The other day, I had an altercation with a man and his wife who live in front of my building on second floor. Apparently, they own the building and I am a renter opposite them on first floor. The drain cleaning guy comes once a month and clears the mud etc from underneath the open drains. As it is not a regularised colony, there are no parking spaces. People park their bikes in the narrow lanes separating the buildings facing each other.
Someone asked me to take my bike to some other place so that the cleaner has an access to the drain. I took my bike and parked it in front of the opposite building seeing an empty space. The man yelled from above, “You can’t park the bike there.” I replied it was just for five minutes. He insisted that there would be a problem and rudely asked me to immediately park it somewhere else as it was his building.
I got angry and asked him to come down and tell me where is the problem and even if he had one he didn’t own the lane. But as cowards would do, he didn’t come down and kept yelling, “हटा ले वर्ना ठीक नहीं होगा।” (take it away or it won’t be any good.) I parked and locked it, saying, “ये तो यहीं रहेगा, जो उखाड़ना है उखाड़ ले। (It will stay here forever, do whatever you can.)” And I came back in my room.
Now his wife popped her head out and said, in third person, “ये बिहारी किराएदार! आ जाते हैं कहाँ कहाँ से और परेशान करते रहते हैं। (These bloody Bihari renters! They come here from I their state and create problems for us.)”
That was the limit for me. I went to my balcony and addressed her calmly, but in loud voice, “ओए! मैं जानता हूँ तू ये पचास गज के ताजमहल में रहती है और ये भी जानता हूँ कि हमारे रेंट से तेरा पेट पलता है। और मुमताज़ जी, मैं भले ही किराएदार हूँ लेकिन ये भी जान लो कि हमारे दादा मूतने से पहले पचास गज टहलकर देखते हैं कि यहाँ मूँते या कहीं और। इसीलिए आराम से जाकर अपने ताजमहल में सो जाओ। (I know you own the building which is a 50-yard Taj Mahal for you. And I also know that it is these renters like me who pay you so that you eat your two meals. And Ms Mumtaz, I do pay rent here but back home my grandpa roams around in 50-yard area before he decides where he should be peeing. So why don’t you now go and rest in your Taj Mahal.)”
It was all in raw Hindi and she backed off with nothing to say. This incident is not one-off. We wake up and spew venomous thoughts on whosoever we can throw upon. People are angry all the time. Honking on roads, abusing without and reason, picking fights just because they go to gym or killing someone because of spilled tomato sauce, are all part of daily routine.
One thing that my less literate but highly educated father taught me is don’t relent when you are right. Don’t ever sit calm when something unjust is happening. But at the same time he also says me to keep calm because world is not a place to be heroic. Him saying ‘keep calm’ doesn’t mean be a coward or indifferent, rather deal it with logical ways. Anger and abuse are not the solutions. I am still working on staying calm and keep my anger in check.
But, despite some heavy setbacks professionally, my intolerance for idiocy or injustice doesn’t fade. I know if given the same situation, I would deal it differently but again, that different thing won’t be becoming spineless.
Prejudices of all kinds encircle us. It is like the mathematical expression Pi which is infinite and encompasses every possible combination of numbers without any recurrence of a series of them. Prejudices are manufactured in society. Prejudices are in our names, our caste, religion, looks, colour, anything that comes to our attention.
In recent times, powers have used this tool of mutual intolerance as propaganda. Even if two people are facing each other, there would be something that would make one better than the other. That’s the way things have become. When you don’t know anything about me, you pick up my height, my hair style, colour etc. The youth from Arunachal Pradesh, Nido Taniam was heavily beaten up resulting in his death, had a golden streak in his hair and shopkeepers made fun of it. Later he was fatally assaulted.
In our times being superior is the only motif of our lives. If not for you, you are lucky and sane. From comparing friend’s salary to appeal of other’s girlfriend, weirder are the ways of self-assessment.
To me it is certainly not the way one should pursue. It is a decaying route we are all walking on. About time it must stop for good, else rioting mob would take any reason to torch houses, kill people and abuse our social fabric.