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Hindus Wear Elitism like A Second Skin
|by Aneeta Chakrabarty|
It was a glitzy gathering of Indians celebrating a gala night for raising funds for various development projects in India. An affluent body of well-dressed Indians moved around the elegant lobby with plush carpets while sipping their drinks in wine colored glasses. They were conversing eagerly with their polite cohorts who listened like submissive students ready to lap up the treasures of living large and living big.
The new Gods of the Indian immigrant world, “Wealth, Power, Success and Ambition,” had their flamboyant disciples everywhere. Big personalities ruled the roost and set the tone – polite, politically correct, easy, pleasant, and empty.
Into this welcoming paradise walked our brash friend, Balwant Sinha, who drove cabs for a living. That day, he had a pesky fare who kept demanding that he take a detour to avoid certain routes and therefore he did not have the time to go back home to change into a suitable attire for genteel company. He also did not get much sleep as he went to night school. However, he had a messianic desire to help his impoverished village. Their sufferings haunted him and fueled his compassionate nature. And hence in spite of his dismal financial condition, he had saved $500 from his hard won tips, and this he was going to donate to the only school in his village.
“Sir,” he asked a wandering paragon of culture, “Sir, I have 500 dollars to donate, who should I give this to?” The man looked him over, looked at his unkempt beard and blood shot eyes, mentally assigned him to a place in a hierarchy of his 3 dogs, pointed vaguely to a box near the elaborately decorated stage, and vanished swiftly. Disconcerted, Balwant went timidly forward toward the stage, looking over his shoulder, expecting a civilized assault any moment, and found the exclusive box with a nondescript mark, “Donations”. He put his hard earned dollars there and waited around the box as if to guard it. He noticed nobody put anything there. He waited some more time, hoping to make a human connection. Nobody came and nobody talked to him. He noticed a woman reporter trying to converse with a high powered couple from upscale Bombay. Her enthusiasm was met with polite but cold stares, her warmth failed to break the ice and after some time she shrugged her shoulders and with a resigned air left the place. Balwant shifted uncomfortably and started to wonder if this was a charity event or an event for rich Indians that he had accidentally stumbled upon.
After several attempts to initiate a conversation, Balwant was about to leave, feeling in his heart, it would have been better to donate to the Salvation Army, when he noticed something unusual. Everyone was running to a spot near the stage. “Maybe, somebody gave a big donation or hit a jackpot,” he thought. He saw all the “movers and shakers” drop everything and run to the expanding circle of people with faces solemn as if in worship of a new God, “a multi-millionaire with several money spinning enterprises.” The millionaire raised his arm and there was a hush. He spoke about many things, about his life, his businesses, and finally he spoke about the power of giving. He spoke convincingly about the need for everyone to give and said that he will honor people who give. “Among all the virtues of mankind, none is better than the power to give for eventually the giver benefits a hundred fold more than the receiver,” he said with a wave of his hand. The crowd cheered wildly and within a short span all the coldness in the swank hall seemed to evaporate. Then, with a grand and sweeping gesture, and with the crowd still following him, he was gone in his sleek Mercedes.
“Did he give anything?” wondered Balwant, a little aloud. The sophisticated man instructed him, “People like that,” he paused as if mentally paying homage to his deity, “are a walking advertisement. They draw crowds and crowds mean money. It’s like having movie stars. They do not have to contribute. Just their appearance works wonders.” The man’s attitude was oozing condescension while he spoke, as if he was talking to an illiterate person. Balwant decided it was time to retreat.
He now realized why his cousin Sunita frequently hints during her conversations that her family has 4 mansions and 2 factories; why his unemployed neighbor goes to no Indian gatherings not even to temples; or why his old friend Sunil sold his modest home and borrowed above his means to buy a 5000 sq. ft home and spend 40 grand to decorate it; or even why a disgruntled Indian was responsible for mysterious fires appearing in a Houston suburb where wealthy Indians live. They were all hungering for acceptance by following the unwritten code – anoint those who own the gold, and for the rest “look the other way.”
Poor Balwant had given his savings, was willing to give his blood for his village, yet nobody missed him and nobody cared. Had he given in thousands, his name would have been in the plaques, in the newspapers, he would be wined and dined with big names, and his pictures would have been front page events.
Can the community of Indians honor the distant stars but trample the bricks of compassion? Can those rich Hindus who own businesses, technical or otherwise, shout, abuse, overwork, insult and ill-treat their employees, yet donate thousands to temples, gala functions and uninvolved swamijis, and think that this makes it all right with God? Which Nirvana can they take their enormous wealth built on the backs of human machines?
It doesn’t require a genius to know that worshipping wealthy men and keeping up with the clutter of social pretenses, not only tears the binding fabric of society – kindness, compassion, humility and generosity, but also entertains the cancer of civilization- a monster called corruption. Plenty of national ink has been spent in decrying the need for eliminating corruption, and existential threats to India. Yet very few are willing to confront the gaping fault lines that seeds corruption, such as elitist values that focus on money making to the exclusion of everything else, and exhibiting a total lack of compassion.
Can a self absorbed and ungenerous society be willing to embrace the bricklayers of humanity, social justice and recognition of merit? Or will it be so complacent that it does not even think of looking into the mirror? Can an elitist Hindu society replace the pervading Mercedes culture with a warm connecting culture? Or will it be willing to wallow in the expanding pools of neglect and stagnation, complacent in its backwardness and infatuated with past glories? The answer, my friend, depends on you and me. As Gandhi once said, “We must be the change we wish to see.”
|More by : Aneeta Chakrabarty|
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Comments on this Article
Dr K C Arvind
12/12/2015 22:07 PM
07/07/2012 23:08 PM
07/07/2012 16:59 PM
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