Negotiating Life

Life in the ultra pace world is like a hanging sword over head. Every minute requires clever negotiation. Without a strategy in steering life it is impossible to find happiness. In this steering changing the topic when you get into the crisis is the finest strategy. Despite changing the topic many evil minded people will attack you, drag you, in fact push to the periphery. In that case even changing the topic will be futile. But in most of the times changing the topic will be healing touch maker during life crisis.

Jairam M Menon writes in The Times of India on 3 August 2010

Until the matter blew up on prime-time television, the chairman of the Commonwealth Games organising committee would happily talk about the glory of sport when asked for the financial details of the Games. And when our friendly neighbourhood masterminds were asked about their Mumbai marauders, they talked instead about Kashmir. None of them were lying, they just made lies redundant. While politicians as topic changers (TCs) may make front-page news, they aren’t the only ones at it. There are bright young management consultants who have made a living (and until the downturn, a killing) with an avalanche of ‘exponential’, ‘synergistic’, and ‘transitioning’ until no one recollects what the original topic was. Doctors, lawyers, bankers, academicians, bureaucrats, journalists are all talented TCs in their own right. And as a matter of fact, i am no mean TC myself, having built a reputation as a peace-maker in social circles solely on the ability to deflect a conversation before it charts a collision course.

Changing the topic does not always mean you are shirking the responsibility of arriving at a meaningful conclusion to a discussion. Rather, it means that like an astute Mahendra Singh Dhoni, you are opting for spin when pace does not seem to be delivering the goods. Successfully executed, topic changes can keep marriages afloat, prevent friends from flying at each other’s throats, promote good neighbourliness, prolong careers and, in their own little ways, contribute to world peace. Frankly, i think the reason the world is getting to be such a mess is that we are running short of TCs.

Topic changing comes from an acceptance of things as they are. It flows from the benign understanding almost Vedantic in its sweep that some problems are better left unattended. For instance, the logical thing to do when you are confronted with moral policemen outside a pub would be to point out the error of their ways. The trouble with this approach is that life is not logical and still less are moral policemen. Persisting with an argument in the quest of an immediate solution is hazardous you may end up losing both argument and life. As the Bard (arguably the world’s most accomplished TC) would have said, those who change the topic return to debate another day.

It is not only when conversations threaten to enter danger zone that you need a mid-course correction. As every hostess knows, a topic has in-built limitations, and long silences at what was supposed to be a convivial gathering can be embarrassing. So it is handy to have a TC around to keep the traffic moving. Imagine a group that is animatedly discussing, say, the lissome loveliness of Kareena Kapoor. After talking without a pause for an entire weekend, the group will inevitably reach the point beyond which even Saif Ali Khan may not be able to contribute anything significant to the discussion. This is when the TC steps in to bring up the subject of Kareena’s possible nuptials. “That would make her a triple ‘K’, wouldn’t it?” he enquires, ever so gently. A renewed gush of conversation ensues, and someone is bound to hark back to the other ‘KKK’ – America’s defunct racist group – which can turn the spotlight on America’s unfailingly interesting African-American president. And that is as good a cue as any to talk about the empowerment of India’s own disadvantaged, to wit Mayawati. Before your audience knows it, you have successfully changed topics from the feline grace of Kareena to the elephantine power of Mayawati’s party.

There are bull-headed opponents who feel that topic changers only brush unpleasantness under the carpet. They insist that if the world has to be made a better place tomorrow, we need to confront issues head on today. I think it is pointless to argue with such single-minded opponents of changing the topic. I just change the topic.


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