Thursday, 12 January 2012

Why every other Indian housewife can interpret human behaviour more effectively than a seasoned HR specialist?

It was just the other day. I was trying to spend some quality time with my mother-in-law at home, who was incidentally more glued to the television set infront of her than reciprocating to my warm companionship. The 14-inch Onida Candy (one of my earliest possessions since I started earning, over a decade back) in the guest room, was airing a popular Bangla soap – “Binni Dhaner Khoi” on an equally popular Bangla entertainment channel.
The serial, at the fag end of its slot for the day, must have reached a climax! I could gauge that from the sheer tension that was clearly visible on my mother-in-law’s face, ignorant of my persistent efforts to impress her with some ‘lame’ antics. And that’s when she pronounced, “Baas, hoye geche! Ebar ai mahilati oar meyeke shami-strir majhe eney, eder shonar shanshar ta bhenge debe. (Well, its all over now! That woman will wreck their peaceful family by planting her daughter between the husband and wife)” 
Ah! There she goes… I was just about to exclaim with a grunt. But decided to reserve my criticism for some other time. I rather thought of contemplating on the fact how (on earth!) could she so quickly analyse certain behavioural traits of the characters on screen just by sieving through the ensuing exchange of dialogues to predict a future event.  Just about precisely (within the next 2 episodes, it became clear that she has done a fairly decent job of predicting the obvious). Well, isn't that the role of a psychologist or a professional, specialised in mapping human behaviour? Isn't this the kind of work for which these professionals earn a fat pay cheque? Certainly yes. Then how did she see through the human behaviour or the intent of one of the characters to try and ruin the happy family in the serial? Was it just by fluke? I would rather disagree.
With the volume of daily soaps being aired on national and regional cable channels, the option of television viewing has increased multifold from what it was even half a decade ago. This increase in television viewing has opened up an array of television serials (with a greedy intent to cash in on the TRPs) across all the regional languages. A majority of all these serials or daily soaps, being aired across India cater to the family drama genre - essentially painting the mind of the viewer with different hues of emotions, feelings, behaviours and characterisations. 
A distantly remembered vamp (a coinage which became extremely popular thanks to Nadira, Lalita Pawar, Shobha Khote, et al during the 50s till the 80s) from the silver screen has now made her entry straight into our bedrooms through the roles etched by the 'dirty' damsels of the daily soaps. Every minute of their screen presence have made us sit up and take note of their acting. Add to it a pinch of lust, greed, envy, hatred - and we have a heady cocktail of everything evil that rests in the id (reference: id, ego, superego) state of a human mind.
Now, if one person is exposed to a daily dose of at least 4 hours of family drama (and melodrama) for 5 days a week, then the person has already consumed around 1000 hours of television content in a year, which focuses on the extremes of human behaviour and cognitive states. Who else than the stereotypical Indian housewife, who after seeing her kids off to school and husband off for work, takes another 2-3 hour to complete most of the daily chores and finally after settling down on the couch to rest, takes the liberty to frisk through the daily soaps at her leisurely pace. Add to this some 5-7 years of personal experience in a family set up, and we have a seasoned psychologist that even a Freud or a Cattell (Raymond Cattell, a noted behavioural scientist of the 20th century) would dare challenge, forget about the jargon-chanting HR managers. Hence, these housewives are no more to be looked down upon as a poor cousin to the much hyped and educated working wives of the current generation. Be it at home or work, our lives rest on our expertise in dealing with people and situations (that is the introductory statement in any first year management class). To deal with both, we need to understand the people - their nature, their behaviour, how they think or perceive and then analyse how the same person may react in a different environment. Based on this analysis, we also modify our behaviour towards the person. This power of introspection and retrospection may take a lot of time even years for someone to nurture from inside. But if you are exposed to a simulated environment or get to witness live case-studies - 1000 hours of it in a year, well, then one learns and nurtures faster the art of predicting people and future events based on people's behaviour, just as my mother-in-law did that day.
So, the next time I have a vile thought against my mother-in-law, I should take extreme caution. I know for sure, she can read minds. So friends, take my suggestion, have due respect for that otherwise-considered-conservative-ghar-ki-bahu, as she knows what you have in your mind.

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