Friday, August 16, 2013

Of young men

My last post spoke about the difficulty of being the guest of people whose philosophy I don't agree with. Since then, I have been on an extended trip with this group. And yes, it was as hard as I expected to walk the balance between being a good enough host to be invited again, and not condoning hate speech by my silence.

The thing that kept me sane and civil was the fact that the hate was not directed. If it was against a particular group, I would have found the paranoia unbearable. As it is, my host was deeply suspicious and resentful towards the British, the Americans, urban people, Marwaris, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, women, multi-national corporations, young women in love, non-vegetarians, English speakers, Buddhists, researchers who use quantitative methods, environmentalists, hydro-geologists, and researchers with external funding. I discovered that I can live comfortably with such democratic xenophobia.

A little soul-searching revealed that I am not that different either. I have my own bigotry towards people who claim their god is better than everyone else's. And I cannot, absolutely cannot, stand gutkha eaters (This incidentally means ALL young men in North India, which might explain why Mian is so blissfully jealousy-free when I go gallivanting about the Himalayas). But even there, the djinns that look after such things do not allow me to be relaxed and righteously affronted.

Yesterday, for example, I wanted to neutralise the Brahman 'holiness' of the last three days and so took myself up to the old Chowk area of Lucknow. In a six-seater. There were 4 young Hindu men, of varying levels of obnoxiousness. There was a young Muslim woman sitting opposite me, and there was I- antsy about the whole setup. The young men made my hackles rise in every possible way, one more than the others. This one ate several packs of gutkha and threw the wrappers on the vehicle floor. He sat with his legs splayed and  slowly, thoughtfully, adjusted his crotch. Leaning against the backrest, he surveyed me up and down. The air was full of the sickly-sweet, nauseating smell of gutkha.

And then it began to rain. The young woman was next to the door on the windward side, and began to get drenched. Quietly, she tried to make herself even smaller and continued to sit pressed against the door rather than move into the men's space.

 Mr.Obnoxious got up and offered his seat to the young woman, and sat in the rain instead.

I am ashamed of myself.

But going back to my trip. My host- a chap around my age- was the type of person whose response to searching questions or to dissent was to raise his voice louder and louder. I am proud to report that after two days of travelling with me, he needed to request herbal tea at the houses we halted at for the night- his throat was hoarse.


Unmana said...

I wish you'd write more often. I love looking at the world through your eyes. I can't imagine how you experience what you do and retain your kindness and your sense of humor.


nadi said...

I agree with Unmana.
yes more often.
and MORE.

laughter with the 'democratic xenophobia'
a smile albeit a nervous, uncomfortable smile at the 'thoughtful adjustment'
and then finally moved to tears at the end..when he offered her the seat.

You SEE these things .
show them to us; please write.