Thursday, September 9, 2010

The way people look at you - Person Perception

What is perception? The word "perception" comes from the Latin words perceptio, percipio, and means "receiving, collecting, action of taking possession, apprehension with the mind or senses. In social psychology, the term person perception refers to the different mental processes that we use to form impressions of other people. This includes not just how we form these impressions, but the different conclusions we make about other people based upon our impressions. How can two people see the same person and make completely opposite judgments about the person or see a person and perceive him to be different from what he is actually. Social perception is the process of forming impressions of individuals. The resulting impressions that we form are based on information available in the environment, our previous attitudes about relevant stimuli, and our current mood. Humans tend to operate under certain biases when forming impression of other individuals.

The following anecdote may provide a better picture of what perception is all about. My late uncle Mr. MS Shankar Rao used to narrate an incident which happened on 02 September 1945 in Bengaluru. On that day World War II officially ended and the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed upon the decks of the US Navy battleship USS Missouri.

He used to recall – “The air was calm and tranquil as the bloody war had ended and a sense of excitement prevailed and hope that the future would bring peace and lots of prosperity. Such was the mood all over the world and Bengaluru was no exception. The students of Central College decided to celebrate the allied victory by visiting a very posh billiards parlor and bar on the brigade road – “Bull and Bush”. Research on the net reveals that Greens,Ye Olde Bulle & Bushe, the original location where Sir Winston Churchill played billiards in 1896 was very close to Eves Beauty Parlor opposite St. Patrick's Church. Photo just prior to its demolition.

Thereafter Old Bull and Bush was relocated adjacent to Nilgiris on Brigade Road.
“The students insisted that their Sanskrit professor Shri Narasimachar – a very pious and god fearing South Indian Brahmin with religious club markings on the forehead and a well grown and tidy tuft or kudami at the back – join them in the celebrations.
The professor took instant umbrage to the suggestion and even rebuked the students for taking undue liberty with him. He thundered, “How dare you people associate me with bars and alcohol!” and loudly exclaimed, “Oh God have mercy on these young souls!” The students would not take ‘no’ for an answer and told him that he should not play spoil sport. After all this was no ordinary day and they must celebrate. They told him, ‘At least come to the bar and you need not drink.’ After much cajoling the professor agreed to go along to ‘Old B and B’. Having reached the place and comfortably seated the students once again got after the professor and somehow convinced the old man to taste a drink. They all ordered a round of Scotch even though it was frightfully expensive – the occasion demanded it. All raised their glasses and drank a toast to the allied victory. The learned old man took a sip and yelled – “Ayooo paven! This is not scotch”.
After retirement from the navy I went to sea with the mercantile marine. There we did 45 days at sea and equal number of days at home. Seeing me home every day and always pottering in the kitchen, our new maid asked me “You don’t do any work?” to which I said “Yes, I work in a ship” to which she said “As a cook?” and I kept quiet. Later on a cousin of mine punned, “You should have said yes – as Captain Cook.”

I was to take over command of a major war vessel INS Dunagiri that morning. I was in the process of getting ready in the shore mess. I was still in my dhoti, with no vest. The door bell rang and I promptly folded the dhoti up and went and opened the door. There I found a very smart officer who had been sent to accompany me to the ship for the taking over ceremony. He surveyed the scene very carefully and looked me up and down and finally said “Sab ko bulao!’

It was December 1986 and National Junior School behind JVV was celebrating their annual day. My daughter was the Head Prefect and was commanding the parade. She had repeatedly told me not be late for the function. Dressed in a smart suit (‘PN Rao Since 1935’) I made an impressive entry. On seeing me, the cadet orderlies quickly came to attention, did an about turn and started marching towards the dais – yours truly behind them. Rest of the events unfolded with military precision – the bugle was sounded - the band started playing and all the parents stood up. The only two people desperately shouting, waving and gesticulating in all directions to stop the diabolical incident from happening were the principal and my very very embarrassed and red faced daughter. She refused to speak to me thereafter for a week.

Refusing to learn a lesson, I once again dressed up in a ‘PN Rao Since 1935’ creation and arrived at ‘Freedom International School’ where my dear wife is the principal, for their 1st year Independence Day celebrations. My wife with her military influence had placed a lookout to sight and report the arrival of the chief guest -Honarable Mr. Justice M.N.Venkatachaliah,Former Chief Justice of India. As per protocol I arrived a few minutes earlier and my driver Navin stopped the car and opened the door for me. As I entered the passage leading to the main assembly hall I saw a posse of teachers running helter - skelter and some saying “Why has he come so early - inform the principal”. The principal also rushed to the chaotic scene only to regain her calm and composure within a jiffy and say “oh don’t worry he is just my husband”. This time around I did not speak with my wife for a week.

My TV, party music and bar is located on the Northern side of my house. I have a very conservative and nosey South Indian Brahmin family as my neighbors. They have constantly complained about the music, parties, loud talk and the horrible smell of my Cuban cigars. If ever you meet them and ask about me, they are certain to picture me as sinful and depraved person.

World space was located in my bed room on the Southern side. I used to constantly play Shruthi, Jazz and Western Classical music. I also have my pooja mantelpiece fixed in the room. I do my pooja twice a day chanting Sanskrit shlokas and ringing the bell. The neighbors on the Southern side were all praise for my selection of excellent music and very impressed with my pious way of life.