Tuesday, April 27, 2010

desultory prose, desultory living

The security guards in my building seem to be on a rotating employment roll, they keep changing. From the heartland, they come tumbling like humpty dumpties. The yadavs, the ojhas, the kumars. There are never any south indians, they seem to be opening udupi joints. What remains uniform among these guards, like symptoms of a disease, is how they greet building tenants. Like bound by some feudal custom, they rise from their chairs and stand up when you pass by. It’s an act of obeisance, this relinquishing of the comfort of the chairs, though they are inexpensive PVC ones. Anyway, the point being the show of deference and, to a certain extent a corollary, the dignity of labor.

I keep telling them not to bother, to remain seated, what I don’t say is that they make me uncomfortable more than anything else. I also don’t dare utter that I’m scared, sometimes morbidly, that a civil war might erupt. That this subservience will turn into vandalism. They’ll steal your Nokias, your Dells when you’re sleeping.

But they keep doing it, as if programmed genetically. Their spines are coiled springs, ready to be straightened at your look.

Class—there are unwritten codes everywhere. You may or may not have quotas but how do you remove this vermin from the minds of thousands. Why can’t they—and we must allow them to—do their jobs with quiet dignity? Is it too much to expect respect if you are working class?

This shouldn’t disturb me, it’s none of my business. But I don’t know what’s my business. We live in our small worlds, connected but estranged. We choose things, little things, make them our life, and slip into disaffection like a second skin. All the information—this ocean, this tide after tide—washes our doorsteps unable to touch a single molecule in our hearts. We have become animals already, alive only to survival, numb to living. But then by some cruel irony, a little bit of the human lingers like fish smell on hands. It reminds you of what the hands had once touched, what they have since dropped. And this hardens you a little more, puts a little dead weight in your heart so that at least it is not empty. The truth is what doesn’t kill you kills a little bit in you.