Sunday, June 03, 2007

The decent thing to do

My cook didn't come on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, he came in, with a sprain in his right hand. Apparently, he'd collided with a Splendor and had a, possible, hairline fracture in the hand. I told him not to cook and take a break but he was adamant: he would be cooking for the rest of the households he serves, so why punish me? He even kneaded the flour with the sprained hand. I had gone to sleep in the meantime and just saw him massaging the hand as I closed the door on him.

Needless to say, I feel like a sinner now. I fell for the classic argument of this is what the Smiths and the Jones do and closed my eyes to cruelty.

Indian society is a hierarchy of power and patronage. Dipankar Gupta, prof. sociologist in JNU, argues that the biggest threat to Indian modernity (merit, baseline equality, respect for dignity of otherrs and work) are the rich themselves. Being placed in India is a euphemism for the cheap labor that you can extract from the poor and the patrons that you can find to flout laws for you behlaf. Classic examples would be the Nandas and their BMWs and the pathetic conditions of millions of child servants in "decent" middle-class households.

Sasthi Brata, author of the brilliant autobiography "My god(emphasis on absence of Capital G from my end) died young" also puzzles over the "unconscious hypocricy"(author's own words) of his mother who would be excessively genereous towards relatives but exceptionally cruel to the servants. The reason, the author drily and pithily suggests, for her actions derived from a strange social need for apporbation from people who could and thereby raise her platform and not to waste it on people who couldn't. This reminds me of my own grandmother, remembered sometimes by some as the kindest lady that ever lived; but who strangely brings to memory the scene of her violently caning Mallu, the man servant, for some minor demeanours.

Whenever I have brought to life this daily hypocricy that the middle class practices, I have also been surprised by the surrounding unconsciousness of it and the violent protestations have met my statements.

Hence, I prefer to stay silent and aloof.

This might be the way things work in our country, but that is not an excuse.


moimystique said...

couldnt thnk of a better analogy!!

The Spark!! said...

long timee...How have you been!
Hmm..thot-provoking post!!