effacement is an almost given among these contestants. In fact sometimes I think the contest is about who can be more humble and ingratiating towards the judges!!! At times judges too behave like it is a necessary talent to have for a contestant. A curt word for someone who was a not up to the mark in humility and lavish praises for the one who stooped the lowest.

We are not living in the gurukul days for god’s sakes. I understand the need to respect someone with more knowledge than you. It is inbuilt in us. But this is taking things a bit too far. I am not talking about touching the feet of a judge. That I a sign of respect in our culture. I am talking of contestants standing stooped with both hands folded, mike in had, when judges are talking. Reminds me of historical movies, where people are shown standing the very same way in front of Kings and Monarchs.

The contestants seem to fear the judges. They seem to lack sufficient confidence in their own talents. It almost looks like they are scared of offending the judges. Which is ridiculous!! And judges too, seem to lap this up. As fair judges of a musical competition, I think they should give more credence to talent and ignore any another aspect of a contestants personality.

But that aint happening too soon. Can you imagine, an extremely talented, but arrogant contestant, getting away on the strength of his/her talent only? I don’t think so. He/She will be cut down to size before she can say ‘Eff off’!!

It is not just TV shows, even in real life, we take this respect a person with grey hair too far!! Even in schools, I remember, if you wanted to get into the good books of teachers, act nice to them. Thankfully most of my teachers were Goans and Anglo Indians. And these people cared a damn about pupils kissing up to them. They admired spunk and girls with confidence. On the other hand, the others…like the mallus specially, believed in cutting down confident girls to bite size pieces. As a society, we give too much importance to humility. In fact it has become a yardstick of sorts to sum up a person.

And when kids who are bought up with such mind set, walk into the corporate world, they are all but shorn of the confidence they need, to make an impact at the workplace. I spend a considerable amount of my energies in mentoring Interns under me to shed their ‘Yes Ma’am No Ma’am' routine. I spend a lot of precious bandwidth in explaining that it is their work that matters to me and not how nice they are to me. They do learn eventually, but a decade of conditioning does leave its imprint in your psyche.

It is time for a change! If we as a nation have to gear up for the brave new world we are marching towards, then we have a lot to change in ourselves as a people, than just dress ourselves with degrees and certificates!!


Sriram said...

You're absolutely right.
And in these reality shows(yuck.. there are too many of those things these days!) I guess those judges too would internally feel a distinction between someone who deliberately puts on a humbly-humbly attitude and an seemingly "over-confident" (for that's the word many people use) contestant who was, just behaving normally, albeit confidently. These things are not seen elsewhere.

mathew said...

Nice that you wrote on this..i was always thinking it was some "industry standards" of sorts..i think those set managers/directors who train the participants before the show are partly to blame..the golden rule for them is "as weird as it gets better the TRP's!!"..All those humility just could be fake...

You might see exaggerated emotions on display on western shows, you rarely see participants making "god-like" auras on the judges..

Ms Cris said...

I guess its a taken a little too far sometimes, the politeness stuff. But I dont think its real. Most contestants do it only cause they know thats what the judges are looking for, not cause they have this humongous respect.

But then though I dont believe in standing-in-folded-hands, it bugs me when people argue and fight back on the comments the judges pass. Cause most of these turn out to be just trying-to-show-I-am-perfect stuff rather than real arguments and it doesnt do any good either.

Talk when its needed and listen to the comments, no fighting, no exaggerated respect, no pretence.

SilenceKilled said...

I guess, for some people, not talking back, is more an act of indifference, rather than being polite...At least, I prefer not to talk back at most of the nuisance hurled at me, just to avoid unwanted, useless arguments. And at times, I feel, whatever I say, will hardly matter to people, who think quite high of themselves. But, yes, sometimes, this act of sensibility is taken up as my weakness ;)

Deepti said...

The contestants are so sacchrine sweet .. I am sure they and the judges suffer from diabetes..
Jokes apart, the trend is crazy, what are we showing the world.."only buttering and humility" will get you ahead. If you are confident and talented, you are most likely to be sized down

Philip said...

You won't see any change in the attitude of the contestants until they start giving points for arguing with the judges. Extreme humility is disgusting, but it is an integral part of our culture and won't go away soon. It's obvious to anyone watching that the humility on display is fake.

Having said that, different cultures have different norms of behaviour. In any contest anywhere, judges are influenced by factors other than talent...looks, race, age, etc. Think American Idol, think Idea Star's all the same. I'm not justifying any of this, by the way.

emmanuel said...

For a change and to have some differences from the monotony of the K-serials, the channels imitated the reality shows from west and packaged according to "our style". So whatever things that we see in these shows are what people want to see. The same drama, tear jerking moments, fights etc. which are the same as in the serials but now exhibited in a different format. So being humble is a part of the same drama. IMHO, whatever we see from contestants or judges (actually they are not real judges, but the SMSes!!) or anchors in the TVs are just the part of the the well scripted drama which we call as reality shows.

