Misunderstandings are a part of life anywhere. Though living together as a family in spite of the many differences between us is THE one most distinguishing characteristic of army life, negative qualities like jealousy, one-upmanship, carrying tales (and believing the tales thus heard, against one’s better judgment) etc do happen more than anyone cares to admit. I had one such situation on my hands when my neighbor carried tales to the commanding officer’s wife and that too for following conscientiously, what was asked of me.
Sad to say, the lady of caliber whom I held in such high esteem, fell for the tales so carried. But what she did about it made me lose all respect for her. At an evening gathering of the ladies of our army unit, in one of the homes, in front of those assembled, she asked me for an explanation for not attending a party in a particular officer’s house. Yeah, you guessed right, the party had been at the house of the one who carried those tales to her.
The place and manner of asking left me dumbstruck. As the senior most lady in the group after her (and Army sets great store by seniority) this was not how things were supposed to happen. Questioning me as if an errant pupil in school, and that too in front of the junior ladies was not the way. She could easily have asked me in private and avoided the scene. Even in public, she could have asked me politely, instead of taking a belligerent stand. But that is where the insecurity of those in power shows itself, isn’t it, the necessity for and the confidence of getting the support of, an audience of underlings when you are about to step all over one among them?
Even as I collected my thoughts, I realized the situation had every resemblance to being tried in a kangaroo court. Before I could formulate an answer, she was on to the next question, Had I informed the hosts that I would not be attending the party? You must remember this was a private party in someone’s home she was talking of. I opened my mouth to defend myself: After all the L & M had attended the party and had naturally expressed his wife’s inability to attend due to ill-health. But she interrupted, not letting me speak.
Now, I have a bad habit. When people accuse me of things I have not done, and don’t let me speak to boot, I just clam up and refuse to say anything. This happens all the time. I simply don’t care any more, and let people think whatever they want. Those who want to know, will ask and have the courtesy to listen. To them one talks. Those others who have made up their minds already, why talk to them? They won’t get the time of the day from me.
She took my silence to mean I was passively agreeing with whatever she said. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, I have more bad qualities and that includes pride, lots of it. I kept a stiff upper lip, refusing to let her know her words affected me in any way. As soon as she left, she being the senior most and it being her right and all that, I said my goodbyes to the hostess, and walked to my house.
When I walked in, my children knew something was wrong. The L & M was on jury duty at another place those days, and used to come home only on weekends. I called him up to give him the news. Knowing I was upset, he said he’d be there the next day, a middle-of-the-week day. That night I had shivering bouts and needed a blanket in spite of it being summer. That’s one of the fall-outs I face due to my nature of clamming up.
When the L & M came home the next day and heard the whole story again, he told me this,
“Don’t you worry. She is the one who failed to understand you, your true worth. It is her loss, not yours.”
In fact, I have to remind myself of that every so often, that it indeed is not my loss when some people behave the way they do.