Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Why bother? Why care?

I went to a show called 'Sunday Jam' last night. It's a gathering of bands who sign up for free to play 2-3 songs on stage. Good for exposure, good for gathering experience of playing on stage. There's nothing like playing in front of an audience. Quite a thrill.

You can learn more about 'Sunday Jam' on the 'Freedom Jam' website.

When we arrived, a band called 'Ek' were playing Hindi songs. I don't understand Hindi, but I enjoyed the songs. They were good, and the audience liked them. We had 'Altered Scales', with a drummer who played a very good drum solo in the middle of an improvisational jam. What was amazing was that he must have been at least 60!

The incident begins when Melizma is on stage. They were a trio which played melodic metal. A minute into their 3rd song, I heard a yell behind me. Not surprising, because lots of people were shouting and whistling. But this sounded different, and I turned around to see, not 5 feet from me, a guy on the ground, all curled up. At first, no one knew what happened, and no one reacted. It took us a good 10 seconds before realizing this guy was NOT play-acting, drunk, or high on weed. Santhosh (a former colleague and friend) was apparently with him, along with 4 others. He and I approached this guy. I was just plain scared; I had no idea what happened. Then we saw it.. the shaking, the clenched fists, and the foaming of the mouth. He was having the fits.

A crowd quickly formed around us. Santhosh was trying to keep his friend down. Sushanto gave me his bike keys, and I took my house keys out, and passed them to Santhosh, to place in his hand. Somebody in the crowd took his sandal off and held it to the guy's nose. Gopal (the organizer) was there and asked what that was for. The man replied, "For the leather". Apparently, the smell of leather is supposed to help suppress fits.

Lots of people had gathered by now, and the guy wasn't shaking so much. Melizma was still playing, despite knowing something wasn't right - we were right in front of them. Siddarth came to the mic and asked if there was a doctor in the audience, and that someone needed medical treatment. 2 elderly ladies appeared and asked to push him over to his side. This was suggested to us by a kid nearby, but they didn't listen to him then. Someone started getting a car ready to take him to the hospital. The poor guy had gone all limp.

Eventually, his friends (including Santhosh) brought his to the hospital. The crowd dispersed, and we got back to watching the rest of the show. But my mind wasn't on the show anymore. Why?

ONE..

I had given Sushanto's bike keys to Santhosh, but not got them back. I called him, and asked him to check his pockets, and his friends to check their pockets, but he said no, the keys weren't with them.

Later in the evening, I approached Gopal, and asked him to help me make an annoucement to see if anyone had the keys. It turned out that someone gave them too Siddarth, because Gopal came bouncing up to us with a smile and handed us the keys. Whew.. Take about relief!

TWO..

I have learnt to accept the ugly fact that many Indians here simply do NOT care about anything but themselves. This is everywhere, all over the world, but I can TELL YOU that I've not seen it more anywhere else. Take littering for example. People here will think NOTHING of throwing their rubbish in public - out of a car window, onto the floor of a bus or train, on the road, in schools, workplaces, ANYwhere. Anywhere but their home. We Indians are especially particular about personal hygiene and cleanliness. We have to wash our butts; toilet paper won't do. Maybe it's the climate, but we feel the need to bath quite often. We would NEVER spit inside our house, but we won't think twice about that on the streets. We keep our homes nice and clean, but couldn't care less about how it looks outside. As long as he/she is fine, healthy, comfortable and satisfied, there is absolutely NO need to bother about what happens around them. They don't have to care about the consequences of their actions if it doesn't affect them directly (or immediately).

Every man for himself.

Selfish.

What made me think of all this? This lack of care for others? Indians are said to be hospitable people, but then I wouldn't let that get to their heads. EVERY country has hospitable people when viewed from a foreigner's perspective. But of course! Why would you want to show your true (ugly) self when you stand a chance to make a good impression, AND on a foreigner??? After all, we all know it's not difficult to maintain a 'good' image for a short time, and we don't usually interact with foreigners for very long.

I find the Indian-white people relationship very interesting, and I will write about this on a future post.

Melizma, the band. They kept on playing while this guy lay on the ground, shaking from the fits. I don't know much about fits, but I do know anything could trigger it. I will not be wrong in saying that the extremely LOUD volume 'may' have triggered this. We were, after all, sitting right in front of huge amplifiers.

