Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Don't Stand So Close!

Sometimes we behave in a cultural stereotype unknowingly, not realising that we may be inappropriate to the given circumstance. I am constantly on the watch for such inconsistencies as these days I stumble into cultures, sects, cults of various types: a week back I was with writers and with a full-sleeved shirt I looked out of place as almost all of them wore grungy round-neck tee-shirts; a few days later I was with poets and they were all wearing ethnic clothes with khadi jackets, jholas and the like; and in the office I am out of place if I don't wear a long-sleeved shirt and tie (yes, that's my workplace dress code!). 

Just yesterday I was in a multinational bank with a friend and I was told by the cashier that I was standing too close to the man in front. Whoa! The diminutive cashier (she was so small she would be almost invisible if she sat down, so she stood all the time, talking to her colleague in the adjacent cubicle. 

Used as I am to standing so close to men in the sardine-packed confines of Bombay local trains, I was chastised and offended, but I corrected my thinking just in time. In other cultures Bombay local trains would be a wholescale violation of someone's space. Today I stood in a little space my chin on someone's shoulder, my tummy dovetailing into someone's back, my chest feeling the vibrations of a standing man as he talked to his friend (and shaking as he laughed!), my feet stamped by a hundred others, my nose held up vertically so as to catch some movement of staid air. Oh God! I would make a perfect caricature to whoever is watching. 

Yes, we as a people are oblivious of personal spaces and personal boundaries we shouldn't transgress. Comes with the culture, I guess. Or, is it poverty that makes us disobey the rules of civility such as: standing in a straight queue (a man once insisted that since he has been standing outside the queue for longer than me, he should be given preference at the window), averting eye contact and not staring at people, not yawning/coughing/grimacing in the face of those in front of us, not spitting, etc.

Says Muchkundji Dubeyji, "All this is like 'Bhains ke aage been bajana.'"


Anonymous said...

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yasho said...


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Hope to watch your blog from time to time.

I am also a writer from malluland...