Tuesday, 15 March 2011

What you choose to see is what you get

Illusion is the first of all pleasures - Voltaire

If you live in the “first world”, drive around in a SUV, shop in the malls and try your best to be as Roman (or American or British) as the average Roman then naturally when you go back home (to India) you’ll be amazed. Amazed by the full time servant or as the politically correct will say “help”* (24x7xnearly 365 days a years for peanuts compared to what you’d pay in the other world for someone who comes maybe twice a month), who probably is a migrant from some remote corner that you can’t even spell the name of, let alone point out on a map. Amazed by the “fresh” fruits and vegetables (lets not mention the 67 banned pesticides being freely used in India) available round the corner or coming straight to your house via the sabziwallah, who probably is also a migrant from some place where they took his land and livelihood so that you can get electricity for your air conditioners. But you have to, no need to, be amazed.

Amazed by how along with all these great things you can continue to drive a SUV, shop in malls, send your kids to “International” schools and when it gets too much hop onto a flight and go away for a few days to where you came back home from– that illusionary place that you are trying to recreate, even better. Though right now you can’t see it.

But you know what you are actually doing? Simply perpetuating clichés– tired and well-worn ones. Spitting on and polishing a myth, a pathetic illusion. Kipling in 1889 put an end to such clichés (and cliché makers) forever:

Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet;
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!**

So be strong for a change. Try to live without a car in the ‘first world’ or without domestic workers in India. I guarantee you’ll never pen another clichéd image of the West or the East; you’ll renounce clichés forever. Chances are that the insights and pleasures you get will be worth savoring (even worth sharing). Though at the moment they might seem improbable, and somewhat illusionary.

* Start calling them domestic workers, for only when you will acknowledge that they are doing the work that you are incapable of doing yourself, will you truly appreciate their help. Otherwise they are nothing more than overworked, underpaid slaves.

** The Ballad of East and West by Rudyard Kipling

1 comment:

Medieval Or Modern said...

Loved this..
but i must say.. i will have to have my house help.
for i am on overworked, underpaid corporate slave; and in high probability will continue my state of existence. No courage to break free, i admit.
And she... my house help, rules the house (and even me at times :))