An Arrant Illusion (Reflections: Part-IV)

Adapting to the utter rationality and fast-pace of the west is one thing. Imbibing a foreign culture in its truest terms is a second thing, may be even supplementary to the first. Respecting and carrying forward the refined tastes of one’s own culture is altogether a different aspect.

Let’s not mix up !

A simple “Hello” or a sincere “Good- Morning /Afternoon /Evening /Night” are customary ways of greeting in most of the western countries. While doing so, they neither exaggerate on emotions nor suppress it below minimum display. Its cordial.

But today in India, we are in a complete illusion somewhere ! It is very common nowadays to hear a “Hi” but it is usually deprived of sincerity; sometimes the person does not even look at you while greeting thus. Then there are instances of addresses like “Hi Aunty” or “Bye Uncle” in a tone of disrespect; kids here now speak to their friends or even to their seniors in unhesitating terms as “What’s up, dude ?” or “Hey baby !” or “Hang on, man !!” or “Ohh shit !!!”, etc. Labelled slang or not, I find all these extremely impolite, particularly while relating to any typical Indian culture.

I strongly believe that my thoughts here have nothing to do around adaptability or acceptance of our changing times. That is what I clearly noted right at the beginning of this article. Otherwise, the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” would have never existed. For it generally means that when you go as a visitor to a different place, you advantageously adapt its ways or politely abide by the customs of that society. It does not say that being a Roman and in Rome, you change your Roman ways, whatsoever be the reason- that’s not adaptability !! That would be either a political compulsion or a social blunder !!!

On similar grounds, I shall also not appreciate such greetings when as an Indian and on social occasions, I meet a fellow countryman or an NRI, whether in India or in a foreign country. Rather, I would yearn to see the original chords of cultural ties reverberate, wherever.

Issues as these sometimes awfully bother me; many a times, I experience some sort of disconnection with my own ‘modern’ society.

It therefore makes me wonder if we could possibly together go back to our customary ways ! For example, revert to greetings as Namaskar /Sasriyakar /Vanakkam /As-Salamu Alaykum /Adaab and the like. Are these not things to be valued ?… Let’s admire with due respect that many foreigners visiting India read and learn a lot about our customs and culture even before they actually land here; and as expected of them, almost everyone observes the rules maximally though they may opine otherwise. But what eludes us, the desi folks ?

The other trend is that many parents here communicate with children to such an extent in English (at home, on the playground, public places) that they forget to teach them the wonderful values of their own culture and sometimes, even their native language- call it mother-tongue or whatever. They are superficially proud of that seemingly big ‘English achievement’ (a mis-conceptualized ‘high status’ or ‘elite society’ by many desi folks), and absolutely indifferent about not been able to teach their kids about their own cultural aspects, let alone any sense of loss at it !!!

Unfortunately, the polished outlook, mannerisms and etiquette of a gora saheb (usually meaning an English gentleman) are rarely observed !! I much agree to the concerned views expressed by Jug Suraiya in his blog titled Mimic Man.

A very few parents /guardians observe and inculcate the young with Indianness in the real sense, even though they have rightly adapted the western philosophy (mostly as a wonderful means) on certain justifiable grounds. That is a good balance which must be well-recognized and highly appreciated.

Well… It is definitely good to learn different languages and cultures. Because apart from seeking answers to the scientific quests on man’s evolution, such respectful learning also shows our liberal spirits and progressive minds. But it should never be at the cost of one’s own cultural values !! How can someone be not excited about the timeless, good aspects of one’s culture or custom ?… Without due regard to it, I am afraid, that way certain cultures and languages of the world shall become obsolete down the line; our own scripts and lawful practices or customs would appear strange to us !!! That would be the dead-end of this arrant illusion which most of us now continue to ignore with vanity.

Wish a healthy balance is maintained…

Business Sense and Culture Shock: Life Stranger than Fiction

“Have you ever been in a life outside the campus?

“Have you ever thought of commuting without your own vehicle or commuting on a shared public/private transport on a daily basis?” I guess, many of us will say YES to this. If your answer is “yes“, why don’t you share your experiences with aamjunta?. After July 2009, I too have accepted this as “the real color of life”, and started using shared transport systems.

Let me take my fellow aamjunta through three different scenes — first from an economic point of view, second from a social point of view and third from a cultural point of view.

The Business Sense of Autowalas of Bhubaneswar

Let me ask a simple question: 9 x 5 = ?. Surprised with this silly question? The answer given by Bhubaneswar autowalas is always more than 60 🙂 You might be wondering how? and why?  Their philosophy behind their answer is very simple. Let me explain.

If you board a shared auto from place A to place B, your autofare is Rs 9/-. The autowala can accommodate 5 people (at max, not 3 as seen in Mumbai!) in his auto. So, at max he gets Rs 45/- for his trip between A to B. Most of the times he hardly gets 5 people, and some time he picks up some fellow commuters and gets some thing in the range of Rs 3-9/-. On an average he earns Rs 40-45/- per trip. However, if you ask an autowala and reserve an auto from A to B, his charge starts from Rs 60/- and some time more. I don’t understand the philosophy behind their charge.  If an auto goes for a reserved trip, not only does he save time, but also he saves fuel, as the halts are not there — a reserved auto would usually move from one point to the other. Hence, charging more than Rs 45/ – Rs 50/- for the reserved trip is not at all justified. But, the autowalas never listen and many times lose fare, fuel as well as time – in waiting, in halts and in sharing. Who can educate them about their business and tourism sense? I tried many times with many autowalas but failed.

