Tuesday, October 13, 2009

That Feudal Mindset

His unshaven and unwashed face seemed repulsive to me. His crushed and dirty payjamas could not have made him look even worse. I asked him, “Andheri Station??” He shook his head meaning “No”. I asked again, “Will you go, or wont” He just looked away. I was sort of unsettled; the kind of feeling one has when his servant disobeys him. I also know that the so-called modern and liberal brigade of India would have made a villain out of me by now for still having a feudal mindset. But, I think most of us still carry the weight of those feudal days. It’s just that the words we use might be different.

A friend of mine got frustrated while waiting for a rick at Andheri Station. She was expecting someone to come and say “Ma’m, where do you want to go” Much to her chagrin, the autowallahs did not stop auto and asked while still driving the rick. Few of them even indicated by hand that they would go only to right and not left. She was appalled to realize that she was not even worthy of a negotiation with an autowallah. You cant blame autowallah if you look at roads and traffic in Bombay for there will be a long queue of vehicles, if you stop even for a minute to ask passengers. And knowing that the most desperate often act most practically since they don’t have the luxury of nursing whims and fancies, my friend should not have been surprised at the autowallah merely showing his hand to point at direction where he wanted to go.

As Leonardo Dicaprio said in Blood Diamond “Americans have a lot of feelings” He was actually referring to rich people being over sensitive. In this case too, my well-to-do friend got offended. In fact, she is not an exception, as even many others and I would have reacted in the similar fashion.

You would often hear a friend complaining that the servants are over demanding. “They ask for sarees on Diwali”, goes the rhetoric. But aren’t masters over demanding too? In Delhi and in fact most of north India, if your daughter is getting married, it is assumed that the maid, who otherwise does not spend more than 2 hours at your house, will give a helping hand for may be 2 days or even 3 days until the wedding gets over. Agreed that, maids get paid for this extra time, but assuming them to give a helping hand without even bothering to ask them is preposterous.

I was not surprised when many of my friends could not read more than 20 pages of the award-winning novel ‘The White Tiger’. They thought that it was simply a critique of India. They did not realize that it was actually a critique of how servants are treated and how caste is still a reality and not a myth in India. The employer is always a ‘maalik’ or worse ‘anna data’ and the employee a ‘naukar’ to an extent that when someone asks “aap kahan naukri kartein hai”, we don’t even realize that he has degraded us.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What a morning??

Do we have plenty of anything? May be plenty of shit and filth…I spent 50 minutes in a rick this morning to reach Andheri Station. Normally it does not take more than 25. There wasn’t a single signal without a traffic jam. And, my rick driver was nothing but a reincarnation of Gandhi. We were badly stuck and there was a long queue of truck, bus and cars ahead of us waiting to get past the signal. I said to rick driver, “Why don’t you overtake the cars” (For the uninitiated, in India, often driving in a small vehicle like an auto, bike or a scooter is a smart thing to do. A big SUV is an even bigger pain in the ass, as the width of our roads is indirectly proportional to the increasing size of our cars. So rest assured to get stuck, if your ass is resting in a SUV)
The driver replied, “I will be heads on with the vehicles coming from opposite direction”
I said “But there are hardly any vehicles coming from that side”
He said, “If it comes, then????”
I said, “How many years have you spent in Bombay”
He replied, “Ten”
I said, “You will never be able to accumulate money for your family, if you care so much about others”
He said, “Why are you saying all shit? I have to care”
I got irked, “Care??? For what?? Why don’t you start preaching like Baba Ramdev”
He said, “I do follow him”
I said, “I am not telling you to follow him, I am telling you to be like him. You will remain like this for your life”
He said, “As if you are really happy, if you are a crorepati”
This is something, which can confound a westerner, more than anything else. We, Indians, have very easily bypassed all stages in Maslow’s need hierarchy model and no matter how poor we are; our only need is “need for self-actualization”