June 30, 2008

Dignity of Labor

This is something that I have thought of for quite some time now. Let me begin with something that t according to many people shows me as a snob. I mostly watch English movies, vow away from Hindi ones and watch the Tamil ones that are prescribed by Balu, who shares my taste in movies, at least the good ones. It is usually a norm that he will watch a Tamil movie first and then if he finds it good and wants to go another time, he will go along with me.
In all the English movies that I have seen, people follow all kinds of professions, they are waiters, janitors, truck drivers, firemen, cops, business magnets, run of the mill farmers; you name a profession and they are in it. However, they are not given preferential treatment as I see happening in our country. What I fail to understand is why is that to us a person who cleans a drain is socially below the one that calls him to do so? Should it not be the other way around; he is able to do something you are not, therefore he is better than you are?
I do agree that there is a certain comparison going on, something that I vowed never to do however, when it is staring you in the face, there is not much that you can do about it. It pisses me off to see someone call a waiter the way that you call a dog, pouting your lips and making noises that sound like you are sucking hard on something. I use this example because it is the most obvious. Quite some people do not even know the names of the servant maid who come to clean their houses and cook for them. After all, they say, "She does a job, which I pay her to do and why should I know her past, her present and her future?" What do they have to benefit?
Let me tell you something that I have tried and has paid off. The next time you take a rickshaw, try indulging the driver in harmless banter. You do not notice the traffic you are stuck in and at the end of the ride; you have made your self an acquaintance. The other day, I got into a rickshaw and the driver did not even ask me where I was headed. He drove as if he knew where I was to go. Having been in a bad mood and lost in thought, I did not even notice until he pulled up in front of my office, apparently, I had talked to him a few days before and he remembered me.
Try talking to your maid the next time, ask her about her kids, about her life and I am sure that you will notice the improvement in the quality of work and the involvement that she has.
Why do a few words said in what can be described as kindness make such a difference? The reason is simple; you are treating them like a human being. You are giving them the most important thing that a person needs- dignity - dignity of labor. You are telling them that no matter what work you do, you are doing it to feed yourself and your children, the same way that I work. Just because you earn lesser than I do, that does not give me the right to look down on you (I beg you, please refrain from asking if there is anything that gives me the right to look down on you, the only thing that does if I am taller than you are and I am literally looking down on you).
In the end, I wish that no one would have to undergo what millions undergo in this country, of being denied the dignity of labor. The government talks about equality, unless there is dignity of labor, there cannot be any equality, for equality comes from within and not without.
You no better than I am,
For I am no better than you are.

June 3, 2008

First rains

Stuck in this small room,
On the seventh floor,
I look out at the world,
So hot, so humid,
Months of summer
Behind her, as she lies in wait
For the first rains.

The clouds linger over,
Promising relief,
Delivering nothing,
Pass on by, a game they play.
She is parched,
Her children faded,
Yearning for a drink
The drink of life.

Finally the day arrives
When the first raindrops fall
Bringing with them
Cool relief from the heat,
Tenderness for the parched throat.
She hugs the raindrops
As they fall into her,

The earth below
And the drops from above
Dance their cosmic dance,
Emitting smells
Heavenly, yet earthbound.

Her children, they bloom,
With all their might,
For father has come,
To give them life.
It is the first rains
It is the start of new life.

Alone to the theater

If one wants to really watch a movie, I recommend a visit to a theatre on a weekend, especially the early morning show. This has two advantages; the cost of the ticket is comparatively lesser (Rs. 70 as compared to Rs. 170 in the evening) and the feeling that the movie is being screened exclusively for you. Even if the cost is not a factor, one must experience the second one. It is an amazing experience to sit in a theater, with a sprinkling of patrons all seated in the top row. I would recommend getting a seat in the middle rows. This way, one is again away from the crowd (which tends to concentrate at the top rows) and you get a better feel of the movie. The sides of the screen do not come into the point of view and the sound is better. Most of the theaters have DTS Surround sound and this is the best way of experiencing the sound systems. One of my friends tells me that these days the theaters have seats akin to barcaloungers. He tells me that it is possible to get a normal ticket and proceed to sit in these extremely comfortable seats. Please do remember that when you are in the theater on a weekend morning, the probability of finding “love birds” cooing away in the dark nooks is high. Be ready to ignore them. Do not embarrass yourself and them by gawking at them. There is bound to be the few people who come for time-pass; they will pass comments, make inappropriate jokes at the inappropriate times, and have a ball. You have two options, you can either pick fight, and chances are that you are grossly outnumbered. Else, you can shut up and try to watch the movie. There is no typical response for this. The best solution for an unruly crowd is to request once. If they do not oblige, then if the theater is empty, move. These days, the kinds of movies being produced has improved significantly in quality. I still abhor the running around the trees romance, with dishoom dishooms. A movie was ideally meant to provide an escape from reality. One could forget the tribulations of daily life when he/she was at a movie. Is there any other reason that will validate the crowds at a Rajinikant or a Shah Rukh Khan starrer? People do not want to have to think during a movie. They are happiest when everything is spoon-fed, the story is plain and simple, and the hero is united with the heroine. However, I believe that a movie like a book must be thought provoking. it must make you think and question. It must try to say something and allude to even more things. A movie is not an escape from reality, it is just another person’s view of reality. The movies I enjoy are the ones that make me think, even if they are animated versions. Lately I have found that the animated versions have more to think about than the others. Whatever else I have blabbered, I do recommend strongly going to a movie alone. It is like reading a book, a highly personal experience. Once you go alone, you would keep doing that.