Sunday, December 14, 2008

The all important 'context'

Knowing and understanding the context of any statement, event or happening is so important. The same event in the backdrop of different contexts can have entirely different meanings.

Take my haircut, for example.

A few months back, I decided to shave off all the hair on my head. So, I went to my regular barber's shop and told the barber assigned to me as much. His name was Amba Das. He suggested cropping it very short instead of going the whole hog. I said, "What the heck, might as well try something new." I asked him to do it.

At the end of it, I was quite happy with the results. But I was not at all sure how others would react. Over the next few days, I was quite overwhelmed with the compliments I received. From "sexy" to "suits you" to "tummuchitis (too much it is), keep it like that only", they kept pouring in. The last one especially, from someone that mattered.

Amba Das was a genius.

This was the reaction from people who knew the context of what had happened. They knew that this was intentional. They knew a barber had done it. They knew that it was done at my behest.

Compare this with those who did not know the context.

"How did you lose your hair?"

"What happened to your hair?"

"I never thought hair loss was a side effect of dialysis!"

Gawd! Spare me the horror!

I had to painstakingly explain that I got this done myself. It was meant to be a fashion statement, maybe. Dialysis has nothing to do with this.

"Oh!", they would exclaim. I could read their disbelief quite easily. Wtf, I would think. I couldn't care less. I was happy with it. So were the people that mattered.

But, coming back to my initial point, the context is really important. Famous people are often quoted out of context and I sympathize with them. A single statement, taken without what was asked or what was said before can have a totally different meaning than what was intended.

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