Tag Archives: advice

Humility and Humiliation: A Proverb

The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘C’. Translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses, and the translation/transliteration for the proverb will be after the transcript. The Informant is a 43-year-old Sindhi man, born and raised in Maharashtra, India.

I: Could you tell me about a proverb that you feel like has a lot of significance for you and within your culture?

C: Sindhis really believe in this proverb, it’s something we use a lot, something I believe in, you can even see within me and my journey with my job. “Jainh khaado taro, tainh khey nako soor nako baro,” meaning, basically that if one eats the food from the bottom of the saucepan, he’ll not suffer from… pain or humiliation, so be humble, and proud of humble beginnings. Sindhis came to India during the partition from Pakistan, had nothing in their hands, didn’t even have proper homes, lived in tents. They worked on the street, small jobs, odd jobs, but worked hard. So, they believe in the idea that one who’s seen — one who’s seen life from the smallest point will never feel humiliated in any situation in life, will never feel small in those situations, will always rise up from those things. 

I: Is there any hypothetical situation that you would use this in. Say, someone comes to you, a niece or a sibling, how would you use this and in what circumstance?

C: You can use this in a situation where somebody feels that they have failed in life and have to work from ground-up again. So, this is a good way to tell the person, you know, don’t give up, there is still a lot to look up—forward—to. So, basically, you’re telling the person that, ‘Now that you’ve hit ground zero, once you work your way up from here, you’ll never face a situation that you can’t handle.’ One thing to remember is that Sindhi culture is all about never giving up and hard work, you will see us working very hard no matter what we’re doing, no matter what we’re selling, it’s about never giving up, we will always work hard and work our way up, it’s all about that. 

Original Script: جئن کادو تارو تائين کي نڪو سور نڪو بارو

Romanised: Jainh khaado taro, tainh khey nako soor nako baro.

Word for word: There would be no cloud-nine days without rock-bottom moments left below.

Translation: If one eats the food from the bottom of the saucepan, then they will not suffer from pain or humiliation.

Analysis:

As my informant stated, this is a proverb that is apparent and relevant to Sindhi culture and history and the way they are viewed in Indian society (as hard workers and businesspeople that are extremely diligent and dedicated to their craft/work), and also applicable outside of it, since advising hard work is something that is very common, both within the broader spectrum of Indian culture, and outside of it. This has a dual idea, of humble beginnings and hitting rock bottom (essentially the concept of ‘once you’ve hit rock bottom, the only way to go is upward’), but also of staying humble and aware of those humble beginnings, since they will strengthen one for the rest of their life. It points to the idea of suffering, of this rock bottom, as a way to grow and become more resilient, a common idea expressed all through the world when it comes to productivity, especially with the idea of working under capitalism.

Elders know best – Mexican Proverb

Main Piece:

“A un novillo joven hay que enjuntarlo a un buey viejo para que surco salga derecho.”

Transliteration:

To a young bull, you have to bind it to an old bull so that furrows go straight.

Translation:

Elders know more, so in order for new generations to learn, they must learn from their elders.

Background:

Informant

Nationality: Mexican

Location: Guadalajara, Mexico

Language: Spanish

 

Context and Analysis:

When I asked my informant, a 78-year-old male, to recount to me any proverbs he might know he mentioned this one. I asked him where he had heard it and what it meant. He said he heard it in his home town Autlan, Mexico when he would go to the countryside. Before he told me the meaning of the proverb he made me attempt to guess for myself. After a couple of failed guessed he revealed to me the meaning he interprets from this proverb. He said, “Hay jóvenes que se tragan el mundo y creen que la computadora te dice todo pero para aprender bien necesitas la experiencia de alguien que ya haya vivido. A mi me invitan a muchas conferencias donde les platico de mis fracasos.” Loosely translated to: ‘there are many young men that think they know everything and believe everything the computers tell them, but in order to learn you need the experience of someone who has lived. I get invited to lots of conferences where I tell them about my mistakes.’ My informant explained to me that he believes the best way to learn is through the experience of others. He says he loves going to conferences and teaching others about the mistakes he has made in his life because this will prevent them from being made again. My informant wants me to emphasize how much more useful life knowledge is than theories and techniques you can learn in a book. He says the most valuable people are the ones that can learn from both books and absorb what they can from other’s experiences. 

I agree with my informant on the importance of not just taking knowledge from books and published sources, but also taking advantage of older generations that are happy to share what they have lived through. My informant is a civil engineer and has done many public works and constructions people utilize every day. The stories he has to tell would teach anyone many qualities but especially other civil engineers considerably about, work ethic, problem-solving, and techniques. I also asked my informant if he would ever consider publishing a book to which he responded he enjoys sharing his experience one on one because it is too much to fit in a book and this makes it more personal. I believe there are many people like my informant that love sharing their experiences personally and there is a lot to learn from them.

It is apparent this proverb originates from the countryside for its reference to cattle and the technique of how to teach a young bull how to plow. These are agricultural references, so I would argue the proverb originates from an agricultural background.

 

 

 

 

Living Well Is the Best Revenge

Text: Living well is the best revenge.

