Monday, July 13, 2009

We Are Opportunists, and We Are Like This Only

In a somewhat hard-hitting and cerebral article that would either tingle your neurons or make you hand your head in shame, Aakar Patel, former editor of Mid-day, writes about the Indian psyche, a very opportunistic one at that. He says Indians don’t give back to society which is obviously why an Indian leaves toilets dirty and litters public places. I agree. I also agree that Indian industrialists do not give back to society, and whatever meagre amounts that are forcibly extracted from them are because their accountants tell them they will get tax breaks. An excerpt from the article:

“Some characteristics unite Indians. The most visible is our opportunism. One good way to judge a society is to see it in motion. On the road, we observe the opportunism in the behaviour of the Indian driver. Where traffic halts on one side of the road in India, motorists will encroach the oncoming side because there is space available there. If that leads to both sides being blocked, that is fine, as long as we maintain our advantage over people behind us or next to us. This is because the other man cannot be trusted to stay in his place.”

Yes, we do crowd the aisle before the aircraft stops, we do push the other man away to misappropriate that precious train seat, we do spit in public places because it’s nobody’s father’s space (I was passing a man whose back was towards me, he turned his face and spat, the spray hit me, and he didn’t even apologise!), we scratch and fondle our private parts (Ugh!) because we don’t care if there are women around, we badmouth our neighbours and colleagues behind their backs (that sala, b*****d, what is he thinking-binking of himself, he is become someone big big, what they say, celebrity-celecrity or what?), we spread salacious rumours, we put the other guy down to elevate ourselves (the Marathi term is “Paya-khechi” meaning pulling down by the leg), we come late to functions and appointments and do not apologise, we eat and throw wrappers wherever its convenient to us (which is quite nearby), we burp, pass wind, we spit at wretched guys (The corners of our government offices can be identified by long strips of red spit adorned there by the officers themselves. One officer used to spit into his waste paper basket, I am told.), we elevate cruel brutes to positions of power and then complain of being harassed, we bow our heads to crooks and complain that our spines are bent, we protest against corruption but when it comes to getting things done we willingly pay, etcetera, etcetera.

While most of us wouldn’t think twice before doing something that would be profitable or something that elevate us, we are great pretenders and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing the wrong or politically incorrect opinion. We elevate those in power to bitch about them behind their backs; we show respect and at the same time curse them in private. (A peon who was obsequious in the boss’s presence began calling the man a b*****d out of earshot.) There is nothing gentlemanlike about us when we bitch about our colleagues when they are absent and spread rumours about them. You don’t have to go far to get evidence. Listen to conversations in trains and public transport, you will get enough of it.

I think, perhaps misguidedly (prove it!) that it’s our poverty and lack of opportunities that makes us so. Plus a lack of a social awareness that could have been inculcated by the reading of literature. We read very little. When I am reading a novel in the train my neighbours peep inside my book and read along with me. Bad manners, notwithstanding, I ask them if I can lend them the book so they can read it, “it’s a nice book,” I say.

“No, I won’t be able to finish it. I don’t have the patience and the time. Besides they are expensive.”

“Make time, I read on trains. There’s a guy I know who will lend it for Rs 20.”

“I would rather listen to music.”

What music? Pirated ones? Surreptitiously ripped from albums and downloaded from shady online sites, hosted in Pakistan?

I think I have made my point. My opinion is: we are opportunists and are like this only.


ZiLliOnBiG said...

its so true, john. when we are small We are also taught by our parents that we have to be extra smart, or else someone will take away our opportunity. 'smartness' means being cunning.
our thinking is very different. Our parents generation still think they are in 1960s, they refuse to change.

Thanks for sharing this article. :)))

John said...

Hi Zillion, yes, true. We don't realise how we are depriving another person of his/her rights and dignity when we are insensitive to their needs.