We are all so excellent at NOT minding our own business.
It is one thing to be interested in someone/something and keep those opinions to yourself, regardless of how thrilling/good/bad/complimentary/abusive the opinions might be.
It is quite another thing to compulsorily listen to someone you don't know, or simply know by sight, passing an opinion on you, unasked.
As a child , one learned to ignore and keep one's own counsel, and clarify things with parents, and this translated into an adult, who could deal with any nonsense comment and opinion, , by simply pushing it aside and devaluing it out of the mind, and classifying the commenter as, hitherto, persona non grata .
And so in high school, (I still remember the bullying senior girls, who passed disparaging comments on me (for no reason at all , since i hardly knew them) , and ensured they reached me via a classmate of mine ). It troubled me then , but I overcame it.
And I still remember admiring the grand but completely inappropriate , outfit worn by a newly acquired relative-by-marriage, just for walking down a prominent downtown Mumbai street with her husband, and then hearing a comment from her, (complete with a sideways meaningful glance) about how she doesn't like shabby dressers . :-)
And much later, another similar female personality, who greeted me at a family event where I went rushing from work, juggling a kid and Mumbai windblown /sweaty traffic etc, to be asked , "Why do you look so haggard ?" and I resisted an impulse to say I was practicing being a witch.
A lifetime of dealing with completely unacceptable questions and unasked-for advice about choices, complexions, kids, purchases etc, convinced me that level of education had nothing to do with the ability to poke your nose into some one's business, and give unasked for advice, which was outrageous and sometimes , even wrong. In fact I was convinced that the higher the level of education, the more stupid the suggestions. (I still stand by that ). I also noticed that it wasn't just women, but men also who thought they were doing a favour by giving opinions.
A few decades down the line, folks have given up interfering , or so I thought.
What has stood me in good stead, is the ability to not take any offence at what anyone says (regardless of how personal it is) , brush away these folks from my mind, and ignore them, while quickly checking out their suggestions (for random useful points) , before forwarding them to Recycle Bin .
But destiny has now thrown up a completely different set of folks who are desperate to advise me.
I think twice before visiting the much prevalent Handloom and Handicraft exhibitions , which in addition to the normal things, always have a few stalls with acupuncture footwear, massage rollers, oils and stuff, as well as stalls with all kinds to chatpata amla, ginger, and other spicy stuff which is salted, candied, and sold in packets.
The reason has been my lumbar belt, which I have acquired in the interests of saving what remains of my bedraggled lumbar vertebra, thanks to a lifetime of a habit of lugging inordinate loads myself, be they luggage, shopping or anything else, combined with the vagaries of "old age".
You turn the corner between the Haryana Handlooms bedsheets and Kolhapur Silver jewellery, and there is a guy sitting behind the jeera and tamarind golis, suddenly asking me about the belt, and then advising me on weight, what I should eat, not eat, hot water, cold water, food timings, special herbs to be eaten just so.
Another time, I was admiring some crochet work and heard someone words from below a counter just behind me . I was thunderstruck to hear a guy mention the thyroid. Just like that. The guy was having his lunch below the counter, and noticed me standing. He must have noticed my swollen ankles. He said I had a thyroid problem (I do) , then weight, and started giving advice of many things including footwear.
But the most prize winning performance has been a couple of days ago .
We often prefer to take a ricksha to near by places because it solves the problem of parking your vehicle, having it towed by authorities, and then one spending hours getting it back from some place else.
The minute we got into the ricksha, something clicked "ON" in the driver's head. He started analyzing my back problem, identified the actual dorsal vertebra, explained the causes of low back pain. Then he went on to explained the concepts of the vertebral column abnormally straightening instead of keeping its S shape. Vitmain D made its entry in the lecture, with him ruing the fact that no one got up early these days to take benefit of the early morning Sun which was full of Vit D . He mentioned ancient early morning, post bath worship of the Sun. He then came to the sitting postures, and described what we did wrong. In between sudden braking, swerving to various sides to avoid , say, other nonscientific ricksha wallas, he explained rules of diet, when we should eat, what we should eat, and how drinking warm/hot water works wonders.
At a traffic light, I asked him if he came from a family of "vaidyas", which might explain his interest. He answered in the negative. He started college, but had to leave after a few years due to financial compulsions, and started driving a ricksha. But he had great interest in the human body and health, and so had continued to read up things in biology, and human anatomy , simply as a useful hobby.
Maybe I am getting affected by this business of poking one's nose into someone else's business.
I dearly wanted to interview the fellow, and do an article on him, where he grew up, his family background, his education, and what brought him to Mumbai. How he developed this huge store of knowledge that he brought up good naturedly, each time he found a likely target, like me.
I wonder about all these folks who spend their entire lives doing something totally unconnected like selling bedsheets, or chatpata stuff and pickles in exhibitions, while actually pursuing some kind of native interest in anatomy and health.
I wonder what would have been the case if they had good schools and colleges where they hailed from, where merit was rewarded , and schools and colleges allowed to benefit from funds allocated to them, instead of finding their way into pockets of unscrupulous politicians.
But what brings a smile to the mind, ( in the face of my experience of a fancy orthopedic person, in a fancier orthopedic place, unwilling to check the swollen ankle to classify what kind the swelling was), is the guy having a dabba meal behind the exhibition counter, amidst sarees and dupattas, noticing my ankles from below the counter , and giving his diagnosis.
Great minding of other people's business , hmm ?