Saturday, June 15, 2019

Pesky Little Things and Pestilential Evils

In summer, most of us, take off to more temperate zones (preferably abroad, if the Gods of finance have been kind), where we stand in queues, get jostled by tourists, take drool worthy pics to be posted on Instagram to offer incontrovertible proof that we are having the time of our lives and to rub it in everyone else’s faces. Then we return to dear India, to deal with an increasingly leaden feeling in the pit of the stomach. Too much pasta and a second helping of sesame jellyfish before pudding is not to blame though. It is the unwelcome confrontation with a reality where customs officials are curt, there is increasing evidence of a land where responsible waste disposal is non-existent, forced corneal exposure to casually exposed buttocks as folks void their bowels in public, near death experiences as a million traffic rules are flagrantly flouted while cops don’t even pretend they are averse to accepting bribes… I could go on, but you get the picture.

Most of us trudge home, unpack and whip out our smartphones or binge – watch Netflix/Hotstar/AmazonPrime, slinking slowly but surely into a sludge of indifference which is our preferred state to better acclimatize to the reality of living in Incredible India. We get back to the grind and avert our eyes from the open manholes and drains, choosing instead to take a cute pic of our frothy cappuccino and slice of key lime pie. There are online battles to be fought over the feasibility of free rides for women on public transport, Kareena Kapoor’s right to look her age or Deepika Padukone’s slightly bulging gut and India’s prospects in the World Cup after all.

Why bother with the little things? Like the charming types who spit dangerously close to your peep - toed shoes (which you were in the process of photographing to show off your darling Balinese nail art) right on the pavement with the unsightly cracks, assorted litter and homeless folks. Or those who take the last available seat in the metro nano - seconds before a bent old lady lowers herself into it. Why speak up? It is easier to shame the boor in 280 characters and let the Twitterati do their thing which is mostly spew ineffectual hate. But isn’t that the woke way to make a difference?

It is annoying to think about the fact that we are facing an acute water crisis in most parts of India even as leaky water tankers, slosh water all over the potholes as they are headed to their destination or the fact that the quality of air is so bad in the metros that oxygen masks will soon become a necessity. Why bother about these irksome little things? After all they couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the bigger evils that plague this land. Like the case of a man accused of allegedly raping his seven - year old daughter with four pending cases against him for rape, assault and kidnapping who was released on bail so he could be an accomplice in the murder of a two – year old. But it sucks to think about a broken system. It is far simpler to plan a vacation to fairer climes. Or better yet to seriously consider that waitressing gig in Manhattan.

This was originally published in The New Indian Express.

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