Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Way Is The Only Way

How often do we meet people, who cannot accept anything beyond what they think or live, and anyone doing anything differently is very simply judged as wrong. Very often, I would think. Why? I myself was one of them not too long ago, like a horse with blinkers. Every human being by nature would prefer people with similar mindsets or lifestyle. That is but natural, a little skepticism or disapproval of anything different also I believe is natural, but outright judging, that just is extreme. A certain amount of tolerance or acceptance, when absent, makes us narrow minded, and highly judgmental. I have had really funny interactions with such kinds, and it never fails to put a smile on my face when I think of it, at the level that I have experienced it. It just goes on to show such naivete on the part of the perpetrators. And yet when we take it in the broader perspective, how damaging can such a mindset be?

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.

He just gave me a you-are-a-fool look, and did not say anything. Basically he thought I am just being stupid, and strongly believed that everyone in the world knows Dadar station. Now how many of you reading this, actually know that such a place exists? I for one was unaware till I reached Bombay. But this man, supposedly well educated, and a man of the world, had such an attitude. He had even made a very confident prediction, that I would never leave the job I then had, and would comfortably continue there, till old age. Now we all know, how true that turned out to be, isn't it?

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. ]


Indyeah said...

we all have some prejudices or the other ..thats really true...

someone tweeted this quote and it just is SO true!

''A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.''-
William James

I know I have my own prejudices at times..

one can only try to rise above them,...
how far can one be successful is anotehr thing.

Passionate Goof said...

Indy - What a wonderful quote indeed, could not be more true. We all do have our own set of prejudices, ignorance, no doubt. But the act is we need to recognise and work on it, only then can we hope for a change isn't it?

soin said...

show me a person who is free of all prejudices and i shall show you

Smitha said...

GM, That is so true! All of us have some level of prejudices - and sadly most of us are unaware of it unless someone points it out or we realise it suddenly. All we can do is really try get rid of it by trying to understand which prejudices we hold on to. My dad used to tell me when I was younger - we can't change the world - but we can try to change ourselves for the better.

Aneela Z said...

to the bigoted fool at your workplace, what if you were visually impaired you would need the announcement for dadar na...

Passionate Goof said...

Soin - True, then why do we call others discriminating, when we do it ourselves?

Smitha - I perfectly agree with what your dad says, Be the change you want to see. And its true we often don't even realise our prejudices and that leave little scope for improvement.

Aneela - Oh! That man, he makes for such funny stories to tell. I always remember him with a laugh. He was so small minded, that it is simply hilarious. He caould not have expanded his thinking capacity to the blind, he would have operation overload.
You know, he was surprised that I bought jeera/dhaniya powder from the market. He believed I was lying, because he thought they are not sold as powder. And right till the end, he insisted I was bluffing!

Sraboney said...

I thought I had commented yesterday, obviously I didn't...

This is a pet topic of mine...Every single person in this world is prejudiced, those who say they are not are lying...There are some who don't want to listen to another pov and there are some who listen (they may or may not change their views)...I am one of the latter...I always listen to an opposing pov because frankly, I don't know everything...It's always better to leave one's mind open than shut it with a heavy lid...

MRC said...


I agree with what Soin said. All of us hold some prejudices ,consciously or unconsciously absorbed from childhood, from seeing things done a particular way by one's parents or in the society one lives in. The trick is to slowly letting go of them as we grow up and see the world. As I write this, I realise that some time back, I've written about an incident where I had prejudged someone who later became a very good friend,here

Come see :)

Reflections said...

I guess all of us guilty of it at some point or the other but have u noticed we were at our worst when we were teenagers where we had an opinion abt everything..."eeeks I will NEVER do that" or "Denim jackets are awesome" or .....

Now I live and let live...yeah sometimes I still do it but not like before:-)

Rakesh said...

You know since I've started blogging, I've consciously tried and considered other views a lot more seriously.

I think I used to be like this earlier. Maybe I still am with a few people.

Piper .. said...

I, for one, have been very adamant about my views and my opinions. Like they say, 'my way or the highway!' :) It is only now because of The G`s efforts and some of mine, that I`m slowly beginning to overcome the stereotyping I have in my own mind. Excellent, thought provoking post,GM!

Passionate Goof said...

Sraboney - I completely agree with every word you say here, we all have distinct views of people based on certain characteristics. While it is not always possible to convert our thinking, it is only a wise one who understands there can be a different way to look at things.

MRC - Yes, we need to understand our flaws and work on them. That is the way to evolve. The sad bit is when people have closed minds.

Reflections - Oh yes! I think teenagers are some of the cruelest people around, and I shiver to remember my own ways now.

Rakesh - I am sure, blogging helps us understand people and thinking a lot more.

Piper - you are? I would have never guessed. And what is all this 'pati' praising???? You joined the honeymooners club too? ;)