We Are All Mishraji; He Simply Had The Misfortune Of Getting Reported For It!

Indians have an endemic lack of regard for others. That the perpetrator in the case of peeing on a woman (Shankar Mishra, as we now know) was drunk, was simply an excuse.

Today, as I took my morning constitutional (while Kymaia trained with her athletics team), I realised that many fellow walkers on that beautiful stretch of road that is so popular with fitness enthusiasts of this posh residential area of a major city in India have a peculiar habit that is common in this part of the world: playing songs and bhajans loudly on their phones or other portable devices (I have been witness to this phenomenon from the time of portable transistor radios; so, I know this is not new) with nary a regard for other humans and animals around who might wish to either listen to their own music/podcasts, walk/run/exercise silently, or indeed even sleep (in neighbouring homes).

Why do I mention the poshness of the neighbourhood? Because I want to bring it to the notice of my readers that this behaviour is by the very people who consider themselves ‘civilised’, which in most Indian languages (सभ्य, भद्र, शरीफ, शिष्ट, सुशील, etc.) is simply code for the high-caste (savarna) and privileged by birth, and who are constantly trying to tell others how to conduct themselves, having themselves been educated in the best of institutions, served in the highest-paying of jobs, travelled extensively, and ‘seen the world’, all of which is, in my opinion, like water off a duck’s back, because none of it seems to translate into the thing that makes us human: being able to put oneself in others’ shoes, feeling what they feel, and then tailoring one’s speech & actions to reflect this understanding, aka empathy.

So, when I saw the retired fauji uncle walking with his swagger stick in one hand and the mobile phone playing a random bhajan loudly in the other (as did dozens of others), I thought about the recent news of an Indian getting drunk on an international flight and pissing on a co-passenger, and realised that this lack of regard for others is not limited to morning walkers. It is endemic. That the perpetrator (Mishraji, as we now know) was drunk was simply an excuse. The truth is that even while stone-cold sober, Indian men are known to have notoriously weak bladders for all kinds of things.

We Indians do things in public, and brazenly so, that would, in any civilised society, be frowned upon, if not specifically outlawed: burping, passing gas, urinating, spitting, gargling, blowing & digging noses, scratching our genitals, wiping our hands on walls & furniture, and throwing garbage without a care or even modesty or shame.

We tend to drive and ride our vehicles without regard to the law or even basic courtesy for other stakeholders and users of the road. We enter junctions knowing fully well that our doing so will cause a traffic jam inconveniencing not just everyone else, but delaying even our own selves. We honk our horns with gay abandon as a show of the sort of impatience that can only come to those comfortable in the arrogance of their privileged right of way. We make faces and throw abuse freely at other road users with an equally legitimate right over the said road. We do not maintain our vehicles and let them spew toxic fumes all over others’ faces. We ‘forget’ to renew our insurances or our drivers’ licences. We disobey traffic lights, signs, and even the police. We argue and bribe cops (that is, if we cannot scare them with our ‘connections’ first).

We talk loudly and converse in languages that specifically exclude others around us who do not understand that specific tongue.

We light up our cigarettes without seeking permission from others who may be affected by our smoke.

We eat with our mouths open and make smacking sounds while chewing.

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We touch others without their consent.

We peer into other people’s laptops and phones without being invited to do so.

We ask strangers about their caste, sex lives (marriages and children), and incomes within minutes of meeting them.

We do not care for the safety or welfare of literally anyone else but us.

We are unconcerned about others’ privacy.

We are uncaring of others’ needs.

We are unempathetic to the core.

As a civilisation.

I have also noticed that is directly proportional to how privileged we are.

Indeed, the more privileged we are, the less empathy we are able to generate within our narcissistic selves.

It follows that what happened on that flight is not unusual or surprising.

It was not an exception.

It was the rule.

And then, we call ourselves the greatest civilisation on Earth.

That’s not just selfish.

It is delusional.

As we all are.

And the only reason we are not pissing on our co-passenger is that it was him in that spot and not us.

It could as easily have been many of the millions of Misharjis we see in our everyday life.

In that way, we are all Mishrajis.

P.S.: Why did I not mention open defecation? Because I have realised for some time now (after speaking to some really grounded personalities) that this is an economic problem more than a social or health-related one and is indulged out of necessity and not out of any conscious choice. To hold a poor quasi-homeless person responsible for relieving themselves in the open because they have nowhere else to go is to disregard the very empathy that I bemoan we all lack. We have enough examples of rich Indians doing things out of sheer selfishness before we turn our disproving eyes to the underprivileged.

P.P.S.: Of course, despite all this uncivilised public behaviour, if we see any two consenting adults kissing or holding hands or indulging even in the mildest of PDA, we are rather quick to take offence. Yes, we are not just selfish and delusional. We are also hypocrites. And rather proud of it.

Published here first. 

Image source: The Indian Express

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About the Author

Kedar Gadgil

Entrepreneur, business shrink, political enthusiast, diarist, risk-taker, dog-lover, rationalist, humanist, biker, son, father, single, in no particular order. read more...

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