Is this a sense of business or greediness? Who is getting benefited? Both, the autowalas and the commuters are at the losing end.

Big-brother – From Mumbai to Bhubaneswar

I had heard of big-brothers in Mumbai, those who collect haftas, charge extortion money, kidnap people at gun point and sometime threaten and kill. Big city, big things, big-brothers 🙂 – a common phenomena. But, what about Bhubaneswar? It is not a big city! Moreover, people here are not that rich to be extorted or kidnapped at gun point. Police is very active here. Even then… “Big-brothers” –  hard core “muscle-men” are not extinct species here. They are very much present and active. However, I found one interesting fact about the big-brothers in Bhubaneswar. In many places, people use them, not that they use people. Let me share my experience with you.

One Sunday morning, I had to go to a friend’s place on a shared auto. Had to take an auto from Rasulgarh to Jayadev Vihar. Approached the autowalas for a shared trip. No one agreed to go, “jada aadmi nahini hai, bhada nahini milega, will not go”, was their simple answer. To that, when I asked for a reserved trip, they asked for Rs 120/- where they get Rs 30/- on a shared trip — four times the normal fare! Got frustrated with their attitude, went ahead and thought of trying for a line auto or some other auto. Tried to stop many autos, but no one stopped. Some even slowed down, but did not stop. Could not understand the reason. Why don’t they stop? Initially, I thought, there might be a traffic police standing nearby. But, that was not the case. A huge – dark – fatty young guy standing nearby, was waving his fingers at the autos which tried to stop. Seeing him there, no one dared to stop. Reason – he was hired by the local autowalas of that particular auto-stand, to protect their fare, such that other autowalas will not pickup any one from that stop 🙂 .   If some one stops by mistake and picks a passenger, he will be brutally punished and fined by the muscle man. Initially I started laughing, not on the muscle man, but on the attitude of the autowalas. Neither they are interested to provide services, nor they allow others. Moreover, they pay these muscle men from their own pockets. Who suffers? The commuters, they theme selves and the aamjunta. After 10 minutes of waiting and frustration, I went to the muscle man, and asked, “what kind of justice are you doing?, neither the autowalas whose fare you are protecting are willing to go, nor they allow others to take.” By that time 4/5 more people joined with me and we started shouting. Initially he started showing his dadagiri to us, but seeing a group and our anger, he left the place, and we managed to get a line auto. In the mean time, I approached the police and informed about the incident.

An Interesting Scene of a Real Drama – Request: “No Repetition Please”!

Last month, I was in my native place for Durga Puja. It was a real vacation for me after a long gap – after some 8/10 years. We had the usual Durga Puja celebrations and in addition we  have a cultural function on the last day of the vacation – on the Purnima (Full Moon) day. Kids, young school/college going girls and guys and even senior people participate in that function. We always arrange in our village  small skits,  competitions, cultural shows, quiz  and many more events to celebrate the evening.  People from many other villages also participate in the function. Like every year, this year also we had that function. The evening and the events were going smoothly.  I was asked to be a part of the organizing team, however I deliberately did not participate in  organizing the event. The reason – “Drink “- every one in the organizing team were drunk, literally not on their feet, drunk so badly that they were not even able to speak coherently. They had beer, whisky, vodka etc… as a part of the “organizational arrangement”. Initially I thought of raising a protest, but whom to say? No one was in a mood to listen, and every body was drinking. Just kept silent and was keeping an eye on the event.

More than 500 people (of which 60% are kids) were attending the event. Suddenly some one from the organizing team entered the dais and started shouting on the microphone. Shouting in-fact is not the appropriate word, he was abusing the anchor with all kinds of vulgar words. To that, the anchor (who was drunk too) started reacting – retaliating with equally vulgar words. In a fraction of a second, the dais became a battleground, the cultural evening became a farce and a travesty of what people name as “culture”. Audience watching the show tried to pacify the matter, but in vain. The other organizers too tried their best (with their so called wisdom words) to pacify this. Nothing happened, no one stopped and we all were watching helplessly. Finally they were taken away forcefully by the guests. Later, the chief guest, who happens to be a retired head master and a seasoned artist rose to the occasion and gave his gandhigiri speech which had the following content: “Like many good and bad scenes of a drama, this (abusing scene) incident is a real scene of a real drama. However, the taste of this scene is bad. And there is a public demand, “no repetition please”.”

Not only that, he took two Rs 50/- notes from his pocket and awarded the two battling organizers for their scene – for their action, their show in the drama.

I still could not understand what kind of cultural function we had? What will the kids learn from this? Drinking and Shouting with vulgar words?. Is this the batton we are passing to our future generation? Chalta haiAamjunta think of it…

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