Friday, August 03, 2007

And I still haven't found, what I'm looking for

I'd forgotten how frustrating life in Delhi is. The traffic, the heat, the bickering family disputes, servants, the showing off, the class battles, the sexual repression, the hypocrisy, the aggression, the nothing goes your way, the poor transport, the heavy heart attack food, the pathetic night life, the post colonial inferiority complex and nothing is simple or easy. In the past it made me feel alive and now I am tired of it.

The traffic, it's leading to "road rage", incidences where people kill each other over minor disputes while driving and parking cars. Blue line buses also kill daily, operating without permits as mom and pop businesses with little governmental regulation and control where unskilled drivers kill and then flee the scene.

Delhi traffic epitomizes the law of the stronger. One drives with no rules and gets away with what one is allowed. The honking, the screaming, the chaos of it, I don't know how people here manage. I guess they don't. A friend I met yesterday said that Delhi culture is Delhi traffic. No matter how developed you make India, the traffic and the people at heart will remain the same: bestial.

The heat, oh, what a love affair I have with it. It knocks you down, it makes you sweat, and it turns me on. That’s the one part that I won't complain about. Its tough but it’s a good tough. Sitting under a fan, drinking water, taking numerous baths and eating mangoes. Did I mention sex? Let me mention sex, I feel sorry for all those AC fuckers, I am ceiling fan fucker sweat dripping tasting smelling man. The heat is the real star.

Family disputes and bickering has always been apart of Delhi's social fabric. Goes back deep into our classic epics, the bhagavad gita is about a war within a family where God tells man to kill his brother so the modern take on it is no surprise to someone well versed in Indian mythology. Doesn't make it less hurtful though I have come to terms with it and done my best to accept it. Many of these disputes go back years and the line between truth and fiction is blurred by emotions, I even forget what’s happening and what to feel. At least the family care enough about you to hate you, though it is all veiled in a hypocritical civility.

It's this in-between my family is stuck in, between the modern and traditional. New values, new money, I can feel the desperation in many of their faces to not miss the boat. They try too hard and are too fearful. I keep trying to explain to them that instead of looking for magic solutions like computer training, the non-technical, acts like reading, are what make people successful. Computers are just brains, you need a soul to drive them to where you want. Certain fundamentals are universal. You need to be intellectually curious to do well, and that usually comes from within and a simple habit of reading, of wanting to know more than what you are a part of, that’s when real change begins at the personal and bigger level.

Literacy is not getting better, neither is health in the holistic sense. You shed the diseases of poverty to take on the diseases of middle class consumption. Where is progress in that? Something deeper is required, and India has that potential. Half the world’s NGOs are in India! As Shashi Tharoor says “India is not, as people keep calling it, an underdeveloped country, but rather, in the context of its history amd cultural heritage, a highly developed one in an advanced state of decay.”

If I can't explain this, "Being John Malkovich" does. That’s a film that explains consciousness and how one day you wake up in a big house with a fancy car with a blonde big boobed wife and you wonder how you got there. "Letting the days go by/let he water hold me down, letting the days go by/water flowing underground"

Managing servants. Its great to have people do what you tell them for meager wages. There is always that constant connection to the true children of heaven, the poor. They never do end up doing what you exactly tell them to do and many times they become burdensome and not worth the trouble. I have seen people yell and scream all day at their servants and there are numerous cases where the servants kill masters leading to paranoia amongst the elderly.

A strange dynamic over all and something I have always felt uncomfortable with. It’s an entire sub culture, that’s what’s so perplexing here, the existence of many worlds and layers. The poor live very differently than the rich, and then it becomes more diverse given the region you are from and your particular culture and language. And then comes caste and then we are in many sub groups, I can never keep up.

When I was younger and more Marxist I would do what I could to know and romanticize the rickshaw wallahs, the servants, the poor, till I realized we are all the same in all classes. There are good and bad, enlightened and ignorant in all populations. I've also learned to feel less sorry for the poor. Ok, the absolute poor that have nothing to eat and are ravaged by preventable diseases is unacceptable but I speak more of the moderate poor who have the basics. Most of my upper middle class family is dying slow deaths in the form of over consumption and stupidity. Why would I want the poor to join in the suffering? Everyone has their problems; every situation has its enlightened and frightened side. You just got to figure out where you are and follow the light. Follow the path of love, and make magic where you are.

Benigni, Benigni, we need an Indian Benigni!

People are afraid of losing the material not due to physical necessity but more out of the respect it garners them. It's about power and showing off. My cheap nokia phone bothers my brother in law to no end only because his driver has a better phone than me. The idea that his driver would have something better than me is not inconsequential. It is a signal to the driver that my brother in law doesn't take care of me, and subsequently sends a message that my brother in law lacks power and class. In a jungle like country with obscene inequality the rich need to shock and awe the poor with gadgets that are more for demonstration than utility. You have to scare people not to fuck with you, or they will fuck with you. Fear is the ultimate weapon here, especially in a land where the rule of law functions unpredictably.

There has to be a difference between the haves and the have-nots. Otherwise there is confusion and looks are what most people go on, especially in a country of 45 percent illiteracy. Skin color, clothes, gadgets, everything is about being in the right group. The poor get harassed daily, there is much evidence of the poor internalizing their feelings of inferiority and lacking sufficient empowerment to demand basic state services. Fucked up.

The sexual repression leads to an expression of sensuality that’s brings its own pleasure. The darting glances, the innuendo, the secrecy, you can feel that deep down, inherently we are a sexual culture, a passionate people that dance and sing and try to express in subtle ways that which cannot be expressed in socially acceptable ways. It has its own sub-plots and melodrama and a subtly that is uncommon in western post materialist cultures.

It has its negative consequences. I feel sorry for my cousins who grew up here. They want to marry to have sex, or at least that’s a part of their logic, something strange and sad.

The problem is the modernity mixed with a tradition. Ideally it could work but India seems to marry the worse of both. It leads to interesting things from time to time, but usually horrific.

My friend here summed everything up with a simple statement. He said the problem with India is not the well educated, who are amongst the finest anywhere (st. stephens, ITT, IIMs) nor is it the uneducated, who work and do as told and lead simple and decent lives. It is the semi-educated, those masses of people that get caught in-between the new Indian Dream and the fear of being a nobody and missing the boat. Those are the people with the pretensions, frustrations and fears and who cause problems with their insecurity. They are the ones who need the most help. And they are getting stupider and made to buy things they don't need.

Come on! I know this land can give rise to something the world has never seen before. I know it and feel it and wait. If not here, where? If not now, when? I don't want India to become Taiwaned. Have you seen their films, "Yi-Yi" and "What time is it there" are depressing. That whole country is like gurguaon. I hate gurguaon; I hate it so much I don't even care to spell its name properly. That’s for my next post, and if anyone wants to start an I hate Gurguaon movement, I am there. That place represents as microcosm, what is wrong with India's development.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What's the secret, max ?

The secret?

Well, you seem to have it pretty figured out.

The secret. I don't know. Uh--

I think you just gotta find something you love to do,
And then do it for the rest of your life

Sic transit gloria.

-Max Fisher