Day 130: Being mean – not! 

It’s not easy when you act out what you’ve been meaning to for a long time.

One of the most powerful, and irritating, experiences that I’ve had on campus was at the kiosk; I was waiting to pick up some tea. This was almost a year and a half back, in semester 1, when I was fresh from my professional and western sense of personal space. This college, and most of India, knows nothing about personal space. There was already a row of students directly behind the counter, picking up tea and snacks that they needed. I stood in the next row, behind them, waiting to move in and order when they were done. Yes, life would be wonderful if we had a queue system now, wouldn’t it?

As I waited there, money in one hand and my phone in the other, a young lady joined the melee at the kiosk, in the circle (the crowd equivalent of a queue) behind me. How did I know she had joined our little, uncomfortable party? She was breathing down my neck (literally), was close enough to check my hair for split ends and her arm was stretched above all of the 5 foot and 7 inches of me. The icing on the cake was her shrill-pitched voice yelling ‘Bhayya, ek chai, bhayya, ek chai’. I realized that subtlety and hints were generally lost on this lot when none of my shuffling and mch’ing did any difference to her yelling. I wanted to turn around and shush her. I wanted to ask her if she thought I enjoyed standing where I was, stuck between a sweaty boy in the front and the shrieking her in the back. I wanted to remind her that I was there to pick up tea too, and it would only be fair for me to be served first, before she got her turn. I wanted to remind her of the sad situation that the anna was in, where he had his 2 hands and 2 ears competing against at least 100 hungry hands clawing at him. I stood still and waited for the sweaty boy in the front to get his job done.

Not a second later she yells ‘Abey chai dena, kutte ki aulaad’. It was of course drowned down by the rumpus around and never made it to the guy behind the counter. But I heard it crystal clear. I was fuming red. I turned around to let her have all that I had subdued only a second back, but all I could muster was a cold-dreaded stare. She got the message and walked away.

I think of that episode a lot, especially when I am at the kiosk and I see the persistent commotion. I often think of that young girl that I stared back at, and I wonder if she had learnt a lesson. I beat myself up for not coming up with a wittier response than a simple stare down. I worry for a generation that would go out of the safe confines of the university, and into the world, thinking that it was their legal entitlement to be served without a minute’s delay, and that it was okay to use any words they deem needed to get that done.

With all the thinking that I had done on this matter, today I was better prepared to respond when a similar incident replayed. I was waiting my turn for chai (I should probably stop drinking this much chai), and a young girl butts in from behind me and yells ‘Anna, ek tea’. I smile at her, she smiles back, and I ask her if I look like I was standing there for fun. Her smile drops half-way down, confused. “What happened?”, she asks. I explain my protest and her smile is completely gone. We stand there awkwardly as I pick up my tea and egg puff. As I head out, I say “Now is your turn. Luck!”, and she smiles, sheepishly.

And I felt miserable at the end of it all. Maybe more so than the previous time. I beat myself up this time for not picking the stare-down route. It actually hurt me to vocalize my discomfort because it made me sound like a bad person, where as I was not. Stopping someone from walking all over me made me feel like the one at fault.  Why did I get disturbed for simply expressing something that I had played out in my mind many times before?

I finally understand something that I had heard over the weekend at Diversity Dialogues. Some of us are very comfortable being the victim; being the one oppressed. Some of us never speak up against what troubles us simply because we are comfortable playing the role of a traditionalist. We do not want the world to think ill of us because of our conflicting opinions. We play along in order to get that gold medal, a fake smile and a nod of acceptance. We conform!

Pics4mswiss: One of the chairs of Einstein, in the old city Berne. Sit with the man and talk about conforming. 

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Day 108: You should never meet your superheroes

I don’t know whether I should blame the sociology paper or the extended conversations with SilverGhoster, on everything under the roof, but I have a strange cloud hanging over my head today. Some of the points of discussion during the leeching episode stayed with me and that kicked off our next big rant about relationships.

Black or White

Between the SilverGhoster and the DubaiCassanova, I see the two extremes that define the young men of today.

On one end of the spectrum are those that still believe in chivalry, address even women their own age as ‘Madam’ no matter how awkward it sounds to the modern ear, and prefer the clinical perspective on life, where superheroes exist only in fan fiction. They believe that trying to live the fancy life of glitter and glam painted by mass media will only result in heart break, and nothing is worth a lost peace of mind. They will settle with the charming damsel their mother, and the stars, pick for them, and will love that lady to the end of their life.

On the far blue corner, are the partyholics, who define the quality of life based on the glamour shown on their Instagram page. Their badges of accomplishments vary from the number of men/women one has slept with, to their varying sexualities, to the ability to fool the system entirely. They flout rules like their fathers owned the world, and if money was sufficient to build a social repute, ideologies could be dumped into the farthest shelves of living.

Neutral Ground

Does the world stay in stability because of the two extremities that abound in it? Or is the reason for all these doldrums in the world the very fact that such opposites try to co-exist?

As I continued probing and questioning the life choices on one of these extremities, my natural tendency was to advice him to loosen up, and enjoy the world for what it was. My recommendations were for a more loosely bound life-system, where it was acceptable to put oneself out there, to love and to crash and burn. I asked him to look at those on the other side, their learnings, and realize that he was missing out on so many interesting experiences just because of his principles of life.

And then, I stopped myself short. Was this just my human tendency to change anything that exists and to alter its natural state? If I had been talking to the DubaiCassanova, would I have instead advised him to look at the other end and be more sensitive? Now, wouldn’t this whole process, of advising one to become like the other, define my hypocrisy. While I profess hatred towards any form of advice, especially the uncalled ones that are very generously dished out by the society, wasn’t I doing the same thing by asking the SilverGhoster to let his ghosts of the past lay to rest and explore the world’s colors?

I still stand by what I said about my hatred for advice; any man that has a girl child will give you advice on how to raise a girl; anyone that has loved and lost will start dishing out relationship advice; anyone that has written a competitive examination is now your guide on how to crack it; and anyone that has raised a child, albeit a crack addict, will turn parental coach. What qualifies them to wear the superior cape of a guide, shaping your opinions and experiences, based on theirs? For me, someone that truly qualifies to advice another would be one that has seen that person in their entirety – at their massive highs, their utmost vulnerabilities, and knows the truest principles that shape their life. Or, is a qualified, certified psychological practitioner.

Anyone else is just using their number of years on the earth, their supposed experience, to place themselves at a position of power over you; the holy I’ve-been-there-I-know-it position.

The elusive karma

My barrage of counters on why he didn’t do a lot of things a typical 27 year old would do increased, and the sober SilverGhoster brought in the elusive karma. He said his interpretation of karma was that ‘anything that was meant to happen, would happen anyway, without any known push from your end‘. So, in love and life, he let things take their own course and watched how they evolved.

Funny how I think that’s the pop culture interpretation of karma while the true intent behind it is the opposite. From up his holy chariot, Lord Krishna said ‘कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन। मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥ २-४७’, or, ‘Karmanyevadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadacha na. Ma Karmaphalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani’. With this background, I see karma as the duty that you have to do for any result to come by. And inaction, or letting the universe do its thing, doesn’t count for karma.

So, when we say ‘What will be will be’ and use that as a reason for not doing something about it, we are basically doing anti-karma, and not the reverse.

That’s some deep stuff brewing, S. If you ask me, the man is right. Just relax, smell the rain in the winds, and things will fall into their place. And maybe that idea of relaxing and having fun is the karma we are all chasing. 

What say?” Scotch