Last Saturday was “Women’s Day” and you couldn’t miss it on WA. There was a surge of women-men jokes and posts, some saccharine sweet, extolling the virtues of mothers, wives, daughters, etc., others taking pot shots at all those men who fail to recognize how fortunate they are to have women in their lives. This went on incessantly from morning till night, until in a family WA group, my brother-in-law posted, “kisi women ne apni kaamwali ko aaj chutti dee hai…ye batao” with two nasty emoticons. When I forwarded this to my college batch group, some women retorted “But we too are kaamwalis anyway”.
India is so many different nations, each one populated by a “people like us (PLU)”. If all the readers of this column are one PLU, then our world and the worlds of our maids, chauffeurs and cooks have no commonalities, except at the points of intersection where we need their services and they, their salaries from us. We may be benevolent and nice and charitable and accompany them to the doctor and pay for their hospital admissions…but they are not “us” and we are not “them”.
We may abhor the caste system…in its “Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra” avatar. But, the caste system is well and alive and transitioning among the various different Indian worlds is extremely difficult, if not impossible…to do so, you have to murder your boss, and steal his money, as Balram does in Aravind Adiga’s “The White Tiger”.
Which is why the young helper maids were still waiting outside the various club-houses, or sitting in one corner of the table in restaurants, while their “madams” were celebrating Women’s Day!
Which is why we all had our knickers in a twist when the US took action against Devyani Khobragade. She is one of “us”. And one of “them” managed to use the system to get asylum in the US and then turned the tables on her. She dared to cross over and as the Karna story keeps reminding us, this is something that “we” (Draupadi, Pandavas included) just can’t handle.
Which is also why we now hate Mr. Arvind Kejriwal and love Mr. Narendra Modi. Mr. Modi may have sold tea in his youth, but he is one of “us”. Though Mr. Kejriwal is one of us, as are virtually all his new party members and recent joinees, he plays to “them” and that is something none of us can stand, intuitively or cerebrally.
Which is also why when a maid gets raped, unless a celebrity like Shiny Ahuja is involved, no one bothers, but when one of “us” gets raped as happened at Shakti Mills, all hell breaks loose. Nirbhaya too was on her way to successfully bridging the divide, to becoming one of “us”. The police are deferential to “us” but insult “them” at every opportunity. The airlines flying to the Middle East ensure that “they” are placed in the last rows, so that “us” flying economy can sit a little separate from “them” in front.
I am part of “us”, no different! If you think you are different then answer these. Can you sit on the same table in your local club restaurant, and have dinner and drinks, with your chauffeur or cook or maid or help, one on one? Or allow them to sit on the same sofa in the house and watch television with you? If you can, then you have transcended your individual India, if not…remember that Women’s Day is a day only for that India that is “us”!