Sunday, 14 March 2010


How we admire the wisdom of those who come to us for advice. Indeed, some people are convinced that rendering advice is a fundamental right at par with such other rights as Right to Speech, Right to Religion, and Right to Property. Whatever be a person’s condition, these advisors are convinced that he or she would benefit from their (unsolicited) advice. Should the concerned person then do the unthinkable of not taking the advice, it is invariably followed by an ‘I-told-you-at-that-time-but...’ attitude.

I don’t know what the pecking order amongst the gratuitous advisors is but the real experts in this field are the ones who render medical advice. These professionals are armed with advice ranging from simple cough and cold remedies to cure of something as serious as cancerous growths. First of all, don’t get me wrong; these are the people who really feel for you and wish you well. Their hearts bleed to see you lying on the hospital bed. Their concern for you is so much that they would do anything within their means to make you better. Their mood is somber when they subject you to careful visual examination after depositing roses and the customary ‘Get Well’ card at your bedside table. And then comes the verdict, “You look good. You don’t look ill at all. But these days who can tell? My aunty also had the same problem a few years back. Everyone kept saying how she was improving. I was the only one who told her to get an MRI test done since I had read on the Internet that sometimes the malignancy doesn’t show in blood tests or X-rays. If only she had listened to my advice. But, you don’t have to worry. I am sure everything would work out right in your case. One can’t keep getting MRIs done just because someone tells you to. Bat on, Ravi, and don’t you worry about Lyn at all. We shall look after her.”

So after cheering you up when these good Samaritans leave, getting an MRI done becomes so much of a priority with you that you wonder if you should be spending the night without getting one done. You remain awake the whole night, tossing in the bed from side to side. In the morning when the doctor tells you that they have decided to discharge you as the tests have found nothing wrong, the ominous warning about ‘malignancy not showing in blood tests or X-rays’ makes you miserable. So if you are not able to convince the doctor of the need to get (an urgent) MRI done, you somehow elicit from him as to from where you can get one done privately on your own.

There are experts on every conceivable topic that you can think of. They can give you advice on how to invest your money, where to go for dinner, vacations and shopping, the best suited careers for your children, and, how to run the cricket team, navy and the country. If only Dravid had listened to them and brought in Agarkar at the crucial moment, the results of the match would have been different! Surely, Vajpayee must have been blind to overlook their advice on US of A. “And mind you”, they would tell you with great authority, “Manmohan appears to be committing the same mistake.”

How devoid of colour life would be if we did not have these people offering us advice. But, have you ever noticed that the guys who give you good advice are never around when their advice fails? At the very moment when you want to have a word with them regarding the hare brained idea they talked you into they are probably busy finding another gullible man and advising him. In any case, even if they were around they would probably tell you that you did not follow their advice in the manner they had envisaged. Alas.

A man once drove his second hand car to the dealer and said, “Can you please tell me, once again, about the virtues of this car that you sold me. Sometimes, I get very dejected, you know.”

The hard core advisors, however, take all post-advice criticism in their stride. An insurance apprentice once complained to his senior that he had followed the latter’s advice regarding persistent approach in door to door selling of life insurance and that he was badly insulted. The veteran looked the rookie in the eye and said, “Son, I have been in this business for forty-five years now. I had doors slammed in my face. I was abused, slapped and hit. But, insulted? Never.”

How I wish I had put a rupee in my piggy bank for every bit of advice that was rendered to me and I had the good sense to ignore. I would have been a very rich and/or famous man by now. But I, the sucker that I was, followed the advice, for example, to buy shares with my hard earned savings just prior to the market crash caused by the activities of a certain gentleman called Harshad Mehta. Earlier they had advised me that the safest investment was real estate and I bought a plot of land in Punjab’s most upcoming city. To borrow a phrase from a retired Admiral - the ink was not yet dry on the sale deed - when another gentleman called Beant Singh decided to kill the Prime Minister. Suddenly Punjab was in turmoil and my golden investment was not even worth the paper it was written on. In the recent past I stood as a prosecutor in the closeted atmosphere of a courts martial room, day after day, whereat everyone (there are generally only twelve people in a CM Room) looked at me accusingly except the stenographers (who had their backs to me and hence were not looking at me one way or the other) and I remembered the advice given to me some thirty-five years back: “Join the navy see the world; join the navy meet the girls.

So, to cut a long story short, here is my advice to all you ladies and gentlemen:

• Don’t let anyone build up to his or her advice. You are in for a jolt. If you follow it you are jinxed and if you don’t it would keep rankling in your mind. This is particularly true of the forwarded e-mails asking you to forward these for good luck or else.
• Since I notice that despite my advice you are still reading this article, my next advice is that ask the person giving you advice if he has ever followed his own advice.
• If you are really bold, counter a person’s advice with one of your own. For example when they tell you that Methi soaked in water is the best cure for gastric problems, tell them, “My aunty tried that for a number of years but what cured her finally was Karela juice with raw garlic.”
• Remember that experts and professionals really don’t need advice. When a person asked a famous sculptor advice on how to carve an elephant out of a rock, he was told, “Take a large piece of rock and chisel away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.” Life is as simple as that.
• Lastly, those who don’t study the past will repeat its errors. Those who do study it will find other ways to err. So in the end, advice or no advice, it always evens out.

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