Tuesday, March 25, 2008
The Middle Inheritance
Overcome as I am, with my surge of inspiration enabling me to give a Ludlumian flavour to the title, let me just say that for a long time it has become apparent to me that irrespective of the various boundary conditions one may be forced to encounter in one's life, the only feasible path for a sensible person, living with eyes wide open, is a middle path.
Notwithstanding the boring, unexciting and dull connotations one associates with the word "middle", jiggling one's cerebrum indicates several ways of hitting a "middle" path.
You can stick like fevicol to the straight and middle path , or you can swing in wild non-simple harmonic style, go through emotional and other peaks and troughs,in effect, asymptotically approaching a middle path, sort of dithering across the middle with lesser and lesser amplitude.....
Sticking to a middle path in life, prioritizing objectives, trying to shoulder various family responsibilities, folks are generally forgiven a few secret stray sinful swipes on the leg and on sides (as they say in cricket), with modest (but sometimes tumultuous) reactions, as they learn , about what we call the wonders of life.
Their children are often found listening to FM chatter on a 10 year old radio with a half broken dial, as they study for their impending tests. Folks in these house purse their lips when they see their child gravitating towards jeans costing eight hundred rupees(only), on the quarterly shopping trip to the Mall. A single pair of pants, simply should not cost more than your monthly milk. A daughter emerging with a neckline that obeys Issac Newton's laws, is told in no uncertain terms to forthwith change. These folks do not offer Colas and biscuits to visitors. Its all about limbu sherbet, chaklees and bakarwadis; on a festive day, maybe an ecstatic ladoo....
Observe some others, where modern monetary floods have led to behavioural excesses.
These folks emerge from backgrounds where parents have seen a near vertical rise in their economic status leading to wild lifestyle swings. Kids in such families are experts in propagating the "I need" syndrome. A family outing is a mother with her head demurely covered accompanied by a daughter in a low waist pair of jeans, exhibiting layers of stomach, or a son with pair of torn "hanging" jeans, characterised by a now-they-fall-now-they-don't waistline. Kya karein. All their friends are like that only....
They change cellphones more frequently, than they cut their nails. Communication with another individual consists of messaging with atrocious spellings, and very often they may be mistaken for mad people as they walk around talking to themselves, on what is called their hands free cellphone attachment.
They either fare disastrously in exams, get depressed, get medically treated (as a prestige issue), without thinking, or they join tuition classes that cost so much that some people pay that much as a deposit on a single room accommodation they rent. These kids get cars for their birthdays, and it doesn't matter if they do not have a driver's license. The high end money hype, is matched by the low end relationship they have , with their families for whom they have no time. It is so much more important to "hang out at hot places with hotter people", and "chill". The extreme oscillations across the middle, even appear in the language :-)
At some point reality bites. Counselling is the order of the day. And they slowly and finally get dragged to the middle and straight path. Which they try and keep to , as they fluctuate wildly across the axis, troubled to find the mean(pun intended) middle.
Life replicates these swings to both extremes.
Bottled water is now a "necessity". Covering bore wells, dug for providing water to a village , is not. In one case a bottle is thrown away. In another, a little girl falls into the open bore well pit while playing. We operate in extremes.
60 miles north of Mumbai, news reports indicate maximum malnutrition deaths amongst children . 60 miles on the other side a pharma company , having an almost zero social spending budget, spends several lakhs for a 10 second TV commercial about fairness creams, and their big boss appears on stage , standing next to the current hit star, who charges a couple of crores to sneeze on screen. Vicks ki goli lo ? Nah. Too middle class.....
More and more Indians, lug their name brand suitcases (somewhat identical to something I got in Somwar Peth), as they sigh and stand on the airport escalators, bored as they go on their fourth trip to Bangkok. Yesterday, a BEST bus driver on duty , with a busful of passengers, on one of Mumbai's most congested and badly modified roads, died of a heart attack, as his body, struggling to make ends meet, working long hours, eating whatever was available, slumped over the steering wheel, giving up on the apathy of those who have failed to make quality-of-life better for simple folks.
My household helper's daughter has to face hoodlums' comments as she returns after a hard days work everyday, constrained as she is, to stay in a certain locality, and unconcerned and unmotivated, as the police are, in looking into this thing. But , in the name of national security, a posse of 37 police in various uniforms, lounge outside, and accompany families of certain so called leaders of Mumbai, as their children attend school, and wives attend kitty parties. They are perceived to be in danger, my bai's daughter is not. Extreme myopia . Or should we upgrade to blindness.
Can sports be far behind ?
A single chap wallops his way to a tricentury against South Africa. The theory of finding a middle path demands that we swing to the other extreme, and prove that in the next test, runs are counted in tens and twenties, and a three digit score for the whole team is a distant prospect. Never mind. As some say, Form is non-existent, Class is extreme.
Hockey , a national game (was that an extreme classification ?), just ceased to be national after we bowed out of the Olympic qualifiers, riding on the euphoria of previous medals. No one worried about a minimum level of international proficiency. We await the swing back to the middle path.
After our shooters got Olympic silver and gold in Athens, four years ago, today, there is nothing to shoot, as the governmental sports setup is unable, unwilling and unconcerned about sanctioning money for ammunition, for 3 years.
There is something stable about maintaining a middle path, that requires a sustained and intelligent effort. The earlier generations of Indians followed this as a concept, which is why their descendants today work and study across the world, heads high. Us.
More developed nations, earlier went through the pangs of prosperity that we see in India now, and an entire generation has come up there today, that is being replaced where it counts, with people who came from the third world .
There is a lesson in this. Exciting as it is for young minds today to soar wildly , we need to leave them a "middle inheritance", that our parents left for us. The wildness and greatness of a mental flight is measurable only if a stable middle base exists.
(Like my badminton coach used to tell us, 40 years ago, "move all over the court to retrieve shots, run, but after every shot, quickly get back to a central court position; the ideal way to attempt every shot is to take off from the "middle....")
But is anyone listening ?