‘No’, it is not a bad word

Lakhinder Jit Singh Vohra

Growing up as an Indian, it is a character defect — the inability to say ‘no’. Can you say no to your mother when she offers a second helping at the dinner table? Can you say no to your boss? How about saying no to your wife or mother-in-law? Not happening, right?

Instead of saying no, we are taught to nod our head and take it. Bear it. Deal with it. Handle it with the chalta-hai attitude we have learnt to acquire. Do you remember the last time you said no?

Having lived in the United States, one word you do come to learn — and relish — is the art of saying no. And yes, in America, no does actually mean no. You can very easily say no to the cable guy who knocks on your door for subscription. You can say no to discard and follow it up with Trumpianism ‘You are fired!’ in the same breath! No worries on that account. Everything can easily be turned into a no before it is a yes.

In India, however, it is the other way round: everything is a yes, even when everything is meant to be a no. You have to read between the lines if you want to know the truth: repeated assurances that ‘it will be done no matter what’; ‘just one or two more days, sir’; ‘200 per cent it will be taken care of’; ‘samjho ho gaya’ — all are thin veils of a no.

After 30 years of living all over the United States, first as a graduate student in Chicago, then a cub reporter in Washington, D.C., then publishing stunts in New York and then other worldly pursuits in Las Vegas — I settled in a small sleepy beach town, just 15 minutes away from the US-Mexican border, called Imperial Beach. My days would begin with rounds of tea on the sun-drenched balcony and desi lunch with my beach backpack, watching vacationers lie flat on their stomach looking like sun-dried tomatoes. And then, I realised that I had had enough. Seen it all. Conquered it all. But still sleepy after all those years.

One fine day, when the mortgage bill, cell phone bill, car payment, health and car insurance bill arrived religiously at the end of the month, along with copious junk mail, the time had come to say no.

I packed my bags, turned in the keys to my flat and my luxury car and took the first Emirates flight out from Los Angeles to New Delhi without batting an eyelid.

After 30 years of saying yes to America, I finally said no.

Source Link: https://www.tribuneindia.com

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