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Journalist, Author, Columnist. My Twitter handle: @seemagoswami

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What’s not to hate?

There really can be no other honest reaction to smugness

When it comes to human vices, I have no problem getting on board with greed. After all, I can never say no to a second helping of chocolate cake, so who am I to judge? I can sympathise with the instinct to lie, because to tell you the truth, you need a bit of dishonesty to smoothen the wheels of social discourse. I have no quarrel with avarice because if we didn’t want more than we have, then we’d probably still be stuck in the Dark Ages. Bad temper I can cope with, because God knows I am no saint in that department. And I can make my peace with lust because without that the human race would have died out long ago.

There’s just one thing that I simply cannot stand: smugness.

There is something so smarmy and nasty about it that it gets my hackles up the moment it hoves into view. No sooner does it rear its ugly head in my vicinity than I want to tear it right off and shove it someplace where the sun never shines. Okay, so patience is not my strong suit, but seriously, what other honest reaction can you have to smugness?

I was reminded of this when I saw the holiday snaps of American President Obama and his lovely family on vacation in a natural park in Maine. There they were, the tall and handsome Barack, his slim and beautiful wife Michelle, and their two beautiful daughters, riding bikes, trekking up mountains, going for long walks, playing one sport or another. Frankly, it made me wonder when they found the time to catch their breath, let alone have an entire meal.

But the message behind all these photo-opportunities was clear. See, the Obamas seemed to be saying to all their fellow (obese) Americans, this is how a healthy family goes on holiday. And if you want to be as thin and beautiful as us, steer clear of those Happy Meals at McDonalds, stay away from those slot machines at Vegas, and for God’s sake, get off your fat backsides and do some exercise. You can skip like the First Lady, play basketball like the President or hula-hoop your way to fitness like Sasha and Malia. This is what you should be doing on holiday, not kicking back with a six-pack of beer and an oversized packet of crisps.

Now, tell me, how irritating is that? Isn’t it enough that we have to deal with picture-perfect photographs of celebrities and their fabulous lives? Do they have to shame us with images of their aerobicized annual vacations as well?

But while the smugness might begin with celebrities, it certainly doesn’t stop with them. It is alive and well and flourishing in your vicinity, thanks to your many friends, family members, casual acquaintances, neighbours and passing strangers.

It rears its ugly head with your sibling who can’t stop showing off about the fact that he is making double the money that you are; his kids are doing much better in school; his car is twice the size of yours; his house was recently re-modelled; and his wife is still hot enough to elicit admiring glances from the neighbourhood boys.

In the office, this smugness manifests itself in that co-worker who always manages to have his work ready ahead of time, drawing unnecessary attention to the fact that you have missed your deadline yet again. Or it could show up in the boss who is convinced that he is right about everything – and maddeningly enough, always is.

The sad truth is that there is simply no escaping smugness in our everyday lives. You will encounter it in the gym in the person of that hyper-fit young woman who insists on doing her stretches right in the middle of the room so that everyone can marvel at her contortionist ways. Or in that over-muscled man who grunts and groans away in the weights section so that no one can remain oblivious of the fact that he is bench-pressing double his body weight.

In the swimming pool, you will encounter the mandatory bikini babe who is there not to swim but to show off her perfectly-buffed frame. So, she spends all her time on the lounger, rubbing suntan lotion into her exfoliated, cellulite-free body, and adjusting her straps so that she tans evenly – while all the other women lunge for their bathrobes the moment they are out of the water.

Go shopping for groceries or vegetables and you will invariably be stuck behind someone who wants to know where the cherries or pears are from, whether they have any organic basmasti rice, and could they possibly rustle up some roasted snacks rather than all this deep-fried rubbish.

And I’m pretty sure that we all have the neighbour from hell, whose garden looks pristine no matter what the season, whose ficus is always doing better than ours, whose children never seem to break anyone’s windows when they play cricket, and whose wife manages to cook a hot dinner every night despite holding down a demanding job (and who can’t understand why you order in from Dominos quite so often).

The underlying message behind all this smugness – no matter how or where it manifests itself – is the same: “Hey, look, I am much better than you. And you couldn’t possibly be as healthy, slim, hard-working, successful, talented, rich or happy as I am, no matter how hard you tried.”

You tell me. What’s not to hate?


Dark Covenant said...

I like the style of this one a lot. Very subtle humor and very apt examples. The self righteous complacent behavior is a little too prevalent nowadays nay?

Find it hard to find people who actually do things for the real purpose of doing it. The Bikini babe is the perfect image of that.

PS : Really good to see something new this week. You asked me to suggest a few ideas for the column. Here's one I would like to read. At the end of the day, its the lady's choice

Humor is overrated when it comes to writing. If you're not funny, you're not good.

Anonymous said...

Hey, yeah you are right about the smugness..but there is one important example you forgot!- I call them "Facebookzillas"..they are those annoying people who put up all their vacation photos, 500 partying photos, picnic photos, baby in cute clothes photos, weekend by the poolside photos etc. begging for people to say "oh, you look so hot", or "oh, your baby is so adorable", or "you and your husband look so cute together"... Sick
posted by Varsha

Anonymous said...

Also, for your next article, can you please write an article on the constant harassment faced by single people at the hands of their family members :-) I am single and I now find it tortuous to meet or even talk on the phone with any aunt/cousin/family friend because they seem to be obsessed with my marriage. Can you PLEASE tell them all to shut up...and you can quote me..My name is Varsha, 31, Delhi.

Montoyaa said...

lol....also blog about how single men are treated in India. Like a illegal immigrant at every party or pub in the city.

Anonymous said...

Last week, while reading your stuff i seriously felt that you have outskilled OW in the craft of social commentary.


Share & share alike is liked very much.

- unskilled

Anonymous said...

Liked your article very much. I wait every sunday for your brunch article its almost like a morning breakfast for me. You almost pen my thoughts in your articles.Kudos!