‘And what will the lady have?’- (Gentleman who works at the restaurant)
‘A Vegetarian Red Thai Curry please’-(Me)
‘Oh my so much food! Their servings are quite big, you sure you can finish the whole thing’ (Man)
–Gentleman brings a medium size bowl of red curry, Man buts in with comments like most Indians who have arrived (financially and socially) and can’t control their tongues-
‘This big bowl can feed your entire hostel (with big animated eyes as if he saw a pot of gold instead of the Thai curry) Where did you go to law school in India? Bhopal right? That tragedy struck city right?’
-Man starts talking to others on the table-
Felt like vomiting the thai curry on the Man (Me)
Yes, the above conversation happened around 3-4 years ago on a rainy afternoon in an ambrosial Thai restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen (Don’t get me started on the terminology!) in New York. The monologue made me lose my appetite and took me as usual to my writer’s universe. Whenever I encounter such people who cannot get over themselves, I start to doodle and caricature them in my head. The Man was a top-level, polished and highly educated international diplomat. He belonged to the Lutyens Delhi breed of humans and wore this accomplishment on his suit. I am positive his suit must have costed the earth. He was in my lingo, the ‘Upper Crust Indian’! This is the highest level of crusts that an Indian can achieve. Solid education, solid ‘phoren’ education, solid marriage to a woman with incredible assets (financial and the not-so-financial bit), the solid oxford accent and of course the solid life in the Upper East Side. The only thing I felt wasn’t solid enough was his lack of awareness and sensitivity in the description of Bhopal and the gas tragedy that struck the beautiful city on the spine chilling night of December 3, 1984. Also, for some strange reason he thought we didn’t get enough food in my hostel. Anybody who went to my law school and stayed at the Girl’s Hostel are well aware of the quantity (not necessarily quality) of food that was available (they were stingy when we asked for second helpings of desserts). The fact that he worked for an organization that espoused peace, equality, rule of law and human rights was a contradiction to his nose-sniggering opinion. This isn’t uncommon and we Indians pride ourselves on climbing a mountain and mercilessly cutting down the ropeway for others.
How many of you have faced persecution at the hands of your own countrymen/women? I bet most of you. It was only while reading Giriraj Kishore’s Girmitiya Saga about the underpaid and overexploited laborers in South Africa in the early twentieth century that my flickering belief was confirmed. The moving book is poignant account of the journey of the Father of my nation from Mohanlal to Mohandas and eventually to Mahatma. The author without mincing words explicitly points out that Gandhiji’s establishments in South Africa such as Tolstoy Farm and Phoenix are in a shameful state of ruin and that the inter-squabbling among the Indian community in South Africa prevents any actual constructive work from taking place. This beautiful facet of ours welcomed invaders with open arms to ransack the country. We quite haven’t learnt the lessons of divide and rule.
On a deeper level of contemplation, the unhealthy competition and the constant ‘monkey minded’ urge to crush each other, is due to the survival instinct ingrained into our DNA by the incessant flow of invaders into the homeland. The need to survive is so ferocious that we are ready to root out any teeny-tiny possibility of healthy competition from our midst. It is not restricted only to the elusive phrase of healthy competition, it goes to all levels of the pie, whether you are a part of the ‘cherry’, ‘cream’, ‘cake’ or ‘crust’ you face a tempestuous level of psychological warfare. Readers might think it is a far too exaggerated account but trust me, anybody who has been desirous of being a somebody (a rather significant one) has faced the maximum backlash from their own countrymen/women and community. As a result brain drain isn’t a problem it is a consequence of the above mindset. This mindset doesn’t fortunately take one to an exalted level of being. One is left occupying either the upper crust or becoming a pie crumble, not an originalist who pushes for change for the better.
What would you pick? Part of a yummy dish or coming to terms of making the world a better and harmonious place to live in? Lets leave you with this.