Monday, April 09, 2007

Too good to be true??

“If someone is too good to be true, they probably are” – whoever coined this bout of wisdom, ought to know how deeply it’s ingrained in me. I don’t consider myself a pessimist, and maybe not a quixotic optimist either. But I am fairly sure that I fall somewhere in the middle. So I have sufficient belief that I don’t view the world as a dreary, black place. Yet it so happens that I always chance to meet people who evoke this gut feeling in me – “maybe too good to be true??”..

I am as averse to stereotyping as a cat is averse to dogs. And gender stereotyping has always made me breathe fumes of fury (since I have been on the receiving end). I also ‘pride’ myself on being aware and tolerant of different kinds of people, and wax poetic on the uniqueness of each individual. Yet I must admit that I find myself fitting a person into the generic template of their ‘fellow counterparts’ and frowning if the parameters extend beyond the ordinary. Worst yet, the frowning is inevitably followed by a brutal judgment – “too good to be true”. What happens after this is, me placing the unfortunate person under a metaphoric microscope to extensively analyze them, till smoke comes out of my brain. Ok, that’s an obsession I can do without. But what I can’t do without is, viewing this extremely-good-to-be-true person as a possible wolf in sheep’s clothing.

A very helpful lady once offered to carry my stuff in her jeep to my new apartment, when I was literally an alien in a new land. I was touched by her kindness, and was angered by whoever told me that people minded their business and wouldn’t offer to help strangers in a new country– that too a colored foreigner at that. I was full of gratitude to this lady whom I’d met at the community church (it’s a different story as to why I went to a church). But surprise, surprise – after a week she called me home for dinner. I go and there and see 10 other international students listening to Rev. XYZ talk about Jesus and how one needs to be Christian to go to heaven – and how much the Christian missionaries had helped poor countries like India see light and God. Hmmm…. I guess she was too good to be true.

Parents advise kids never to talk to or trust strangers. It’s extremely hard to stay truly independent in a new land, with hardly anybody you know. You are left to decide on your own instincts to trust people who come forward to help you. All the “protective” men in my life have warned me to be especially careful with a stranger who happens to be a man/guy (discrimination I agree – but it has some truth to it). When such a man portrays the impression of an impeccable gentleman, next to the ranks of Sir Gallahad (or maybe it was someone else), speaking out these idealistic statements of his impressions on life and girls, you stop and ponder. Experience would teach all girls that you need to wish on a million falling stars to meet a man who is as idealistic as every girl imagines. When you do meet such a person, it’s skepticism all over. Proof that women can be complex and very hard to please, I guess. Just because the men in my life have painted a picture of the general populace of average men, it doesn’t mean there can’t be some with all those idealistic qualities, that are deemed nonexistent by others. Have we lost hope on feelings such as genuine affection a man can have on a girl, without any undercurrent of anything more? Have we progressed to a state where a man calling another girl his sister, is laughed hysterically at, with the sheer incredulity of it?

But how do you know when a person is stretching his limit in taking you for a Miss. Softy Pie who would buy something that is totally ridiculous? How do you know he isn’t cheating and he does belong to that magic 1% when he calls you his sister? At some level it is incredible to me because no man can be so idealistically angelic. Do I really know so many men to know that for a fact? So what if my guy friends vouch that no fellow man can be so? Is their influence so strong on my thought process?

All of this just brought to light the nagging stereotyped images that really corrupt the mind and plants notions involuntarily. It’s hard to shake them off. But it’s a sad plight that gender precipitates such judgments. I earnestly discuss this with friends and close ones, and they only reiterate my beliefs. This is extremely sad. Have we lost hope on humanity that a genuinely nice and helpful person runs the risk of being looked at with a skeptical eye? Has it become so difficult for a person who is radically different to be taken seriously by others, without being compared to his native template? It is equally sad that each of us have invariably had bad experiences causing us to question such instances.

It’s ironic that we keep complaining about the absence of good will and kindness among people – but such qualities in excess seem to scare us to the extent of distrust. Being too idealistic and too perfect is equated to a mirage. I guess we have ‘progressed’ to the state of realization that some evil has to reside in all good.

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