Saturday, 18 August 2012

"Guess you gotta be crazy to survive...."

I’ve been talking to a lot of people lately, and I cannot get over how damnably selfish human beings are. We lie, cheat, steal, rob, kill and hurt, just to improve our lives, our finances, our relationships. We love to beg. We beg for pity, compassion, clemency, empathy, sympathy, food, money, better jobs, good clothing, a good bargain, better food, name it, we beg for it. We twist our faces into pitiable expressions, contort our bodies to seem smaller, and try to whine our ways into people’s sympathies. It’s sickening – people beg especially when they know they do not deserve what they beg for. We’ve lost the ability to fight for what is rightfully ours. Because we sit back and expect it to land in our laps. Easy peasy. I received a sad little letter about how “I am ‘akeli aurat’” and by default, you must feel pity for me and give me what I want. What about a dignified letter about how capable I am? Is this how equality works? Big deal if your husband left you. He seems to be a horrible guy anyway. Would you rather he stayed on with you and made life hell? Big deal you have “do chote chote bachhe”. You’ve given birth to them. They are now your responsibility. I might have empathised with you under different circumstances. If only you hadn’t begged. The little girl with her ‘little shop’ on the beach. The sing song voice. I found it strange that a little girl as young as ten needs to sell jewellery on the beach. But what the hell. She had guts. She learnt English. She learnt to sell her stuff. Till she spotted my silver rings. And the sing song voice changed its tune. From “Hello madam, you want to see my little shop” it became, “you are wearing silver, give me one”. She twisted her pretty little face into a ghastly mask of piteous crocodile tears and begged for my rings, and then a chai and then a drink! Before I could recover from the shock of her demands, she called me a beggar and flounced off.

We crib, complain, and whine. Trust me, whining only suits a dog. At least a dog looks cute. Don’t think for once I am distancing myself from the complainy cribby types. I do too. At every given chance. But I learnt a sharp lesson this morning. To be dignified. Even in death. Diabetes, the office cat died this morning. She didn’t beg or plead. She collapsed in front of office. We flapped and clucked and rushed and fawned and finally brought her home for the night. She knew, and we knew, she probably wouldn’t make it. She crawled into a corner. And died. No fuss. No begging. No sympathies. In death she seemed larger than she’d ever looked in office, twining her lithe body around our legs. She never begged. Simply leapt onto the table with the grace only cats can have, and helped herself to exactly what she liked. RIP Diabetes. I’ll think of you every time I eat a lemon tart.

Writing about dignity is a whole new blog altogether. Right now I’m just angry. 15th August this year brought with it the usual frenetic levels of new found patriotism with people sharing links and pictures on social media sites with captions like “Share if you are proud to be Indian”. People were talking about “my India”, “my country”, and then again stuff like “desh ke liye kyun kare jabhi desh hamare liye kuch nahin karta”. What desh are you talking about? Any country is a living embodiment of the people inhabiting it – so if you my friend, are going to be happy sitting back and cribbing, then I’m afraid there’s not much the ‘country’ can do for you. I understand the frustration, the paranoia, the fear, that all come with trying to eke out an existence. But instead of sharing Facebook posts trying to prove who is more Indian, why can’t we use social media to topple the media giants that are dumbing down our existence every single day? There are thousands, nay, millions of people in this god forsaken country who lead their daily lives trying to survive the grinding ordeal of living in a ‘developing’ nation, with poor, often non-existent infrastructure. How often do you read about them? Urban youth who deal with the daily hungama of going to college by winding their way through unending traffic snarls, to be faced with poorly trained, uncaring educators, to deal with apathy and appalling attitudes of “I don’t give a shit”. Rural youth many of whom don’t know what going to school is like, forget about college. And everyone complains about how nobody cares. Why should they? Why should anyone care about someone else when they are being forced to live degrading, demeaning lives? It is just so wrong. 

A recent trip to Odisha just showed me the same things that I saw in Chhattisgarh. Life sucks. The government doesn’t care. Industrialists have made everyone a fool, and we are too stupid to realize. They take over YOUR land and build factories that will ruin YOUR health and YOUR families and yet you want a job with them? Yet you are BEGGING for a job with them? All those tall claims that industrialization brings wealth is just a big fat lie, and we buy it every single time. We’ve got to stop being gullible fools, and stop voting in the thieves & morons who time and again make empty promises. People like MLA Chiranjeeb Chatterjee who still, in this day & age of so called empowerment & modernity makes stupid statements – “To an extent, even women are responsible for eve teasing, the size of their skirts and dresses are changing over time, which is definitely entertaining for men. Apparently he was speaking as a father, brother, husband, NOT the MLA he is. Going back to good ol’ Facebook – “Her clothes provoked you to rape? I should break your face because your stupidity provokes me”.