Context: The informant is the collector’s mother. The collector has often heard this saying from the informant throughout her childhood and has often taken it to heart. It was usually said during times where the collector had been wronged by someone else or had been facing hardships as a result of someone else. This was told a lot to the collector in high school and middle school. The informant learned this saying during her career in Wall Street. She doesn’t remember specifically where she learned it but remembered hearing it often at work. She then passed it on to her daughter and other friends. She likes this saying because she sees truth in it and finds it to be a mature take on conflicts. She also thinks it’s a healthy outlook on life and sees it as “taking the high road.”

Analysis: As the informant’s daughter, I felt that I learned this proverb early on and feel that it has helped me over time. It reminds me to not seek concrete revenge, but instead to ignore negativity and focus on moving on and becoming a better form of myself. In a sense, living well IS the best revenge, because those who have tried to wrong you are forced to watch you succeed and become a better person.

College/Education Proverb

Piece:

Informant: “I went to college to get a diploma, it would have been just as easy to get an education.”

Background:

The informant learned this saying from his grandfather upon graduating from high school in Ohio. He found it highly impactful, not only in the context of college, but as a general life lesson as well, and took care to heed this advice going forwards.

Context:

This expression and the conversation leading up to it were recorded during a scheduled meeting that took place at my home in San Diego, CA.

Thoughts:

Although on the surface this saying may seem very specific, I think the lessons it implies can be applied to all walks of life. It stresses the importance of finding value in all aspects of an experience, as opposed to seeing something simply as a means to an end. It is certainly an expression I will remember and perhaps help spread in the future.

“Don’t date your dance partner”

“Something we tell our new people is a warning that you shouldn’t date your dance partner. So, here’s the thing: this used to be followed all the time. When I got here, nobody was dating anybody on our team, and this is out of 50 people on the dance team – I don’t know the real number – and about 20 competitors…wait, I take it back. There was one couple: Nick and Claire. Nick and Claire were dating, but nobody else was dating. Nick and Claire came in as a couple already, and so they became dance partners. They didn’t dance together for everything, though they did dance together for some things. What we don’t like is when people meet through the ballroom dance team, dance with each other for a while, and then say, ‘You know what? I’mma date you.’ This happens in the professional world a lot. Professional dancers, they’re usually 16-17 years old – they’re young – when they meet each other. Well, sometimes they’re 23-24 years old when they meet each other, but usually it’s fairly young, and they dance with each other for a while. Whatever the exact age, they’re young, and they’re all kinds of hormonal, and they’re dancing with a very attractive person, these professionals. ‘I’m hormonal. I’m dancing with a hot person, and this hot person knows how to use their body. Yes, I’m going to try to make something out of this,’ and they do, all the time. They get married sometimes, and then they divorce each other. It almost always happens. I mean, there are a few cases where it doesn’t happen – they’ve learned how to make it work – but it’s usually a disaster in the professional world to date your dance partner, because you break up, and then you can’t dance together anymore, and the you gotta go find a new partner, but you’re older, and everybody’s already taken. Then, your career is done. So, finding somebody you click with is important, and then not trying to have sex with that person is equally important once that first part is done. On our team, we recommend the same thing. If you have a dance partner, that’s great. Work really hard to not date them or try to be more than friends with them, because if you do, when you try, it’s an easy way to lose a dance partner. So, it’s a little odd that we had a lot of people over the last two or three years end up dating the people that they dance with. Sometimes, they started to dance with the people that they’re dating. That happened to me. That happened to…actually, I think that happened to most people. They met first, started dating, and then said, ‘hey, we’re going to dance together.’ Usually, we’re still pretty good about being like, ‘We’re going to dance together. Oooh, I like you. Let’s do this thing.’ It’s easier when you go from dating to dance partners than from dance partners to dating, but it still carries risks, so we advise people to treat your dance relationship like your regular relationship: talk about things and seek help from others when you need it.”

Background Information and Context:

What the informant is describing is based on his years of experience on the SC Ballroom and Latin Dance Team. There is no way to say – at least, not without surveying members of multiple dance teams – whether the phenomenon of having a lot of couples on a dance team is exclusive to the SC Ballroom and Latin Dance team or, if it is not exclusive, if the couples on other dance teams act like those on USC’s team. Although, I have heard similar advice of being wary of the person with whom you start a relationship in other teams and in other contexts, such as work. This part of our conversation was more personal in nature than the topics that preceded, and I was mildly surprised that the informant, for the most part, kept his personal opinions out.

Collector’s Notes:

What was interesting about this topic is that I hadn’t originally intended to ask about it but noted to the informant that I found it odd that both of us are dating our dance partners. I’d heard the general opinion that dating your dance partner leads to unnecessary complications in both the romantic and dance relationship, but still, nobody dissuaded me when my boyfriend first asked me out, months after we’d started talking about becoming competition partners. On our team, there didn’t seem to be any negative examples of such a relationship to make me worry beyond the passing thought. I think it’s interesting that dancing, especially ballroom dancing, is heavily romanticized, and performers are criticized if their dance lacks passion, romance, tenderness, etc., but actual romance, specifically a new romance, is met with wariness. Moreover, it is interesting that popular media so often portrays romance/attraction and drama/angst as inextricable from each other. The connotations of dancing and romance seem at odds with each other.