Thursday, 11 September 2008

The Filthy Rich

The incident really set me thinking. Our office bus had only just left the ITPL campus when it met with a freak accident. While pulling onto the main road, the driver took the corner a little too sharp and broke the rear view mirror of a minibus which was also pulling onto the road from the left side. Both the vehicles pulled over and a verbal duel with the usual quota of expletives and exclamations ensued. But while at least a few of the occupants of the minibus got down and backed their driver, none of us bothered to so much as get up. Shamefully, our driver was outnumbered and he had to shell out a few hundred rupees too to pay for the damages. Dejected, he got back into the bus and as he did so remarked, "ಒಬ್ಬರಿಗೂ ಮಾತಾಡಕ್ ಆಗಲ್ವಾ? ಸುಮ್ಮನೆ ಬಸಲ್ಲಿ ಬಂದು ಹೋದ್ರೆ ಸಾಕಗಲ್ಲ!" (Not one of you could speak up? Its not just enough if you travel in a bus)

He had a point. The occupants of the minibus were mainly daily wage labourers. They did care about the person driving them home and at least bothered to step out, be it out of curiosity or to just morally support their driver in abusing the 'perpetrator'. But on the other hand, none of us did. We just sat in the bus talking over the cell phone or listening to music, all the while aware our driver outside was facing the music all by himself himself. And that includes me. What a shame! Besides, the few hundred rupees that our driver had to shell out would definitely have been a sizable part of his salary, compared to all of us who drew 6 figure salaries. And as I sat contemplating over what appeared to be a callous attitude on our part, there were several questions that I could not quite find the answers to..

Do the well to do consider it denigrating or to put it simply, below their dignity, to deal with a prole? Take this instance itself. I mean, why the hesitation to get down from the bus and exchange words to resolve the situation? The bus driver had after all taken up the responsibility of taking us home safely. So its nothing but humanitarian to have a sense of compassion towards him in return. An argument on the lines of '.. its his duty and that is what he's being paid to do.. " is nothing short of apathetic. As to if our driver was responsible for the accident is another question altogether. We just had to be by his side when he needed it.

Is the well healed section of society but a bunch of hypocritical opportunists? Seems like a bold and unwarranted comment. But its my observation. If the city were to be flooded or a catastrophe were to strike the city any day, then take note of this. While the IT professionals and business executives only bother to drive home safe and sound as soon as possible, the aam aadmi actually tries to help his fellow citizens get home safe. Good Samaritans somehow always seem to hail from the middle class. But then you could say that the rich and the filthy rich give back to the society in a different style. In Warren Buffet style maybe. I tell you, when a blast rips through your city, a million dollars is the last thing you'd want. Humanity is what one needs then. And its compassion and consideration for fellow denizens what is needed on a day to day basis. The well to do section of the society somehow is under the misconception that signing off a lakh rupees once a year should be enough to write off anything that they owe to the society. Disappointing indeed.

And that brings me to the next point. Rules are for them to follow!? Don't the well to do think that money gives them power and politico-legal immunity? They almost think its their right to jump queues at the bank and signal lights at the intersection. Its bad enough to see someone litter the pavement before your eyes. What is even worse is when an educated someone, wearing a Alan Paine or a Levis does it. For all those lakhs spent on education, if one still lacks some basic civic sense, what can we expect from the rest? It is like he feel the grime of the city is for the proletarians to writhe in and he has nothing whatsoever to do with.

I'm don't want to generalize and equate the affluent to the arrogant. But its been the thumb rule. Its just that economic advancements inevitably bring a lot changes in one's demeanour and one's outlook towards towards the society and issues pertaining to it. Being civic is to realize this simple truth and swallow ones ego. Easier said than done. Unless you see yourself ending up in a Phone Booth like Stu Shepard for the contempt with which you treat the rest of the world, you and I are not bound to change anytime soon.