Regardless of what the cause was, I think it would only have been sensible to stop playing. All through the commotion of tending to this man, we had to put up with loud, loud music. Melizma can say what they like. I'll say, "It did NOT help".

I've always thought good of Siddarth, being a funny fellow that he is. But I was disappointed to see that he did not stop them from playing; even when he did try to call attention to us over the loud music.

And last but not least, our dear sound engineers who were sitting RIGHT BEHIND us, i.e. the incident took place right in front of them, in front of their mixer-desk. They could have reduced the overall volume, not cut it, if the amateur performance was so important.

Overall, a lack of compassion. Melizma must have been at a risk of losing millions if they stopped playing, being as professional as they are. Or perhaps, they imagined themselves in Woodstock, so people collapsing on the ground wasn't really a big deal. A pat on the back for Siddarth for putting the continuity of his Sunday Jam show before everything else. Why spoil the performance for some guy who collapsed, right?

Perhaps this is how things are. How they are. Everywhere, everyday, we see it. Take a walk outside for half an hour and you see it. But I've also learnt something else. There is no pointing this out, protesting, asking why this happens, or trying to convince them that things could be done a better way. Most people were born here, they grew up here, spent most or all of their lives here. Saying they are used to it would be incorrect. They see this as THE WAY to go about life. Every action which jumps out at me, which just spells 'wrong' is perfectly normal, acceptable and unquestionable for locals.

No, I am not ungrateful, or one who's constantly complaining about these things. I am Indian, and my family is here. I have spent the last 6 years of my life here. I started my working life here. We are progressing rapidly, no doubt about that - this IT company, that BPO, software, garments, food, tourism, industries.. You name it, we have it, and we're growing. Attitudes remain the same. If anyone asks why we aren't growing as much as we should, this is why. If anyone asks why companies are looking for other places to set up shop, this is why. If anyone asks why we face so many questions when applying for a normal tourist visa to most countries, this is why.

I am not generalizing this onto the Indian people. I can't and won't do that because I do know some wonderful people here in India. Some are neighbours, some colleagues and even some shopkeepers. :-)

This blog is meant to be a channel for me to say what I think about what I see here. That's all.

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Anonymous Barbara said...

Good words.

10:36 am  

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Happy New Year?

I spent my New Year's Eve and New Year jamming with a new-found friend. He's crazy about music, so we spent both days, all days, jamming. It felt good to play after so long, and it gave me a sense of satisfaction, knowing I had 'opened' the New Year doing what I love.

And that's how I prefer it. Quiet. I don't see why people have to go dancing in the streets. I don't see why they HAVE to wish every stranger they see. I don't see why they have to yell 'Happy New Year' to television cameras while riding in 4's on a bike. I don't see why drinking becomes the point of the entire night, when it only makes sense to be sober to 'enjoy' the celebrations anyway.

That's for the world.

Now India.

This 'New Year' thing, just like 'Valentine's Day', 'Father's Day', 'Mother's Day' and 'what-not' day is new. We see huge media coverage and an equally huge build-up a month before the day. We see stores offering discounts, although this makes some sense (clearing stock before the end of the year, etc). And yet, this is all fairly new. I'm trying to go back 10 years, trying to remember the New Year 'celebrations', and I can't recall anything even remotely similar. People greeted the New Year the way they would any other day. Our wonderful friends from the West, and even more friends from cable TV brought the 'Let's get wild on New Year's Eve' idea over, and we Indians, being as awed as we are of anything 'white', swallowed the whole thing with gusto. The result? Our celebrations can match (maybe not the grandeur), but the intensity of any other city around the world.

I came in to work on the 2nd, and lost count of the number of people shaking my hand and saying 'Happy New Year'. What's so happy about it? Take India first. The poor are still as poor as they were on the 31st of December. Our politicians are as corrupt, if not more so. And the world? Iraqis must be having a beautiful New Year. We mustn't forget to wish the mothers whose sons 'disappeared'. We mustn't forget to wish the children who lost their family. It must be a FABULOUS New Year for them.

It's sad. Anyone who goes around wishing the other without reason does so without any thought. If a New Year is supposed to bring us some change for the better, starting it off as blindly as we do today doesn't offer us much hope.

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