Reading between lines does not come easily to me.? Part of it is my sheer inability to comprehend anything but the spoken word, and then living in the US doesn’t? help either.? I say what I mean, and I think others say what they mean.
Occasionally, my Indian genes will tell me that there could be another meaning for the? same sentence, and then I’d feel very proud of myself for having deciphered the code.
But a recent conversation made me think about how many different meanings the same sentence can have.? It also taught me how clueless I am when it comes to the art of communication.
I was talking with V on Skype when he challenged me to solve a puzzle.
“It’s a conversation between Mr. and Mrs. X. “, V said.
Mrs. X asked Mr. X a simple question – “Do you want rotis for dinner?”
Mr. X replies:? “If you ask me, I will have to refuse.”
“What you have to do”, V said, “is to decipher what Mr. X really meant. You have two chances!”
I pondered deep and long.? Maybe, I thought, Mr.? X? really doesn’t like rotis – maybe he prefers rice.?? Maybe they are easier to chew or digest or whatever.
So I said “He is really saying that given a choice, he would prefer not to have rotis”.
“No, that’s not what he is saying”, V said. “Next chance.”
“Then it must be the practice of politely saying “No” even when you mean “Yes””, I said.? “Maybe he really wants the rotis, but Mrs. X has to press him to eat them.”
But this didn’t seem right even to me.?? One does this with guests, or aunts, but not with one’s own wife, right?
V agreed. ? “What he was really saying was this – if you are asking me if I want rotis, it means you probably haven’t made enough rotis, and you are really asking me as an afterthought.
If you really wanted me to eat rotis, you’d straightaway bring the rotis and offer them to me.? Of course, I may refuse even then,? but that will be different.”
I get it now.? How much thought has gone into a simple sentence!
I guess I should segue this into an analysis on the differences between Eastern and Western civilizations, or complex social norms, or whatever.?? Me,? I am just glad I am not Mrs. X 🙂