Poor Gabbar Singh. Now that there is no more trouble to be made in the Chambal Valley, he is reduced to grappling with dilemmas such as What Women Really Want. How the mighty have fallen. Back in the day, it was clear he had no doubt as to what women really wanted: why, him, of course! And if they didn’t, he would drag them off by their hair anyway.
In his heyday, "Sex and the City" questions posed by Carrie Bradshaw may have led him to snort "Tera kya hoga, Carrie-ya!" but this older, gentler Gabbar is more likely to pull up a barstool and sip a Cosmopolitan with Carrie, furtively examining the length of her Manolo Blahnik heels and darting glances at her lipstick, agonizing silently over whether he should hold the door open for her and whether his beltful of ammunition may somehow get in the way and ruin everything.
Ann’s filtering mechanism for her dates may be disturbing to some, but let’s look on the bright side, this supports the notion that there may be somebody for everybody after all. If Ann is with a man who believes, as she does, that a man should always pay for a woman because it shows he cares for her, and if his pockets are as bottomless as her presumption and naiveté, why, this is a match made in heaven. Who are the rest of us to fault either?
Here’s my Open Door Policy, available royalty-free to anyone who cares to use it: I hold the door open, for a man or a woman, if I get to the door first and the door opens towards me. (You may choose to perform acrobatics and hold it open even if it opens away from you, but in such cases, I walk through and hold it open from the other side). I always hold the door open for visitors to my workplace as an act of courtesy and to make them feel welcome, for persons with visible motor difficulties, as well as for persons who are carrying something.
And when a man or a woman holds the door open, I walk through, smile, and say thank you. There you have it. It’s an open and shut case. What’s the fuss all about?
If Paul holds the door open again for a colleague and gets an ungracious dressing down, he could simply say with a smile, "You’re welcome to get it the next time." That would be disarming, and would keep the door open, so to speak, for future civil interactions. If he’s feeling ornery, he could take a tip from an anecdote quoted in a Khushwant Singh syndicated column, in which a man held a door open for a woman who then snarled at him, "Are you holding it open because I’m a lady?" The man replied, "I didn’t open the door because you are a lady. I opened it because I’m a gentleman."
We should all celebrate the observation that Gabbar ki asli pasand seems to have shifted from condescension to courtesy. As with all change, this shift can be traumatic. All I can say is, time will soothe the until-recently-savage breast, and the seemingly blurry line between courtesy and condescension may one day be as clear for Gabbar, Paul and his colleague as it is to some of us.
Here’s to ladies and gentlemen, and doors that open into a world of more courtesy, more graciousness and less whining.
Raji Pillai lives in the SF Bay Area. What She Really Wants is to ask the attendees of various government panels, board meetings and bastions of power: "Kitne aadmi the?" She awaits the day when the response is that there was a comparable number of women present.