One evening, Uncle, Grandma, Mama, my elder brother (Alwyn) and I were traveling by taxi for a wedding. Initially, the roads were busy but after a while, it started clearing up. We saw a traffic policeman at one of the signals and the lights were almost ready to change to red. I was young and brash and told the driver, “Chalo aur tez! (Drive faster)”
The driver replied, “I see the policeman.”
I said, “Kya ukhadega saala? (What can he do)”
However, Uncle interjected and told him, “It’s OK. Follow the traffic rules”. When we reached our destination, he turned around and said to Alwyn, “You go ahead with the rest of them, Godfrey and I will join you later.”
Now, when I was alone with him, I knew I was in deep trouble. He told me, “Where did you learn this type of language from? I don’t recollect using this language at home?” He further explained that he was a writer and wrote on various topics, but he never had to resort to such poor choice of words in any form to make a point.
After a pause, he added, “Will you use that kind of language in your classroom or at home or your workplace?”
I realized my mistake and looked down in silence. I then shook my head, indicating the negative.
He continued, “If a language is inappropriate in your school or work, then it has no place in any forum of your life?” After no response on my part, he asked me, “How does this language help you?”
I said, “None.”
He explained that our words are the first seeds of what has to come next. Language is a gift of expression, so use it wisely. Being polite is not a reflection of weakness but a sign of graciousness. Furthermore, if you channel your thoughts in the right direction, it will lead to positive behavior and outcomes or vice-versa. In the same token, if you are unhappy about people or the way society has defined norms or if you feel compelled to follow a certain tradition, then don’t hit a punching bag because that will result in nothing. Rather, change yourself first and believe in what you think. That’s your starting point and then try to take the next step in the process. Everyone has their own sets of beliefs and influencers but when we as individuals change, society makes progress.
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