Tactless me – The day I put my foot in my mouth

Embarrassed me I agree I have some flaws but being tactless is not what I am known for. Not until today. It all began with an email that landed in my in-box. Here is what happened.

It was a festival day (The harvest festival of Pongal) and I was busy organizing what needed to be done for the puja. Obviously I was not logged in to my work email but kept tabs on the email client on phone that regularly updates my email as and when they arrive in my in-box. I represent the interests of a web design company from India in Singapore and part of my responsibility is to answer emails and send quotations for project enquiries.

When the phone vibrated indicating that I had new email, I opened it to read.  It was an enquiry from a blogger asking for a quote to redesign her blog.  She had marked a link to her blog for us to check before we sent her a quote.

Typically, I would wait to log in on my computer to check links but this one was from a blogger and the link was to a food blog. To point to a blog to someone who blogs about food (too) and expect her not to look up the blog pronto, is like giving a bone to a hungry dog and asking him to chew on it later…or something like that. The blog topic piqued my interest and before I knew it, I was on her blog checking the contents.

Excuse me for digressing here but I think you will need a little background information before you appreciate what happened next. I am extremely sensitized to errors in English grammar, sentence structures, (not so much to punctuations or typo), sentence fragments, verbiage, phrasing and similar errors in written English.  I have a very canine sense when picking errors in English the way a dog’s olfactory receptors can pick scents. I was not like this until about a decade back when an opportunity to be an English language trainer saw me in a boot camp of learners who were together working on losing their ingrained errors in English, finding new ways of writing; speaking and picking errors in other peoples English.

So there I was glancing at the content and you can guess what jumped out at me. Without giving it another thought, I passed a nasty remark (“Terrible blog”) and did not realize (until much water had flowed over the dam) that I had replied to her email with that comment instead of forwarding it to my colleague in India for his opinion – which is what I typically do, in such cases.

A few minutes later, my phone vibrated with a new message notification and I was in disbelief when I saw the same blog owner respond with a ‘What do you mean terrible blog?’  

Have you heard the term ‘break into a sweat ’? I experienced it today. Just when the realization of the goof up dawned upon me, I panicked.  It was not because I feared for my life, or that the blogger was coming to look for me for a justification but just the fact that I was so careless caused a few minutes of panicky sweat.

My first thought was to not mention this email exchange to my colleague. Why make it known to more people how careless I was?  My next thoughts were to ignore the email and not respond to this blogger. Let her assume that her email was never read.  Just when I was weighing my options, I get another ping on my phone from the same blogger that read- “Is their [sic*] any way u [sic*] can help me to [sic*] make my blog look better? ”

That is when I decided to do the right thing.

I wrote an apology to her (Sorry, the comment was not meant to be sent to you. But since I have sent it to you, may as well say why I said that. You have to correct plenty of English errors in your blog.) I followed it up with an email to my colleague, coming clean on the goof up. Thankfully for me, he is blessed with a fantastic sense of humour and sent me a blunder-o-blunder comment in keeping with the theme of today’s festival. (The moment the milk boils over and bubbles out of the vessel, the tradition is to shout of “Pongal-o – Pongal)

I have heard back from the blogger a few more times today, but none of the emails are bordering on hate or any other intense negative emotion. I am guessing I saved my reputation by offering an apology.

Have you got into a similar situation when you have said anything tactless or embarrassing? Here is your chance to come clean. Share your experience!

*sic – is used when writing quoted material to indicate that an incorrect or unusual spelling, phrase, punctuation, or meaning in the quote has been reproduced verbatim from the original and is not a transcription error (that is, it appeared thus in the original).

Har Har Mahadev!

I have never hesitated picking a book by a lesser known author. In fact, in all my library visits in Singapore, I have picked books by authors I have never read before just based on the blurb I read at the end of the book. Some of the books turn out to be pleasant surprises and some not so. But when buying books I have always tried to use sound judgement- either bought books by known authors or best sellers.

I learnt of Amish Tripathi’s books in early 2011 when he released his second book of the Shiva Trilogy. I was in fact in the bookstore browsing books the day Amish was to launch his second book at the same store. There was a sizeable crowd waiting to get signed copies of the second book. The hype did not excite me since I hadn’t read his first book nor any reviews of the book until then.

It took me much longer than that to actually want to read the book. When I heard some of my friends and associates talking about his books and buying copies to read, I did not want to be left behind. By then I knew of the two books and how successful they had become. So I ordered my own copies from Flipkart. When they arrived, I flipped through a few pages of the first book and wondered if I had foolishly jumped on the bandwagon.

I got busy with other books I had borrowed from the library and kept Amish’s books back in the stack of books on my bookshelf. A whole 6 months passed before I made another attempt to read the Shiva Trilogy. This time around I took just that one book when I travelled, so that I had no other option but to strive through even if I did not find it gripping.

The second attempt paid off.  I set a 50-pages-a-day reading limit and completed the 400 page book in 6 days- two days lesser than I predicted it would take. I had to read just beyond the first few chapters to begin enjoying the book. Amish has made Shiva so approachable and real life like. He curses, jokes, is earnest to learn and please.  I love the way he has used some facts from mythology and added believable content to make the mythology plausible. For someone who has no interest whatsoever in religion or philosophy, I have begun to admire Shiva.  When I read the book I was able to appreciate life the way it was in the time of Shri Ram and after him, Shiva. I would never have been able to remember names of Shiva’s able bodied friends and associates, if not for Amish’s picturization of them as mere mortal beings with the same needs and wants as us. I can tell you about Nandi, Veer Bhadra and Brahaspati now without having to philosophize.

It is possible that people who read the Shiva trilogy will look at Gods like Shiva with new perspective. The story makes you believe that there was a human like him that lived many thousand years ago who went on to become a God because of his deeds.  In that I think Amish has achieved something that no religious book would be able to.

I look forward to reading the second book of the Shiva Trilogy and will wait for the third and final book in March 2013. The last time I read all the books in a frenzy before the last one came out was JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. There again I was the last adaptee!