By Jyots Bhattacharjee
Whatever you might say, I believe that butter does warp our judgment to a certain extent. Even the hardest nut cracks and melts under a liberal dose of butter. Many of us do say that we hate flattery, but it is not true. In actual fact we love it. As William Shakespeare wrote in his classic “Julius Caesar”- “But when I tell him he hates flatterers, he says he does, being then most flattered”. In actual fact no human being is perfect. Every human being has some defects in ture. But we often forget our faults due to fulsome flattery. It is often seen that very few people are immune from this kind of obsequiousness. Even the most sensible amongst us cannot resist flattery. Falling for undue praise is itself a grave fault in human ture. Perhaps it is human ture to embrace the fake in place of the real. We find many faults in others, but not in ourselves. It is our habit to overlook our flaws and deficiencies and think that we are above criticism, when somebody for one reason or another praises us to the sky. Almost everybody, including myself, fall for it like ninepins. I think it is due to the fact that all of us like to be praised even for non-existent quality or non-performance. Self-criticism and introspection might be able to cure us from this flaw in our ture, but we rarely do it. I have no idea if there is some person somewhere, who is immune from flattery. But till now I have not seen such a person.
My cold common sense often taunts me for lapping up extravagant compliments, offered by some people, with the certain knowledge that flattery will take them a long way in the fulfillment of their goal. Not that I can do anything worthwhile for them, since I have neither power, nor money nor any connection in high places. May be they think that I can help them in some way, though their belief is misplaced. They probably act under the mistaken idea that I may be able to do something for them. They invent some excellent qualities in me, which are entirely non-existent. We do fall for this kind of insincere compliment easily, without realizing that we are merely making a laughing stock of ourselves. Even the wise and the practical persons are often swayed by this kind of flattery. It is a human weakness to fall for flattery and it is a fact that we like it. But too much flattery may lead to dangerous consequences, since it may encourage us to over-estimate ourselves, thereby making us objects of ridicule and contempt. It has been said that Benjamin Disraeli, the great statesman, once commented: “Everyone likes flattery, and when you come to Royalty you should lay it on a trowel”. Some people say that only women fall for flattery, but it is not at all true, men also succumb to it. Actually it is not at all justifiable to place man and woman in a separate category, since both the species are susceptible to flattery. Insincere praise makes us forget that we are ordiry human beings without any claim to excellence. Some people flatter another just for the sake of politeness or for adhering to social norms and some do it for self promotion. Hence it is wise to take flattery in judicious doses. But it is easier said than done.
I have been lured time and again into a make-believe world of illusion due to flattery, though I often boast that I hate flatterers, thereby demonstrating my supposed superiority to other lesser mortals. The statement itself implies my insatiable thirst for flattery. Take for instance, this intrusion of a Sadhu into my household some years back. He looked holy and god-like in his saffron robe, and wore huge tilak on his forehead and a “rudraksha mala” round his neck. He rang the bell and I opened the main door. The moment he saw me, he beamed at me and uttered a clincher that I was the epitome of virtue. He heaped praises on me, saying that he saw in me a very religious and pious individual, though how he knew me from Adam remained an insoluble mystery. Anyway, I was overwhelmed by his eloquence. He came in and sat down on the sofa and told me many nice things about myself, whose existence I never knew. I thought that the sadhu was right and no other person or even my family realized my sterling qualities. Filly after having a glass of milk, some sweets and fruits, he departed leaving me poorer by 500 rupees. Not a negligible amount for me. But I did not regret for spending more than I could afford. At least he gave a boost to my sagging image—did he not? Not every day you hear such wonderful things about yourself. That was the price I paid for flattery.
After hearing about the incident my husband shook his head and said in a pitying voice that it was so easy to fool me, that even a child would be able to rob me of my money with smooth talk. I had no answer to his derogatory remarks. That was not the only time that I was swayed by flattery. In spite of my advanced age I fell for flattery like a ton of bricks. Whenever anybody said something nice to me, I swallowed it—hook, line and sinker. I wonder if others also fall for this kind of obsequiousness—possibly they do! Flattery often made me act like a moron. After wards I did regret my thoughtless behaviour—but it was too late. After all these years, when I am in the last phase of my life, I have realized that we should be a bit cautious in lapping up flattery. Actually this kind of insincere praise often gives us a wrong picture of ourselves, leaving no scope for the correction of our faults.
