There was a colleague I had in my working days. A young man, settled in Central Bombay since generations. He was quite a few years senior to me in my field of work, and that he had his blinkers tightly ON, had been apparent to me on many many occasions. But the most hilarious was, when one day in office, he suddenly said,
He : Yeh kya nonsense hai? Dadar staion par hamesha announce karte hain, 'yeh Dadar station hai, this is Dadar station.'
Me : Kyon? Isme nonsensical kya hai?
He: Everyone knows Dadar, announce karne ka kya hai?
Me: How can everyone know? There are loads of people who don't know it.
He: (Looking at me incredulously, and with more emphasis) Everyone knows Dadar station.
Me :(Almost giving up, rolling my eyes) No, they don't, a lot of people come from out-of Bombay too.
Another incident happened right after I shifted to Sharjah. I had just started blogging, and began reading a mommy blog. The blogger would go out for late night movies, and parties and more. I was amazed, and asked her how she managed with the kids. She replied that she had live-in maids, and I said, 'Oh! No wonder then, that it is so convenient for you. I had never done such things since the BB was born ' At this, she asked me where I live, and I told her. And she said, ' Aah! you live outside, that is why. Everyone in India has maids.' The conviction and confidence with which she said it, made me laugh. How can anyone make such a generalised statement. I myself had just shifted out of India at that point, and had never had a maid for the BB, and I know many many other women in India who don't have maids, even for housework, just as I know many who have a battery of house help working for them. Both kinds exist, and each maintains its own way of living. But the generalisation of the statement by this woman, left me amazed, at her ignorance and her confidence to boost it.
It must be stifling to lead a life, where anything or anyone who is different from me or lives a different lifestyle is unacceptable to me. I was one of those, and I know how hard I have worked to change that mindset, and now being on the other side, I just realise, how full of frustration and angst against the world, I was in my judgmental days. One of my school teachers, infact my favourite one, had told me, very affectionately, when I was leaving school, "GM, you are very judgmental about people, you will have a very tough time, if you don't change that attitude". Me, with the blinkers on, at that time, did not understand it at all then. At that point in time, all I felt was, I am right, and I disapprove of whatever is not. Little did I know then, that there are in fact very few, if any at all, absolute rights or wrongs in this world. But fortunately for me the GP came along and drilled some sense into my brain, and helped me overcome, what I believe was one of the biggest blocks in my self development.
Some people, I think, just get nasty with their judgmental nature, their lack of acceptance of others, and inability to look beyond their own petty existence, which not only hampers their own lives, but breeds a lot of cynicism and negativity around them. It also leads to arrogance, because nothing but themselves and their own views, seem right to them, and that just ends up making them more isolated. It is really tough to make such a person understand anything, but what they believe in,. It is so true, that a change can never be affected superficially, it has to come from within. What worries me further is this kind of a mindset is the breeding ground for the typical me versus them attitude, the place where discrimination begins, and that can be at any level. It can be a Bombay-ite versus a non bombay-ite, a working mother versus an SAHM, a fitness conscious person versus one who is not,people with love marriages versus those with arranged one and then it leads to the larger biases and discrimination that exist. Because at the root of any kind of discrimination, be it racist, casteist, communalist, it is the belief, that, my way is the right way. For example, a north Indian believes his language, way of living , culture is the 'right' way and hence the people from other parts of the country, who have a different set of characteristics are not right. There is a lack of acceptance, a lack of understanding that it is not that if something is not my way, it is not necessarily the wrong way. If educated, thinking people, have such closeted and adamant mindsets is it a surprise that the world today is so divided into a us versus them scenario? How do we then say that a Shiv Sainik or a Muthalik is obnoxious, when the tolerance and acceptance levels are so low even among us?
When I was in Bombay, and working, I had often heard the incredulous tones with which people asked the others, being one of them myself, who did not speak Marathi, "You don't know Marathi, really?". It used to irritate me a lot, because for one there is no rule which says everyone needs to know the language, secondly this was an MNC we were working for, not a vernacular publication, where knowing the language would have been a must, and knowing that particular language was not required in any way at all in our field of work ie computer programming. But it just spoke of their mindset. And then I heard this recently, a Punjaabi man here in Melbourne, could not believe it that a friend of mine, did not know Punjaabi. When my friend narrated the incident to me, I could not stop laughing. I don't know how anyone else would feel about it, but I just laughed, and found it incredulous, how out of touch with reality people can be. And yet, are we then still surprised at how divided the world today is, when people cannot accept anyone who is anything less than a clone of themselves.
The point is,we need to open up our minds, and more importantly our hearts. It is unfair to judge people cynically, just because they have a different set of values from us. It is common sense, and we know it, and yet so many of us just hold onto believing their way to be the only way, so strong , that it leads to so many great prejudices and hard feelings. It is indeed sad and scary to think where it is all leading upto.
Do share any such encounters you might have had with. I am sure we can all use a laugh.
[PS - Please do not take any of the examples/incidents given here personally. They are just examples to illustrate my point, and I am talking about experiences I have had. I am sure there are equal numbers of such people from every part of the world and each community. ]