By Shraddha Sankhe:
“Dear X, I am a 17 year old girl totally in love with my class mate. How do I get him talking to me?”
“I am a housewife troubled by my in-laws and my husband does not understand me. Please help!”
“I am single and feel so terrible that I feel like committing suicide. Help me urgently!”
Be it dating tips, household problems or some thing as serious or conversely trivial as the problems of being single terrifyingly stretched to suicide –Agony Aunts’ column/radio/TV show has a solution to it all. She (or it is a he?) receives hundreds of mails each day asking for help – desperately and deliriously. And believe it or not, the Agony Aunt (henceforth mentioned as AA) is becoming a habit and dare I say, a phenomenon. In India, it has been stretched comfortably to personal problems, confession boxes, work related tensions, health and sexual queries. And all this still has a “Wow” factor, a source tells me. Writing anonymously, pouring out all the problematic details and getting “advices and solutions” in a jiffy — is frankly – very immature.
In the Indian society, much of our problems begin with lack of communication. And to most Indian youngsters – AA is their personal advisor. Look, this is how it works: One youngster writes narrating his personal problem; AA gets it published on her column or show because the problem is “peculiar” and discusses it. AA gives some advice and millions read/hear/watch the show. The result? The problem gets amplified and everybody derives some sadistic pleasure out of it. Common, accept it, no individual really feels “sympathy” for some anonymous soul. Second and most disturbing, the AA gives advice like he/she is rolling out hot pancakes out of some one’s personal oven.
Seriously, it is time we took notice of the AA, and critically so. After all, relationships don’t involve only one person. Who has the power to generalize a relationship, leave alone advice on it? Can we really trust a random AA to ‘solve’ our relationship problems? Isn’t every individual unique with a complex set of problems? I believe no AA can comment on my problems as she/he wouldn’t know me. It is rather dangerous to seek help from unqualified sources on issues as personal as relationships. Do you believe that aÂ third eye into your personal life would help you live much at peace? Read on.
For the newspaper/radio/TV channels – AA is the biggest source of fan-mail. Have you noticed that there areÂ advertisements near the AA column or in the air time between the ‘breaks’ on AA radio/TV show? Well, they’re paying the papers and other media to keep the show still on. Our problems are being sold. Isn’t that enough reason to believe that AA may really not be the best source of advice?
I’d go back onÂ lack of communication, again. Yes, we, even the educated ones need much more communication with our families and the right persons. The term, ‘right person’ means any one who is legally and ethically helpful for us to get our problems or queries solved. We’re a nation where potholes kill our awesome white shirt and the colleague tries to sabotage the rest of the day. The love of our life may turn out to be selfish or perhaps we’re demanding too much. Worse, we cannot always pour out our problems on the world. In this situation, some one who comes around in a 2 buck newspaper or a free of charge tune-in of a radio or a TV could be a blessing. But who dispenses advice could be a major factor, no?
The AAs – do you know them personally? How many areÂ professionally authorized to help you out of your problems? In the age where our problems – simple or silly – are complex because of the society we live in, we need clinical psychologists to help us tackle life and its worries. During my college days, the student committees organized a meeting with professional counselors for all – students, professors and staff alike. That’s a welcome. But who dispenses advice is a major factor. We’d not want our problems “solved” by some one, himself seeking popularity, right? Reputation of most AAs is questionable.
Not surprisingly, there areÂ controversies surrounding certain AA whose own personal problems and issues are more bizarre than those of her correspondents. Worse, she purposely dispensed bad advices so that it entertained her readers. Couldn’t this just prove mighty dangerous for some one who’d take such an advice very seriously and not be in a state of mind to gauge the humor intended?
An online source correctly quotes, “Advice columns generally have limited capacity and do not answer all the requests they receive. This has led them to be criticized for abusing the hopes of their correspondents for commercial gain (in terms of newspaper sales) — raising the uncomfortable image of desperate people waiting day after day for the answer to their terrible problem to be published, only to have to accept after months that there will be no help for them”.
On a concluding note, I’d like to urge the country’s youth to not take an AA seriously, ever. May no entertainment be derived out of an AA column or show. Yes, only this will ensure, genuine problems get a genuine solution. May nobody make a laugh out of our personal, health or work related issues. And most, let us not make a fool of ourselves-in public. Yes, we have problems, but may we be equipped with courage and a friend who will be ever ready to offer help. After all, like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said,Â “The nearer the dawn, darker the night”– let us all accept our relation ships and the ups and downs withÂ dignity.
And offering an ‘advice’ to the three problems mentioned above, let us sing out loud –
“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly”.
Take life and relationships seriously so that you smile, not them, the world.