It is a truth universally known, (quoting Jane Austen), that whether you are a continuous, frequent or intermittent participant of society, the gamut of social interactions includes being assailed by a No Lifer or several.
No Lifers are those beings who choose to have no interests or pursuits of their own, instead they spend their time observing, measuring, comparing, quantifying, and arbitrating the actions of other people.
No Lifers are easily recognizable by their overt inquisitiveness. They profess themselves to be extremely “busy” people who have no time whatsoever to bother about others; they invariably express this disavowal after they have subjected you an exhausting interrogation about some very personal aspect of your life.
You wonder how it is they chanced upon the very personal aspect of your life, since they remain dreadfully busy, but you dare not ask for fear of further onslaught.
They are very particular about their methods of examination and cross-examination, and their attention to detail is phenomenal. Their (precise) memories serve them well.
They are able to remember each and every word you ever uttered in your entire life, regardless of whether you spoke in their presence or not; and they are also able to recall all the significant events of your entire life, regardless of whether they occurred or not.
If you do not have the presence of mind to completely ignore what the No Lifers ask you, and respond to their questions, they will interrupt you as you answer, and interject with words and comments.
Once you realise that their intentions are to extract a completely different meaning from your speech, something far removed from your thoughts, it is too late.
Having decided what you meant to say, despite your protestations of otherwise, No Lifers will then issue triumphant concluding remarks implying what an imbecile you are, how you are so incapable of articulating yourself, that they are required to do that for you.
They are able to remember each and every word you ever uttered in your entire life, regardless of whether you spoke in their presence or not; and they are also able to recall all the significant events of your entire life, regardless of whether they occurred or not
It is not that life is any easier if you do not respond to the No Lifers questions; they remain undeterred. They simply answer the questions they have asked you on your behalf, and once again you are subjected to exultant remarks of being exposed as a cretin, as they are obliged to think for you.
No Lifers have all the facts and figures of the social world at their disposal. If your daughter plays the piano, they know 768 other people whose daughters play the piano better than yours; if you were thrilled to see the Pyramids, they know 956 other people who were more thrilled than you, as they saw the Pyramids at a pleasanter time than you did; if you are grieving for the loss of a loved one, they know 569 people whose loss is greater than yours and whose grief is more severe than yours can ever be. If you are thinking of investing in a business, they know that it will fail, or they know 4587 people who will be more successful than you can ever hope to be in that business.
In short, No Lifers can correctly determine your place in the cerebral, social, cultural, and financial order of the 7 billion plus people there are on this planet, and if you are not eternally gratified that they have taken precious time out of their extremely busy lives to do so, you are an ungrateful wretch.
If you think you can pre-empt encounters with No Lifers, by priding yourself on being able to recognize them from afar, or by being familiar with their modus operandi from prior experience, there is no guarantee that in successfully avoiding them, you will not proceed to inadvertently engaging with a Well Wisher.
Self-proclaimed (pestilential) Well Wishers are the beings that you have the misfortune to attract, from time to time, usually whilst you are circumventing the No Lifers.
Well Wishers have certain characteristics: They declare themselves to wish you well continuously, without any invitation to do so whatsoever. Unlike the No Lifers, Well Wishers are not busy; rather they choose to remain available, as they wish to do well by others.
If you think you can pre-empt encounters with No Lifers, by priding yourself on being able to recognize them from afar, or by being familiar with their modus operandi from prior experience, there is no guarantee that in successfully avoiding them, you will not proceed to inadvertently engaging with a Well Wisher
They use the words "bechara/bechari rather often, along with religious words interspersed in their rather tedious monologues. You guess they are trying to portray the image of being on some holy mission.
They say they believe in fate and the powers that be, and you should too, yet give you (unsolicited) advice on how to act or behave in every situation. It is contradictory, but you dare not challenge what they say, as you have no wish to prolong any interaction with them.
They are always there when you are miserable, to offer help and support. But you get the sneaking suspicion it is schadenfreude, as well as that sense of importance in gaining firsthand knowledge of your problem...the "I know what really happened" types.
They love: to remind you of your past/current misfortunes, to point out that your associates are of dubious character, to ask what your husband bought for you, or why he married you, to refer to a family member with an unpalatable reputation, to focus on what you have not achieved, to make queries about your children, and so on. They do, of course, wish you well, so there is no reason to suspect their motives.
Last but not least, Well Wishers take such great pains in telling you all the sordid, negative details of what has been said about you behind your back (mostly taken out of context or untrue) in a voice full of concern, while their eyes are piercing into yours, ensuring they capture the shock and the hurt.
Chintamoni grew up in Dhaka, where she will always belong, but never quite fit in. She is an enthusiastic traveller, a compulsive procrastinator, and a contumelious raconteur.