A long discussion with Egyptian Sami made us conclude that there no longer exists the concept of respect. All over the world. Regardless of caste, class, gender, social background blah bloo. Every single moment, we are happy to invade each others’ sense of space and privacy to achieve something that we ‘want’. We are always trying to control everything. Ourselves. Each other. Nature. Destiny. If we cannot control – occupy & destroy. The forests. Ourselves. The hills. The rivers. The seas. The animals. Molest. Rape. Murder. Loot. Rob. Cheat. Invade. Shoot. Blast the hills. And then beg for jobs from those who blasted those hills!

We’ve got to stop looking the other way every time a crime is committed. Social media can be used to spread the truth and awareness. Instead, it was used shamefully when a girl was attacked in Assam. It was used WRONGLY when there were riots in Assam – spreading lies and rumours. We’ve got to stop applauding Mary Kom if we’re gonna be the ones chasing out the ‘chinkys’ from our state. This intolerance of outsiders drives me nuts. A few years back it was the same crap in Pune. It’s the same in Delhi. Maharashtra. West Bengal. And Goa. Yes! Believe it or not – that beautiful epitome of atiti devo bhava DOES have some crap elements of intolerance where it’s fine for your firangi to waltz around in a bikini par apna bharatiya nari must stick to the ankle length ‘maxis’ or other ankle length stuff. It’s fine for your men to work past 11 at night, but not women. All women who work late must, by default, be prostitutes. Especially the ‘outsiders’. Especially the vocal ones. The ones who say NO to you and look you in the eye. Even the police are appalled that women who work in an non-profit can wear shorts and come to work. And these Ghati (outsider) men…how dare they voice their opinions against the Goenkars? I wish these little maindaks in their little moss covered wells would understand that instead of cowering behind their alcoholic husbands and brothers, it would be better to channelize their righteous energies in busting the rampant drug cartels and the oppressive petrol mafia that are choking Goa. Quiver your mustache at the sheer outrageousness of Shri Ram Sene trying to come into Goa. Let your bratty, snotty kids realize that illegal mining is destroying Goa. You fools, you’re fighting the Ghatis when your corrupt Goenkars are stripping your state. I guess it’s just come down to the age old adage - ‘survival of the fittest’!  

Talking of survival – of all the animals we got with the office, only Psycho Patso survives. Patso is a pretty little brown mongrel with one crumpled ear and she is totally totally psycho! Every time someone enters office, Patso rushes over to greet them, and does a mad dash around the office, running into every room, bumping in to the furniture, with a stop-drop-roll routine in the middle of the hall, followed by a frantic back-flopped-belly-dance – for you confused humans, it means a belly dance routine, while on her back, with all four paws waving ‘gracefully’ in the air… this happens a minimum of ten times every morning, and a minimum of ten times every afternoon, when we return from lunch. The theory of her psychosis is supported by her sudden dashes through the office – entering from the back door, full circle of the hall, out through the front door, in through a window…

My friend believes Patso's survived just coz she's crazy. I think he’s too damned right. (Before some people jump on the use of the word crazy, please be mature enough to understand that I mean “crazy” – ie people who are assumed to be ‘insane’ because they're different. Others don’t understand them. I’m always politically correct.) People call us crazy when we try to save the life of a dying cat, or a crushed-under-your-overlarge-SUV-wheels dog. But if we don’t then who will? Those people who protest against something wrong. Like Pussy Riot. They’re fucking crazy man. What were they thinking? I’m sure they knew they’d be arrested. But if they didn’t do their crazy act – who would? Or the people in the Egyptian Revolution. Only the crazy can believe in something enough to stick to it no matter what.

We need to change the way we think, the everyday survival strategy. Like Shanti on the beach. Shanti was fascinating. I guess she’d be in her mid 20s. She had the eyes of an wizened old lady. And the grace of a dancer. She dreams of going North to sell from her ‘little shop’. She said she would do it once she had a little money. Were we “together”? “you know, that way” *knowing smile* no, no, just friends. Aah ok. You from Goa? Your mamma lives here? You want to get something for your mamma? Is she pretty like you? Where is your girlfriend? Coming to Delhi? Take something for her no? I went to Hampi to sell from my little shop last month. So beautiful it was ya? I want to see the world. First north. Then the world. Take something no, from my little shop. It will help me no? not today? Ok. Tomorrow? What time? I’ll wait for you. Till the sun goes down ok. I’ll wait with my little shop for you.

We gotta dream big, plan massive, and live life like Psycho Patso. Break the rules. Change the way you sit back and survive. If you want to pounce on the grass and roll in the sun, go ahead and do it. It’s time to stop giving in to the ‘rules’ of society. Stop complaining. Go ahead. Change things. Like Batman. He went 'batty'. Because in his city, structures created shackles. People freaked. Didn't know how to deal with him. Called him a killer. But turned to him when there was no hope left. That's the need of the hour. Just go crazy on this world, they won't know what hit 'em!!

Diabetes in her usual pose - photo courtesy Dixie. 

 Patso in one of her many poses - photo courtesy Ayush

N.B. - Do check out "Garv Se Kaho Hum Ghanti Hai" by Vidyadhar Gadgil if you have the time! 

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