I played host to the quintessential snob from the USofA all of last week, and these were some of my guest’s observations!
1. Gee, you guys speak a strange English. I don’t understand anyone here, and they speak so damn fast!!
2. We saw cows on the street, and they would just meander aimlessly. In the US, we see cattle in farms!!
3. Spicy, yeah, relative!! (Needless to add, he got sick eating Indian food!)
4. Two kids, mom and dad on a 80 cc motorbike, Gee!! I mean, in the US, if you are below 3 feet, or under 30 pounds, you got to be in the back seat, strapped on, to a safety seat!
5. These guys, on the motorbikes going criss cross all over the place. In the US, these guys would just get run over by the next truck. They would just get killed in minutes.!!
6. The kids begging on the streets. My gawd, they even put on an act for us, with some naked kid trying to clean the windshield and demanding money..
Ok, so things are not great around here. There are things that are changing, and there are things that are not. This is not the US. Its a developing country with diversities, social, cultural and economic disparity. But what do I do with my guest!? Apologize, get him a cab with tinted glass windows, take him to a posh restaturant and treat him to some nice bland Italian food?!
Well I did just that, except for the apology. Probably, I was the one who should have demanded one. I live in India, have driven in half the world without having to worry about accidents, tasted all kinds of cuisine, appreciated cultures and tried to understand the world and its people in relation to their environments. I could have cribbed about South Africa and crime, poverty and unemployment, about Malaysia and their Manglish!!, about London and the stiff upper lip, about Australians and the racist undertones, about Singaporeans and their boring lives!
Well I don’t.
That’s because, people of this world deserve to be seen in their contexts, before being dissected and judged. A slum dweller in Dharavi needs a sympathetic understanding of her life, the circumstances that life throws at her, her children who need to be fed first, her single change of clothes, her dreams which led her here, her humble beginnings in a village faraway somehwere, her husband who probably rummages through garbage to eke out the pennies, her single room house, with makeshift partitions for a bath and a kitchen, her inability to preserve her privacy, her 25 hour day, her dire need for a morsel of food, her kids who beg on the streets, her shelter-less monsoons, and her gunny-bag blankets for winter.
I am a firm believer in the context, the circumstance, the things that life throws at us. Not the polarized, first-world view of my esteemed guest from the west. There are bad things, and there are people who choose to make a difference. There are some others who merely understand, reflect and do nothing about it.
And then there is my guest, who dissects, compares and judges, and goes happily back to his polarized view of his comfortable world, of smart, educated and rich people who choose to NOT make a difference, and look the other way with a sneer.
I am not a racist, nor am I an America-hater. I just hate snobs!