Tuesday, July 7, 2009

If I were you...

Another nagging-for-some-time-now issue at the back of my mind is this usage of "If I were you, I'd do/not do this/that" for a simple suggestion/advice you ask someone. I started noticing this only with some American colleagues but then realized most of us Indians here have adopted that too.
Why can't people just say do this or do that if we ask them something. I mean, if you are so wary about being blamed for directly telling the asker to do something he/she might later blame you for, you have a perfectly valid reason for saying whatever you said, because it was the asker who asked you what he/she should do, which is why you told him/her whatever you did.
It is quite possible that I am being this ultra-sensitive, touchy kind of character but, frankly, when someone tells me - "If I were you, I'd buy this", it gives me this slippery kind of feeling - as if the person is trying to be a diplomatic smart-ass and trying to nazhuvify from what they said. Ok, I have no right to complain or grumble when an American speaks to me this way - it's how he (since there is no she) has been speaking all his life. If I were to complain about this, then I would start complaining about his accent, etc. Not happening. Not fair, since I don't know if our way is the correct way to say it. But when fellow Indians, that too, really close friends from home speak to me in the same way, I am forced to resort to blogging. [:D]
Please don't blame me for being this nitpicky maamiyaarish eternally-kutham-kandupudichufying character. Yes, I do find it irritating when Desis here use "Sounds good" for any (absolutely ANY) kind of plan/idea/agreement, etc. if it's ok or "I'm not sure if that's going to work out" for anything not ok, "Preeshiyate it" for any help done (Who is Preeshi? What did she eat?). Yes, I understand it's a decent polite way of saying yes/no but to me, this decency seems artificial, that too, within friends. But then, I'm not blogging about that, am I? [;)]
  • First of all, the statement is logically flawed. Whenever someone says "If I were you..." the remainder of the statement ceases to hold any significance. Why - because you are not me, you just are NOT me. Then why in the world would either you or me be bothered about what you would be doing if you were me?
  • CBM - A straightforward statement like "Machi, do this da" or "I think this would be a better option for you" sounds so much more reassuring than an "I would if I were you" statement. I agree that the part "If I were you" gives us the impression that the other person was trying to put himself in our shoes, but when we realize next second that the other person is not us, it sounds much less confident. I understand that "If I were you" is synonymous with "If I were in your situation", which is more realistic, nevertheless, it still is not as confidence-building as "This is the better option."
  • More logical flaw - Ok, you are not me. But, even if we could somehow imagine you being me, how and when can you define that you are actually me? Do circumstances (the oft-quoted sandarbha-soozhnelaigal from Tamil Cinema) define a person or is it his opinions or is it his appearance? Or is it his name?
Consider the following conversation -

Tring Tring Tring Tring...

Obama - Hello Yaar Pesardhu?
Osama - Nee dhaan da pesare.
Obama - Ada...'S'aanavane...Wassup dude?
Osama - (Smirking) I see old habits die hard...oru 'B'ya vechu enna aattam aattare?
Obama - Don't say that. You are trying to suppress and oppress and
depress the view of the American.
Osama - Hayyo Hayyo. Anyways, I've been hiding for some time now.
Bored. Want to come out with a bang. Any idea where I can start?
Obama - Dude, we're already screwed. If I were you, I'd go for China.
Osama - Hey B, good one. There's something brewing in Uighur too. Let
me check that out. Sounds good. Preeshiyet it.
Obama - Chao then. Take care buddy. Catch you later.

You see? Obama isn't Osama and even if he was Osama, he needn't necessarily do what Osama would want to do, nor what is good for Osama.
That's what I'm trying to say. Catch my point?
PS: Sorry Anand, you started it. [:D]