At every family reunion, marriage functions, one finds a motley group of friends or relatives huddled together, reminiscencing days gone by, baulking at the current political class, attendant corruption issues and fast vanishing moral and ethical values. Its the same story everywhere and suddenly you start wondering- are all educated middle class indians so morally and ethically correct?, if that is so , then who is everybody pointing fingers at !. In the midst of all Mr Nandy gets hauled up for some of his outlandish statements at a literary festival which are lapped up by his literary cousins, “long live freedom of expression”; criticized by all and sundry and one is again left with the question – Who is at fault?. If for a moment, we move away from corruption but see all issues from a fundamental ethical or moral values prism, you will be confronted with so many real dark facts that you will wish fervently to throw the prism in the deep waters of Bay of Bengal. Seriously……. Who is at fault?
The trouble is everybody! Our educated class has devised its own survival philosophy and has some outlandish justification for all the ills that it continually perpetrates on the less fortunate in the name of helping them, making them move up the ladder. Truth be told, they are no less or more ethically deviant than their upper or lower class cousins. Its just that they have convinced themselves of their righteous behaviour and try to offer justifications that suit them. In the process, they get more alienated from the other classes and the divide only goes bigger and there is no bridge in sight. Little do they realise that just as they look down upon certain strata in society and are horrified of their way of thinking, there are others who look onto them with same suspicions. I will try to enumerate all issues through a series of viewpoints.
You may baulk at me, see me with seething anger, but for a minute,look yourself in a mirror and think of actions that you take and you will realise that its great to preach, laud ethics but very difficult to emulate. Take for instance, this huge issue of underpaid, over-stressed, thoroughly exploited housemaid system which every household in India has devised. Yes, one can speak about labour exploitation at glitzy five star conferences while sipping 1981 great harvest chavignon and biting into large morsels of jumbo prawns grilled to perfection and express displeasure and seething anger at the planning bureaucrat who completely messed it, of how because of sheer political shenanigans the money waterfall never reaches the bottom and exploitation begins. Well said, charity begins at home one may say. One can hear the aunties laden with De Beers diamonds with latest Berkins bags in tow pouring out as to how their heart bleeds out when they see moving images on television of underpaid, exploited workforce and lo behold further horrors of minors toiling away at factories with wages far lower that minimum prescribed.
Allow me to walk you through any household in India, from New Delhi to Mumbai, from Rajouri Garden to Shantinekatan, from Borivili to Colaba, to the beeming megapolis that Gurgaon is turning into. Make no mistake, level of education makes no difference, from a graduate to a MBA (foreign or Indian), from thoroughbred in India to just returned NRI, all are in this cesspool. At the end of the day, its no different than the concept of Raja & Praja ( his subjects), Zamindar and his lowly patrons, the rule of the game has always remained, currently is, and will continue to thrive in near foreseeable future that the upper level in a strata will exploit the lower strata, upper one will be condescending in his attitude, shows his greatness by throwing crumbs lower down, expects the lower strata to be obligated to his magnificence and expects the one level below person to be happy that he is being uplifted.
There is virtually no law, yes absolutely no law that governs the lowly housemaids, they toil for horrendous hours to eke their living, get paid pittance, have no holidays whatsoever, cannot demand any. Yes, yes, the aunties will say that their maids hold them to ransom, never come back from their villages if they go for a brief vacation, always haggle over their pay, and that they are taking good care of them, if not for them, the maids would be on the roads ( condescending attitude!!). Little that they realise that the poor maid is uneducated, for her, everything is transactional and existential but the aunties are educated and what good is the education if one has not realised ” human values” and “fairness”. The auntie is supposed to be flag bearer of fairness and she fails terribly. In the offices, everybody would fight harder for the annual leave but where does these concepts vanish when they reach home.
Visit any mega towers of Gurgaon or Joggers park,Bandra or any other park in megapolis around 6 pm and you will see babalogs of the rich and famous being prammed around by maids who are distinctly minor or underage. Get a bone test done to ascertain their age and 70% would turn out to be minor. And the story doesn’t end here, the minor more often than not is paid lower than the pittance dished out for the right age maid. After all the minor is a child and cannot do much, so less pay. Even the foreign returned Indians also fall in the same cesspool, forgetting how difficult was it for them to have a maid back at overseas, or was it, it was just that the rules of the game are different overseas and workers rights are protected. The justification is the same (“condescending”), if not for us, the child would be languishing on the road, underfed and we are atleast giving them a shelter. The exploiting Raja also said that, so did the Zamindar, so do a despot ruler in a african country, so do a dictator in south america -its the same. Justifications are parroted for the convenience.
If we need to get out of the cesspool, firstly we all have to see ourselves thru the prism of ethical values and learn to be Humans first. What good is this education if that does make us Great Human Beings. Thats the ill which effects us all.