And coming into the obsequiousness, from the beginning of a child's academic and social life, he/she is taught to learn that "elders" know more and have more experience, which is definitely true. But as every other norm, this too has the pluses and minuses. Pluses are all obvious. But consider a situation where one realises that he or she is right and the elder (teacher or parent or mentor) is wrong according to factual evidences. In simple words, a fresh graduate will know more technical aspects of a software than me. It is clear that there's no point in claiming that I'm elder to him/her so that I know better. But in our context he/she is helpless. The 'elders' will say that 'elders' know best! And it will grow with his/her personality and it will become a significant trait of his/her personality. As you said even one's body language will be 'guided' by that. I'm not defying the merits of being humble, but one has to understand one's rights and position.

In the present context, knowledge defines the lives of people. In any walk of life, pieces of information
and their usage makes the difference. And we have started to realise that it doesn't depend on age or gender or religion or caste or colour of skin or whatever. But the rationality in our thinking is lost somewhere(Was it there?) which will only again allow the society and the age old norms to prevail over the individual. So this issue is also again the "wrong" results of a following a "right". We can only hope for a change. But how??? That will remain a question. At least "us", who are the "elders" to the next generations.

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

dont know which show u r talking about- i have seen only a few episodes of idea star singer contest(2007 -that's just over)- the type of bending backwards to please, i dont think i saw in their body language.guess each show has its own behaviou culture.

have a mild objection to your suggestion that gurukul system demands slavishness from the wards.respect can never go too far-slavishness is not respect. fundamental to gurukul sytem is the total surrender of mind to knowledge, of which the guru is a visible, palpable the mind grows to the level of that of the guru, both stand shoulder to shoulder but with no reduction in the respect for the guru. the concept is beautiful. whether it was practiced ideally, dont know.

as a mallu teacher in mumbai, i was shocked and starteld when, during my first stint as a teacher there, a student came and touched my feet on teachers day -many followed later-a couple of them lay prostrate before me! never had any such experience in all my days in kerala.tho' uncomfortable with this extremem show of respect(in mumbai), i was impressed by the confident way the same students interacted with me in class.

silverine said...

sriram: You are right! You can see judge's attitude towards singers change with their confidence levels.I find Vineeth and exception though.

mathew: Industry standards! LOl! It does seem that way, the way contestants bow and scrape and literally worship the judges! :)

ms cris: Agree with you on your observation that contestant must talk when needed and listen when needed.

silencekilled: This is def not indifference, but a desperate attempt to stay in the contest! :)

Philip: Thats an interesting point! Arguing with judges should be allowed to a certain extent. After all, the unsavory stuff can be edited out.

Deepti: You are absolutely right that the message this gives to other kids is, don't get on the wrong side of the judges!

Emmanuel: I don't see change happening too soon as teachers can make or break your life and they are aware of the same. My cousin brother was deliberately failed in I PUC because his teacher resented him. He wrote supplementary which is corrected externally and got 73% in the same subject. But he had to sit at home till he got the results and lost quite a bit of classes. I hope private schools take a lead in this!

kochithresiamma: I am not ridiculing the gurukul system, but pointing out that these judges should not be elevated to the status of the Gurus in the Gurukul system

Arun Meethale Chirakkal said...

You said it, exactly what I wanted to say. To be frank it's nauseating to see contestant's showing too much humility. Yup, one of the popular show 'Idea Star Singer' has too many 'modest' candidates and the winner beat them all when it came to be humble. In fact, an anchor was telling "See how simple our man is", and he smiled so meekly as if he did something terribly wrong. Good post, thanks.

gostana said...

Excellent point Anjali... this is very common in our mallu land... and most of us are be termed as "non-assertive" in our work-place because of this...

Vivek Menon said...

I don't want to blame the teachers or the students. But if a teacher/boss is adamant with protocol over work, it ruins the student/employee's self-confidence and productivity. Also, the participants in the music reality shows bend their back to please the judges, ahh c'mon !!! This blog should be an eye-opener to all the chamcha/Yes Sir/Yes Ma'am types... LOL

freespirit said...

Having lived by the Shahrukh philosophy of believing that you are the best, I was always being told humility is a virtue :D. Somehow I was under the impression confidence and humility are almost antithesis of each other in a way similar to what ur post suggests. And then met a bunch of people who made me realize I was absolutely wrong!

I feel its rather easy to slip into the over-confidence mode and humility holds u back from doing that.

scorpiogenius said...

I second that opinion on Mallu girls..Its a pity to see talented but home-bred girls take the back seat to North Indian counterparts just because the latter ones score more on just one point: Confidence.