Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The force of Habit


Every time I make a change in my life, my poor blog seems to suffer. I wonder if it is the same with others too. Not necessarily blogs, I mean do your hobbies take a hit with every new addition/change to your lives?

Thankfully, I think I’ve finally found my pace again. Meanwhile, of course, the world continued its own march. A bunch of sick men killed school children in Pakistan, more killed cartoonists in Paris. Russia’s invading Ukraine (still trying to figure out how this can be allowed), Obama visited India, Kim Kardashian’s step-dad reportedly wants to become a woman and India test fired the Agni-V, which can hit both Beijing and Karachi if they ever decided to use it that way.

I’m relearning the art of sharing a house and a household, travelling in bits and picking up on the very Mumbaikar trait of overlooking the desperate filth and dread all around the city to keep my sanity. My husband flees to Bangalore from time to time to keep his.

The other day as I was walking down to the train station, I cringed inwardly as the populous platform swam into sight.  But at the same time, I realized it wasn’t bothering me as much as it used to. Ma has a favourite adage she mouths every time my brother and I nag or complain about changes we do not like – manusher naam mahashay, ja showabey taayi shoy.

I don’t think I can translate that and do justice, but it basically means human beings are slaves of habit and get used to just about everything on the face of this earth.
As I looked right past the mounds of garbage by the train tracks, I realized how true most of those granny’s wisdom type adages are.

My taxi chacha—the man who drives me to work most mornings, told me the other day how he got picked under the Mhada housing scheme a couple of years back. He sold off the flat and continues to live in the slum area he set himself up at 20 years ago when he migrated from Pratapgarh to Bombay.  “Tab mujhey 15 lakh miley. Illegal sale tha, isliye 15 mein diya, nahi toh us ghar ka keemat 30 to tha hi. Par 15 bhi koi kum nahi hain madam humare liye.”

He sold the house he got under a government rehabilitation scheme for 1.5 million rupees, about half of what the going rate was, because it was an illegal sale.  And because the 1.5 mill is still a huge amount of money, especially since he is used to his slum living conditions.

“Jab shuru mein gao se aya tha bahut dikkat hota tha hum ko, ghar mein aurat ko. Ab aadat ho gaya hain.”

Slaves of habit.  But I’m thinking, aren’t there some habits we’re better off not being slaves to, even though acceptance can bring some (temporary) peace?

That way, the PM won’t have to waste his time and energy giving us cleanliness lessons.  Thanks to the Swachch Bharat push, even little kiosks in Bandra now try to avoid plastic bags and they cleaned up the patch of land my balcony overlooks.  It was being used a dumping ground by the maids of all the surrounding tony houses.  But it still is amazing that we need the might of a political party/leader to teach us that we should not litter, pee or spit in public. What gives?

While Indian media was hyperventilating over Modi’s name-striped suit and Obama’s visit, I saw a little article in the TOI that said POTUS’ security team carried air purifiers to Delhi. And then, this not so little article said breathing the Delhi air—which  by the way is the most toxic there can be—is equal to inhaling 8 cigarettes a day.  So basically the country is killing us and we can’t do anything about it. If we invite guests, we smother them with garlands and shawls and food, but can’t offer decent air to breathe.

If that is not embarrassing for a country and its people, I don’t know what is.  
Oh I know. How about that Obama had to come and lecture us on women’s safety and secularism before taking off? The man basically told us, “all this gaiety is fine, but if you can’t stop fighting about religion or stop raping women, don’t talk about advancement, bro.”

Does it amaze you, this? That the same country that is test firing Agni-Vs and making friends with the most developed nations in the world cannot even give its citizens breathable air?

Or that we live in the same world where on one hand Johnny Depp buys his own islands, and on the other, men and women die for lack of shelter against harsh climates? Or that while some of us are sending spaceships to probe further and further into the universe, others say living the “fast life” by eating chow mien (I still cannot wrap my head around that, honestly)  is a cause of rape.

And if all of this sounds like far-off, distant problems to you, here’s something that might make it more personal. My friend tells me her friend from the days when they were little girls attending one of the best girls’ school in the country tied the knot a few months back.
 The man had recently returned from Europe and there was a big fat Delhi wedding. Then, within a span of days, the girl filed for divorce. The man was married, the family hid that little fact from her and her family all the while, and when she asked what this was all about, the MIL said with her complexion, she should be happy she could find a man, and should not be a fool to rock the boat. The girl is dark-skinned, of course.

I am now starting to feel more kindly towards Ekta Kapoor.  Poor thing drew inspiration from real-life people and instead of bashing those people up, we went after her.

To make up for my borderline hopelessness with ourselves, I have started cooking and have upped my reading. And reviewing eateries. So if you can’t recognize me the next time around, it’s probably all the good food that’s going in.  People like us make Zomato rich and happy, and enable them to go buy rivals in 20 other countries. It does make me proud.


I can’t stop liking a good bowl of chow mien.  

4 comments:

Saiku said...

Other day I was thinking about your blogs and long delay in posting new one. So marriage did the trick!! Congrats :-)

I moved to India recently. Everyday I witness littering habit of people around me. I was under impression only uneducated persons litter on streets. But I see everyone, including rich and well educated persons, throw garbage on streets as if its their fundamental right. I feel like slapping them and teach how great India was in the past and how we are spoiling it.

I feel sad for that girl who was cheated by her in-laws. You should write the story in the paper. There are so many double standards around. My family lectures me everyday how to live with it instead of "dealing with it".

Nivedita Bhattacharjee said...

Hi Saiku,
Thanks for the comment, and welcome back. If you're in Mumbai, do look me up.
I know what you mean by the littering. I don't mean to make it sound like it's all bad, but the frustrating bit is that people have no idea what they are doing is wrong.
The other day I yelled at the auto driver because he kept spitting, and it was making me nauseous. He gave me a surprised and blank look, and asked "yaha nahi thukengey toh kya karengey?"

And it's not just the so called uneducated. Most of my office people or friends are so OK travelling like animals in trains or other public systems, they have stopped realizing that they can make a demand for a better, respectable life. I'm not blaming them, I'm just saying "chalta hain" is so deeply ingrained in us, we just don't stand up for ourselves. That frustrates the hell out of me.

Pinaki Sil said...

By the way, many people are married to each other for years just out of habit. They can't leave each other because of "habit'. Love, well whatever it was at one time, has vaporised! Now it is just habit which is acting like the glue.
I guess that happens with work as well. I mean we get stuck to a company just for habit!

Nivedita Bhattacharjee said...

Of course. That's another story altogether.

where the mind is without fear and the head is held high..

where the mind is without fear and the head is held high..