Now various industrial houses also have taken recourse to the buttering process for self-promotion, as they have rightly gauged the pulse of the people. Lavish use of butter is sure to bring high returns—and it is true in every field and individual. The business houses have successfully exploited the weakness of the people.
To cite an example, take this intertiol magazine. I happen to be their regular customer and have subscribed for it for years and years. Even if I feel disinclined to continue with the yearly subscription, I just cannot do it. I have to bow down to their incessant polite reminders till I feel like paying up and he done with it. For years I have been receiving letters from this magazine, informing me in crisp language that I am one of the lucky ones to be chosen for a free mystery gift, if I subscribed to the magazine and availed a discount. They also made a condition that I will be eligible to avail the mystery gift, only if I bought some books offered by them at special reduced price, amounting to thousands, which I could ill afford with my limited resources. They thoughtfully informed me that the offer was meant only for their “Valued” customers. These high-powered sale drives are of course usual in the present age. But I believe that the magazine sometimes really surpasses itself in its zest for self-promotion.
Some time back, for three solid days and nights I floated in a cloud of illusion, and really acquired a very high idea of myself—all because this magazine had sent me a letter, informing me that I was one of the very lucky ones, who had been privileged to acquire a VIP Card. I had not the foggiest notion as to what a VIP Card-holder implied or why an insignificant and ordiry person like me was chosen for it. But the style of presentation and the extravagant composition of the letter did turn my head. I could not help feeling proud, thinking that I had a decided edge over my friends and acquaintances. For this favour of the magazine, which I had not sought, I was entitled to many privileges. But a string was tied to them. For those unsolicited favours, I had to buy at least three books (also at a discount) from the catalogue they sent. I realized sadly that for acquiring fame one had to pay handsomely.
Yet the bait of the VIP card was dangling before my mind tantalizingly. turally I felt inches taller and thought that none of my family and friends could detect my sterling qualities, which were brought to open by this intertiol magazine. I basked under the mantle of deluded glory till I found out that at least ten of my friends were offered similar VIP cards by the said magazine. Imagine my chagrin—my inflated ego deflated like a burst balloon. Now of course I am wiser than before, though sometimes I do fall for it in spite of my better judgment.
Flattery has different hues—and it has spread into high places. Diverse associations have been formed with various mes and brands. Their style is somewhat different from some others. They have introduced various awards in diverse categories, which may be in education, social work, business, literary activities etc. Apparently these awards have become three a penny. I was flabbergasted when I received an offer of such an award a few years back. As far as I knew, I had not done anything remarkable to win an award. After the first shock of course I became used to them. Since then I have received several letters from different organizations offering me an award for something or the other. But now I know very well that there is nothing to be elated about these pseudo-awards. In each letter I find that one has to send a hefty amount by cheque or draft to those organizations, ostensibly for taking part in the semir. Obviously these awards are tied up with money. Now-a-days I do not even bother to read such letters.
That is another kind of flattery, giving a boost to the ego. Hence it does seem that some of these awards can be bought. So I am no longer interested in these award-offering letters. It seems that the industrial enterprises are no longer content with letter-writing, hoardings, banners or even TV presentation. In answering your door bell you might be confronted by some charming young man or woman with a delightful smile. A handsome young man came to my home the other day to demonstrate the various electrical gadgets for purifying air from pollution. He drew a grim picture of what the future held in store for me, unless I placed an order for their products. He assured me that those gadgets had the power to drive away all those invisible germs lurking in my house and he added that the pollution-free air would be ideal for my family’s health. I could not help wondering after all that eloquence, how we had survived all these years without those miraculous gadgets. He informed me very kindly that he was sure that such a sensible and enlightened person like me would never refuse to buy the gadgets, which were so good for my family. The slabs of butter worked and I had to loosen my purse strings.
If you fall for that line of talk, inevitably your home would turn into a junk house, full of fancy things, which you would never use. This insincere cajolery may also make us forget our true worth and we would tend to overestimate our abilities, which, in the long run would have a negative impact on our persolity. I think we should be very careful and keep a long distance from the flatterers. But it is easy to say, yet difficult to do it. It is no use blinking facts—all of us like people to praise us for non-existent qualities. In the face of flattery we forget our deficiencies and believe that we are above others, which brings nothing but ridicule from friends and acquaintances. Hence we should keep ourselves firmly on the ground and assess our true worth. We should take flattery with a large tablespoon of salt. It is far better to steer clear of flatterers, who try to misguide us with false and insincere accolades.