Monday, July 11, 2011

Where is the heart?

The benchmark of mutual respect, in this hurtling aeon we all inhabit, could well be that rare trait of keeping one’s word.

It has to be the rarest of the rare. Like an old fashioned obscurity, occasionally springing a sparkling surprise from the grubbiness of the all too prevalent, easy going and disrespectfully casual air. Yes, it is disrespect that I smell most, in the daily humdrum dealings. Not so much amongst friends and acquaintances as in the spaces between strangers. There is an unmistakable readiness to believe the worst of others, a willingness to pass an instant and authoritative judgement with the accompanying quickness to condemn. Where is the heart?

Subotica, 10 KM from Hungary
Is it an innate, homo failing that people will respect and acknowledge only if they know you? Does a lack of common history render everyone, any less human? How is it that unfamiliarity has come to license incivility so? It does seem as though the unlikelihood of any future interaction, liberates people from the effort to behave. No common ground, therefore no nuisance or benefit value and everyone is free to indulge in social plunder.

It is appalling: the baring of fangs, the snorting of the proboscis, the waving of the extremities and the bellowing from the throats. Of the facial contortions, the less said the better. If one is to get away with their infinitesimal of self-esteem intact, glaring and frowning eyes are best avoided on the busy roads. That motorist you just overtook can abuse you down, the line jumper who shoved you aside can also stamp you out, the trolley stealer who beat you to the stand can well shoulder you down, don’t even try. There is a perpetual war zone on railway stations, canteens, Big Bazaars and movie halls in India. It has to be the human density that keeps everyone wired for survival, all senses on alert for the grand fight to stay alive.

It is against this sandpaper canvas that we are talking of the archaic art of keeping word! There is an adage in Hindi, “Praan jaye par vachan na jaye”, loosely translated, “Death preferable to breaking word.” When interpreted, abiding by a promise is as much a test of mutual respect as a canon of the esteem we hold ourselves in. It may have been a promise to call, a pledge to deliver, a treaty to follow up. Did we make good our word? Or did we plead an obviously selective amnesia or worse still, ask the recipient of our proposed act to call us up and remind to execute! An Indian invention, like the 'missed call'.

I have surprised a few with my stubborn insistence on delivering. I have to admit, that I suffer from the affliction of keeping my promises, for the most part. It is another story that often times, the resultant reactions have made me feel like the proverbial ET.

Extra-terrestrial in act as well as in spirit!

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