Whatever Happened to Chivalry?

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Nisha JamVwal argues why it is necessary for men to go back to being gentlemen

When you are ready to hit your career and life in the fast track scene, it is important to remember your Ps and Qs and be gentleman-like. Today’s hurry to be fashionable, successful, smart and snazzy has relegated etiquette and good manners to the age of the dinosaur. So many people grow up learning how to be financially astute, street smart, ambitious, wear ‘the best’ and appear equipped with all it takes to ‘make it’ that I see the beginning of the end of the basics of good manners!

Women write to me complaining about the frequent lack of chivalry they observe. What is left unattended in a fast internet world, with everyone in a hurry to make it and break it (records that are), is this complete lack of attention to the subtle nuances of chivalry? Chivalry may be on life support, but it is not dead yet. Be one of the few to keep this flame burning, by following ‘gentle rules’ when in the presence of a lady.

Until not very long ago a man walking with you always opened the door. This is perhaps the most basic rule of male etiquette, the easiest to follow. Whether she is about to enter a car, restaurant, club, or any place with a door, a man should always hold it open. If there are many doors, then hold them open one after the other. It may not be a norm but is a gracious gesture. A man helps a lady put on a coat – a simple but charming and powerful action.

Recently I was quite taken aback when I was going to dinner with a colleague. He ran ahead of me and I had to actually look for him. Where had he gone? Had I lost him? I was appalled! To run miles ahead while she’s frantically trying to keep pace might sound funny, but it is not. It’s a put-off. Are we at a stage where we have to actually point out something so basic? If you are escorting a lady try not to run ahead; a woman’s steps are tinier (even if she’s taller).

I had grown up believing a gentleman offers a lady his arm when escorting a special someone to and from social dos. This is a little more intimate, but serves well when walking on uneven ground, especially if she’s wearing stilettos. And of course, if she is sitting next to you, it is important that you help her be seated by pulling her chair out for her and gently pushing it back in place, with your lady seated of course. If a lady arrives at the table after you – this is not only for your girl – and there are no available seats, you should stand up and offer yours to her. The old-world charm had dictated that a man always stand when a lady enters or exits the room. I really don’t know if our men today are able to rise to this standard but it is so romantic to see movies of yesteryear when Cary Grant or closer to home Sunil Dutt and Dilip Kumar (who until today is the pinnacle of charm) display such appeal on screen.

Something that never ceases to irk me is the new trend of most people, men and women when they midconversation drifts into the Blackberry world. You who are speaking are bewildered to discover that you have lost your audience to an inanimate messenger or email. Am I outdated to believe that to look around or at your mobile or the lady at the table next to you is wrong and that your attention should always be focused on the person you are talking to, especially if it’s the lady next to you? Is it redundant to look at a person when listening as well as having a conversation?

This is one that most guys already do but helps complete the gentleman nevertheless – when at social events, ask your lady if you can get her something to drink (or eat, depending on the event). Show her that you care about her comfort and needs.

Gentlemen, if I may call you that, wake up and smell the coffee! Decorum for everyday life is not the ‘Godrej Almirah’; it is most relevant in our times, something that can never go out of style. It elevates oneself above the rabble and noise. Such a rarity – good manners and savoir-faire – will in fact never go unnoticed and will always win appreciation!

Of course, women must be genteel and have finesse, and we’ll discuss that next time! Watch this space!

Chivalry may be on life support, but it is not dead yet. Be one of the few to keep this flame burning, by following ‘gentle rules’ when in the presence of a lady


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