It was exasperating to have a conversation with Rebecca. She had this strange habit of saying something obscure whenever she wanted. Sometimes this would be a quotation, but often her originality bubbled out in her sayings. When I said that I had to leave for Ahmedabad on some work related to the Institute where I worked, she said “Life is a journey, not a destination”. I asked her who said that, and she said Ralph Waldo Emerson.
She was a bright girl, brimming with self-confidence and youthfulness. Smiling face, very attractive. The exasperation one feels from the stream of pronouncements was a minor irritant. Her comment to my wife, who was coming in from the rain carrying an umbrella, was” Why stay in when you could be dancing in the rain instead?” My wife had difficulty hiding her irritation!
Rebecca’s pronouncements were legion, and she was remarkably unconcerned about the time, the place and the appropriateness when she lets off her barb. When the principal of her college slipped and fell under the concerned gaze of Rebecca, she said, “It was comforting to know you have fallen and could fall no farther.” while extending her hand to lift him up. When her friend discovered she had brought an empty tiffin box, Rebecca said with great compassion,”All you need is love. But a little food now and then doesn’t hurt.”
She became a subject of amateur psychiatric analysis by all those who knew her. Some said that she was very observant and had a talent for expressing her thoughts in a clever and concise manner. However, another group concluded that a constant generation of cryptic one-liners may show her reluctance to be straightforward in her communication. It’s also possible that she uses these cryptic remarks as a defence mechanism to avoid revealing too much about herself or to maintain a certain level of mystery. The consensus was that while it can be intriguing and entertaining to decode her cryptic comments, it’s important to encourage her to be more open and direct in her communication.
It was not surprising that a clutch of hopefuls always hang around her despite the disparaging comments she would make about them in their hearing. About Thomas Chacko, the somewhat arrogant bank officer, she said “Arrogance is insecurity’s favourite mask”. To the effeminate Kuruvilla she said, “I wonder if anyone but me realizes what goes on in that head back of your deceptively sweet face.” To the startup crazy Varghese, she said, “Why be a follower when you can be a leader? Live your passion, follow your dreams.” But she said this with a sweet smile, as she was fond of him.
After Rebecca graduated, she declared she was going to find a job. She landed one finally in a departmental store in which her uncle had a share and some influence. We made jokes about her customers running away from her, scared of the one-liners she was forever flinging at them. To the reluctant customer, her advocacy was, “I always say shopping is cheaper than a psychiatrist.” To the reluctant beau, her advice was, “The quickest way to know a woman is to go shopping with her.” Her question to the customer who said that she was only window shopping was as to how many windows were in her budget.
We were not surprised when we came to know that Rebecca was getting married to Varghese. Varghese is from a prominent family in Kochi and is the promoter of a startup in advertisement. He is a driven person, very serious and focused. In a casual conversation, he told me he was exploring a business opportunity to sell sales slogans. He said he was studying various factors such as the demand for such slogans, the competition in the market, and the effectiveness of the slogans in generating sales.
He believed that companies and sales teams may be interested in purchasing pre-made sales slogans that can inspire and motivate their sales staff, or to use in their marketing campaigns. However, there may already be a lot of free resources available online for sales slogans, and it may be difficult to stand out in a crowded market.
His concern was about how to create unique and effective slogans that can help generate sales, rather than just catchy phrases that sound good but don’t have any real impact. He thought that there was a potential for related services, such as sales training or consulting, to complement your slogan business.
I told my wife that we should hope that the marriage would not end up like that of James Thurber’s Dorothy Deshler, who had the uncontrollable urge to correct or finish everyone’s sentences and her marriage failed because her husband could not stand it any longer. I imagined Varghese tearing up his hair in desperation as he could not stand Rebecca’s one-liners.
The courtship lasted a few months, with Varghese remaining his cool, driven self and Rebecca the ebullient, wise cracking rebel. I was told that there was serious betting on how long the courtship would last.
But finally, the invitation to the wedding arrived. It was to be on a Monday in Varghese’s family church. We all dutifully filed into the church to witness the fortunate event. The solemn occasion was no bar to Rebecca’s phrasemaking. While passing by us after the event, she said: “We loved with a love that was more than love.”
I had no news about how the marriage prospered since I had to go abroad for a while and had lost touch with the Kochi crowd. My own concerns about life and work gave little time about how they fared. My wife, who is a committed networker, also lost Rebecca from her radar. But one day, I accidentally ran into Varghese at the Bangalore airport. After a casual chat, I asked him how Rebecca was. His face lit up and said she was doing a great job of running a part of his business, in supplying adverting one-liners to customers promoting their products. He said she was a changed person; all her energy in creating nonsense quotes is now being focused on this task. No more casual one-liners, which irritated everyone around her!
I could only think of Rumi who said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”