Incident 1: Peering at that black dot on the wall of the terrace, I tried my best to lean forward and get a close look at it. It wasn’t there yesterday and as I looked around slowly – I spotted more of those black dots all over the wall.
Cutting a long shocking story short – within a week my entire house was infested with caterpillars! Beds, bed sheets, floors, ceilings, walls inside the house and outside the house.
We had shifted to this house two months back. We had not yet fully settled into the new city, and we continued to inspect all around the building to locate the source of the infestation. We had two terraces – adjoining and over our flat and both of them were filled with junk. People had dumped all their broken potted plants, and it was from here that the whole infestation had started.
We had to get pest control done immediately and throwing those broken pots along with the plants was the first thing that we instinctively did. Those caterpillars were causing rashes all over our body!!
A fortnight later – a man rings the bell and starts screaming at us for throwing those plants away. Caught unawares – I did my very best to explain to him the problems we had faced due to their carelessness. The flat was empty for about a month before we started living in it. Seeing that no one would inspect the terraces for a while – this doctor couple – simply plonked all their junk on common property and then asked us to shell out money for damaging his property without taking his permission!!
I spoke decently to him and then simply paid him the sum after asking him to quote a figure. Yes – yes – yes – they were a doctor couple!! Educated and rich!!
They healed people. They knew about germs and insects and rashes and operated by people who were sick and yet knew not one bit or cared one whit about the hygiene of the building. It took us two years of several repeat pest control treatments to get rid of the caterpillars, and we continued to keep a strict vigil all through our stay in that city.
And who was I to teach such rich educated doctors common civic sense? And yes – they did take the money! According to them – I was at fault!
Incident 2: A lady rings the bell one fine day. She coolly demands permission to see our house – I ask her in knowing her as a neighbor by face – and she goes to our bedroom and locates the bathroom. She says that there is seepage from our bathroom and her ceiling is getting affected. She then coolly says that we will have to take care of it.
A week later she sends some person to get the waterproofing done. He demands a ridiculous sum to do it. Another week later, we meet in the lift – and she asks if I had done anything about it yet! I told her we were trying to find a person to do it but no one turned up despite giving us an appointment. She then asks us to visit the office of the housing society and ask them to send them their waterproofing person to get the job done.
A new experience, a new city, a spouse who was constantly traveling and I just did what she suggested. The tone was snooty. She always talked down to me as if it was beneath her dignity to interact with the likes of service class people like me!
Well, we had a problem to solve – that we did not appreciate the way she talked to us was a different matter. So I visited the office of the society. They informed me that they do not have a team of such people in their office and we had to locate our own person to get the job done. They also inform me – when I enquired – that the cost had to be borne equally by both the parties.
I inform snooty toned lady about it and also tell her that we are doing all we can to find someone reliable to get the job done, but the cost was to be divided equally as per the norms of the society.
Sunday mid morning – the bell rings. She calmly walks in along with the same person who was in the society office and then that senior person simply tells us – “You live in bank quarters (my spouse works in a bank) – the bank is bound to bear this expense for you – why don’t you get the whole expense approved???”
Calmly – coolly – like peeling an onion – we get to see the true character of the snooty well educated rich lady. “For you, the bank will pay – I will have to pay out of my pocket isn’t it?”
Well – snooty lady believed in pressurizing us into footing her bill! The bank does give a few select employees living space for the work that they are doing. Nobody – repeat – nobody, gets anything for free in this world.
Yet – this tiny tiny fact – eluded such a well-heeled well groomed rich personality like her!!
No – in the end, she ended up paying her own share of the bill and yes – she still thinks that there is nothing unethical about her approach!!
Parking woes, people water the plants from the fourth floor, and it was draining directly on the washed linen of the other floors, seniors of the family bossing over juniors, juniors ill-treating and disrespecting seniors……where does one draw the line????
If education is supposed to bring about a refinement in our characters, why do we treat the not so rich or the poor or our seniors and juniors with such utter disdain? The water from the fourth floor is falling over people who are walking down the road. There is a poor old watchman who is sitting at the gate. At least have the civility to ask him to move away before you water those lovely plants of yours in your pretty sophisticated home. And this lady is a rank holder and a chartered accountant at that!!
Where do we get this false sense of high self-worth from? From our fancy double degrees from prestigious institutions? Or from our parents’ and spouses’ fat bank balance?? Or is it because we earn such grand salaries that we feel it is beneath our dignity to treat other not so fortunate people in a civil manner??
What then is the difference between you and that cave man of the yore? That you eat in a fancy restaurant with a knife and a fork and he ate out in the open over an open fire?
Is that it? Is all that education only about experiencing the fine things in life? Has it got nothing to do with thinking about others and their feelings and their sentiments and their struggles??
People are poor because they did not get the same opportunities that we the lucky ones managed to get. People are poor and are forced to do menial jobs because they did not get the opportunity to go to good schools and colleges and get a sound education like us.
People are forced to take up low-paying jobs despite being educated because their parents could not fund their higher studies.
Not all of us can be rich and educated. There are bound to be different strata in different societies. Cultural norms, societal norms create different strata and different classes in every society. There are bound to be rich and poor people. Various people will take up different kinds of professions. And we need such diverse kinds of people to create a holistic society.
But that does not mean we treat people like insects!! With contempt or with utter disdain!! Does having more money or a higher and better degree make you a better human being? Does having less money and no education mean I do not belong to the category of human beings and you can treat me the way you want me to??
Why cannot we tune into their problems and be more sympathetic to them and their struggles? It is okay if we are unable to help them. I may not be rich enough to help others – perhaps I may just be able to manage my life with difficulty. Fine – at least – don’t ridicule them. At least respect them for what they are doing! They are contributing to your lives for heaven’s sake. They provide you with a regular 365-day service – without a single day off!!
Treat them like human beings for god’s sake!! And what kind of stuff do we study between the pages of our academic books if we do not have basic civic sense – we don’t know how to treat our own neighbors!! Don’t be cordial – don’t intermingle or smile to them. Fine – but what kind of an insensitive soul are you if you do not even know that your actions are creating medical and financial problems for another family?
How can a common ceiling/floor be one person’s problem alone? How can you conveniently assume that some other person will foot the bill for you just because the organization is giving him space to live in??
There is no exaggeration in any of the incidents that I have narrated. The bitterness and the anger may perhaps be perceived in the write-up – yes – I get immensely furious when I experience such things. And when I see such people behaving the way they do without the slightest trace of guilt or remorse on their faces!!
I classify such rich well-educated people as uncivilized, and I salute the silence of that poor old watchman who simply chose to move away from that sudden shower of muddy water from the third floor…………..he knew that such people were not worth his anger or his words. They were too uncivilized for him……….it was beneath his dignity to teach such educated rich useless imbeciles a lesson on basic civic sense!