Friday, April 9, 2010

'National Integration' ???

Last evening, Swaroopa and I were getting back home, from Besant Nagar, via an MTC bus. At peak hours, these buses are bound to be crowded. People yell and pull from all sides, and irritation levels are on the high.
This gang of boys tumbles in. They are typical examples of what we colloquially call ‘local boys’. The road side romeos. When you see these characters alone, they are harmless. Say there was a pretty girl walking by; and one of these is on his own, he would hang his head and sneak-peek at her from the corner of his eye. But when he is with his jing-bang gang, the girl is in trouble. They would hoot whistle at her, follow her wherever she is headed to and make her wish she was never born a woman.
   So Swaroopa and I are sitting in the last row of the bus, and there this nice lady is sitting in front of us. She did not appear Tamil; we assumed she was from somewhere North or West of the country. The bus started to fill, and yes, our romeos were in quite a mood, too. Every time the bus halted at a stop, they would get off. When it started to move, they would give it a head start of five seconds, and scramble into the running bus. So this nice lady had her arm resting on the window, and in the rush to get in, one of the boys accidentally clung on to her arm, thinking it was one of the window’s bars. She pulled her arm in, and started yelling at the entire gang, in the only language that India understands as a country- English. Like I said, had the accused been alone, he would have slunk away. But no- he had four more boys backing him. So he yelled back, ‘What is your problem?’. His knowledge of the language ended there. After that exchange, whatever the lady yelled at them, the gang mimicked it back at her, amidst loud guffaws. Trust me, it was humiliating to watch. What was more humiliating was that nobody raised a voice against the abusers. I did not too, I am ashamed to admit. They certainly looked scary. If that is excuse enough. But were so many men around too, and they were all sniggering at the scene. It was painful to watch. The lady got off the bus at the next stop. I’m certain this episode would torment her for as long as she lived.
   I have many friends from all parts of India, though they are all Chennaiites- Born and brought up in the city. Recently, I met someone who is working in Chennai, but is originally from Delhi, and we had this conversation on how the city treats anybody who cannot speak Tamil. After that, I have been extra receptive to such incidents, the fore said account being the most recent. If that lady had been my mother, she would have yelled at the boys with carefully chosen Tamil words. The other ladies would have joined in, and the conductor would have had to intervene. But no; she was, as my Punjabi bhaiya from Delhi says, a lonely person in an alien city, where it is madness to seek help from strangers- fellow countrymen, who would rush to help American ladies in distress, but oh, not others.
   I had never heard a non- South Indian’s views on the city prior to this. It made me sick. Auto men who charge Rs 600 from Central station to Loyola College when they hear your English with the Northie twang. Helplessness- you look around for help and nobody gives a shit about you, feigning lack of knowledge of English. Oh, but of course, if it was a Tourist asking for directions, the English would flow. When you tell your family that you are placed in Chennai, the news is welcomed with horror akin to being asked to live with crocodiles; ‘How will you survive there?’ From the way it looks, we are living in a mean, cold hearted city. Athithi dhevo bhava- to the dogs.
   Yes, the rest of the country gives us ‘Madrasis’ the same treatment, true. We look like a fairness fixated, oil-doused-haired, bunch of people who are out to get the top positions, everywhere. And we try to pull our clan up in all possible ways. And earn the wrath of the rest of the nation. Jeez, it really sounds cold! But somewhere, it needs to stop, right? Because you and I are educated, civilized, and beyond acting biased with people we meet based on where their home town is or what their mother tongue is. Where did all the patriotism and the ‘India is my country, all Indians are my brothers and sisters’ feeling evaporate?
   Whoa- That sounded like a pre-independence era unification speech, didn’t it? grin**
   One thing for certain, National Integration has no place inside the country. But it makes its presence felt outside the nation- in the US of A, UK and Australia. That will be my consolation, for now.


Dr.Guruprasadam said...

As far as the bus incident goes the main issue is not national integration,the issue is :mob mentality.
The so called 'local boys' are typical not only to this city but also to any random geographic most of the cases its not intentional but just general misunderstanding,take this case for instance:
The 'local boys' are seen as the culprits !!! ...why??? i thought he clung on to the ladies hand accidentally ??
And second point: isn't there a difference between American/African/European in distress and another Indian in distress who is already institutionalized to the Indian system ??

Anonymous said...

rightly said doctor

gitanjali.j said...

