For cricket buffs, the term ‘soft signal’ has become a talking point after the fourth T20 match between England and India. A soft signal involves a decision that umpires have to take when a cricketing decision needs to be referred to the third umpire from the field. Whenever the on-field umpire needs the assistance of the television umpire to arrive at a decisive conclusion, the on-field umpire has to indicate their stance on the decision in question to the television (TV) umpire well in advance. This is referred to as the ‘soft signal’, where the on-field umpire indicates whether they think the batsman is ‘out’ or ‘not out’ before the third umpire reviews the decision on the basis of video footage. Once the on-field umpire indicates the soft signal (‘out’ or ‘not out’), the TV umpire will be primarily guided by the soft signal and shall only overturn the decision if there is definite visual evidence. Many a times, an element of doubt surfaces as it may be difficult for a TV umpire to overturn the soft signal. A similar incident happened on that particular evening when it appeared that the fielder couldn’t catch the ball cleanly but because the soft signal was “out”, the TV umpire had to stay with the decision due to lack of absolute proof of a dropped catch and India lost the wicket of a batsman in form at a crucial point in the game.
The reason I have elaborated on the soft signal episode is to draw a simile with our daily lives where we also either have to indicate a soft signal or adjudicate over a decision like the TV umpire. In the cricketing context, the on-field umpires, only on the basis of what they get to see live, without the benefit of replays, have to often make tough calls. In our lives as well, we have to give out soft signals, as parents, teachers, friends or in any other role that we play. Many a times, we tend to have our own ideas about how the friends of our children should be like. We may have our own prejudices and, subconsciously, try to pass it on to our wards. We may disapprove of some of the friends they move around with. Yes, as parents, we are supposed to keep an eye on our child’s friend circle. But, we must also respect the choices of our children. Friendship, in itself, is not something that can be manufactured or bought like a piece of chocolate from a shop. We make friends when we develop an emotional connect; it happens spontaneously. True, common interest is essential for making friends but opposites always attract more. The point is that before we make the soft signal on our child’s close pals, we need to also know his or her friends better, and appreciate their bond.
This is also a very common situation on the work front, where life gets even more complicated with all of us running the rat race even if some of us may not be that keen. In the process, we may be asked to give our soft signals on our colleagues when they are in a spot of bother. We may not reason out our decisions while giving our opinion on a dear colleague or, at times, be too emotionally-driven when defending a colleague on a controversial matter. Either way, we got to be careful in giving our soft signal, knowing for sure that once we do so, we may not be in a position to alter it. What we see or hear may not always be true. We live in very different times now where social media controls much of what we think is happening around us. And, we so often believe a WhatsApp message as gospel truth only to regret forwarding the same when we realise that the message was fake.
This is election season and emotions are at an all-time high as political parties go full throttle on the campaign trail and as voters, we, too, get swayed by what we get to see and hear around us. We all have our political preferences and opinions on how the nation needs to be governed and also genuine concerns as citizens. But, I believe, this is also a time when we have to ensure that our political and ideological differences do not adversely impact old friendships with childhood pals, or colleagues, or our equation with our relatives. We just got to remember that unlike the on-field cricket umpire, we do have an option to accept the fact that we can’t always quite say who’s right or who’s wrong.