18 Mar 2017 17:15 IST

The bitter taste of horrible home truths

It’s a variation on the theme of winning friends and influencing people, or simply being considered crass

When it comes to the department of deportment, Indians, old and young, must surely rank several layers below last. Rudeness and crudeness run writ across all our names, unmindful of the beautiful images they may conjure up from the mythology and holy books of Hindu philosophy, Islamic traditions, Christian practices, Sikh philanthropy, Jain austerity, and every single elevating source known and nameable. In 99.9 per cent of the cases, action simply does not suit the word.

The evidence is so overwhelming, it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s say you are on the road. You are waiting patiently in line behind the vehicle in front of you which is behind another in front of it… The line moves slowly, and you realise, oh-no, it’s the last bell and this particular road is an avenue of schools. You berate yourself for bad planning, and inch forward, one wheel rotation at a time. In cuts a huge Innova, followed by a Scorpio, and a cheeky Jazz! Two-wheelers, of course, have a field day, completely blocking the path of the oncoming traffic. Meanwhile, you remain where you are, even though you can see vehicles up front moving ahead.

This is routine.

Nobody cares for anybody. You find a space, you squeeze your vehicle into it. Bulldoze your way through, might is your right and you shall exercise it. And all those waiting for the line to move or the lights to turn green, well, they are nincompoops! It’s the law of the road, man, plough on, regardless… And yes, keep that hand heavy on the horn. Blast, blast away. Most people in India are deaf and if they’re not, they’re getting there. May as well get there sooner than later.

As for pedestrians, who the hell gave them permission to exist, let alone walk? They have no business being on the road and what do we care that the pavements are all the business of small and multiple commercial activities and activists. It’s also a spillover of the road for two-wheelers when the going on the road gets too tight — the tough get going on the pavements. Anything to get ahead.

With some difficulty you find a place to park, watched balefully by curious pairs of eyes, with some comments thrown in. Perhaps you’re reporting for work. Or you’re at a movie theatre. Or a restaurant. You put out your hand to open the door and someone behind you slips past and in, followed by four or five others. Else, some types from inside push past you, as you hold the door open.

Often, if it’s men, they will sally forth. Forget the acknowledgement and the thank-yous. It’s as simple as that. Hey, watch out for the door as it swings back. It may get your nose or the back of your head. Life moves on. Hold the door open for you? Are you crazy? Never! That’s plain sissy. It’s the land of alpha males, remember? Followed by alpha females and alpha babies… Points will be scored on the battlegrounds of existence wherever they may be, wherever someone can score a point over you. If you care for life and limb, you get out of the way.

Don’t you know, in India, queues are meant for breaking, red lights are meant for driving through, women are meant for being jumped on, girls must always give in and they certainly must eat far less than boys even if they are hungry. Never give someone else the right of way, never step aside to let someone pass, certainly never say sorry if you ram your elbow into their ribs or eyes, and yes, talk on the mobile phone all through the screening of a film or, better still, a classical music concert.

Discuss all the intimate details of your love life or your business life or your hatch-plots loudly and clearly outside someone’s window or below someone’s balcony; feel free to hurl abuses because no one person’s listening, just everybody is. Throw balls of hair out the window of your home, and potato chip wrappers out the car window. Garbage must always be thrown outside the neighbour’s front gate, and food, right, food must be trashed without a second thought. As for water, waste it. Then want it.

Learn all the cuss words, and do not tolerate the elderly, especially if they’re in your way. Fall at the feet of your parents and your grandparents, but swipe aside those others-who-have-no-business-to-apparate in front of you, or knock them out with a volley of verbal abuses covering a range of colourful subjects. You are free to make up some of your own and tweet them because you have a legion following every freaking word you utter. You’re important, man, you’re being re-tweeted, OMG Mr Bachhan is following you…!

If there’s a petrol hike or a bunkers’ strike, make sure you tank up twice a day every day. If tomatoes are going at ₹10 a kilo, purchase at least 10 kilos. And stock up on milk and curd and bread. Maybe buy up the whole shop. And remember, if freebies come, heaven can’t be far behind. When you shop in small places, make sure you beat down the price to smithereens, or when’s a bargain worth its weight?

Boast about your victory. Don’t tell them about the cashless transactions you engaged in at the jewellers and at Nike and at that fancy new restaurant. But don’t pay a rupee more than 5 for the delicious plate of vadas at the end of your street. They’re cheats, they will squeeze every paisa out of you and what’s so special about those vadas anyway. Except they’re delicious.

Push all the buttons, you never know which one will open which door. Never introduce friends and acquaintances to those who matter because they will swoop down and take them away. Some people collect connections the way others collect random jokes and pass them on.

Hey, you do know I don’t mean a word of what I’ve said so far, right? What I’m actually saying is: Don’t be like this. Be decent. Be the best you can be.

Is being the best you can be an outmoded concept today?