@ Dr Guruprasadam-
point 1-I am certain the boy would have apologised if it was someone else. He was at fault. Atleast the crowd around would have forced one out of him.
Second point- Exactly what I'm highlighting- we tire ourselves helping tourists BUT we selectively ignore Indians of other states/regions? Why?It is another human being seeking help! Why act biased?

vEnKy said...

Last 2 para of Post was like just out of Chetan bhagat's 2 states book LOL. Full of cliche

I agree with guruprasadam that it was mob mentality.

See the problem is you cant mess with these local boys they will mess you up. Face it who wants to get into trouble unless you know the person.

As as far as the "all Indians are brothers and sister goes" only sania followed it she is gonna marry a pakistani :D

Sandhya said...

I agree with you Gitu! Been there and done that, forget north Indians who come to Chennai and suffer, even people who are "tamil" but stay outside the city are subjected to this treatment - thanks to the accent, my cousin was charged 120 bucks from IIT Campus to Besant nagar.

I've been on buses, I have been the victim of "Romeos" laughing at me, I am tam, brahm and not northie, and I get made fun of for the lovely Tamil accent of mine.

I agree with the people don't come forward to help you case - A few months back, I was stuck in an auto with a drunk auto driver, and I realised that he was, only half way into the journey, and once I got off the guy started throwing abuses at me - and none of the on lookers cared. Welcome to India.

I don't know if we are a nation full of insensitive people.

And you Venky: Sania Mirza can marry a Pakistani, but which country would the baby belong to??

Roo said...

Gitu.. that was impulsive :P i thought of bloggin abt this n u did :) n yeh i was gigglin the whole time in the bus :P :P

@ sandy : sania took indian pledge seriously, all indians are my bros n sis'... so she headed to marry shoaib :P

Prashanth Rajan said...

Excellent point. We fight amongst ourselves, be it on the linguistic front, or the region based front. But you get subjected to unfair treatment in other countries, then we all of a sudden become patriotic and stay united ! Weird .

vEnKy said...

@ Sandhya

good question . It will belong to dubai :D because they are gonna settle in dubai.

Sandhya said...

Prash - seriously man! it sucks.. People discriminate you on weird lines - colour, race, caste. We fight among communities, forget Hindu-Muslim-Christian fights. They poke fun at your because you belong to a different sect of the society- I've grown used to the sniggers when people look at me and say "Oh, nee Iyer ah". The worst thing is - reservation. Screw all those old men who decided to pass such a beeped up law.
We the Indians need a revolution. First things first, throw out caste-ism and reservations.

Venky- yeah? Then we should call them up once they're married and ask "Hello.. Dubai yaa?" :P

Avshek said...

close Ur eyes...inhale slowly, now exhale ,repeat this till u feel light headed (Oxygen can actually get u high ..)

Now u r high enough to see the situation from bird's eye view {watch-out for the planes...half the Indian pilots sleep when they fly}

Back to the post now : one of the most interesting post ever from ur archives..Bravo !! personally Ive experienced this 'regional/cultural/social insensitivity' like almost everyday be it anywhere in India for that matter.
peter party,Seth paiyaa,Gurkha...well the list goes on ,it may sound racial at times but actually its just innocent insensitivity or in most cases insecurity that makes ppl say such words or do such things that may sound hurtful.Personally i don't think this can be changed ,and how can we expect it to change if we create these differences indirectly ourself....cheering for csk ,kkr ,ManU,liverpool is one such example where we create this invisible barrier.
Take this basic observation of social psychology: when two people are in a open place say ..a beach..they tend to sit closer than when they r in a smaller closed room, its just that there is an increased acceptability in the social space with the external environment being perceived as vast. This basic psychology is applied to regional space as well...tams outside TN tend to be closer, n those inside the borders just don't give a damn (thats universal)..n well that explains swaroopa giggling and sandya getting angry(as seen in the comments) .
Overall this is just an issue of acceptance and saying 'no' at the right moment...
Till then ...inhale slowly ,now exhale smile at the rowdy boys give them some hope and peaceout.

Cheers !!!

PS:If my comment doesn't make sense..a shot of fresh orange juice should do the trick :P
(u know what i mean)

vEnKy said...


Dont bring reservation here. You see we sit in the comfort of the city and talk. It is very difficult for people from backward areas to improve. The opportunities and facilities are very limited for them.

We the so called upper caste have longer belittled people it is pay back time. I think we should suffer this. Everything has an equal and opposite reaction.

This will ensure balance.

dont ask for revolution, start one or else dont blame others for not starting it .