As I sit in the Second Class Ladies Compartment in the peak hours of the day, I can hear two ladies singing bhajans loudly. Surprisingly, they are not too out of tune, even though their constant singing annoys me. They are teaching each other songs in Marathi, a language I don’t understand. The other women look at them with an annoyed expression, none of whom say a word against them.
It is at this moment, that I have an epiphany of sorts. Women in general have an internal locus of control. They take everything that goes wrong as a fault of their own, and hence truly believe that God exists, and like to focus most of their extra energy unto Religion. Most Indians have been taught that excessive of everything is bad, and hence they have a low need for achievement. And their women have a Fear of Success incomparable to many other cultures.
This makes me realize how Americanized some others, not quite unlike I, are. We believe in hard work, liberty, independence, and everything else America is supposed to stand for. And, even though we might not have labelled it, we dream the American Dream. We believe in individualization, and equality in opportunity.
Usually I travel by First Class, and I don’t see this kind of an exchange (which I’m forever grateful for, as I get to catch up with my sleep). It is somehow not a great thing. I know we all mind our own business, and keep away from annoying others. I remember a professor telling us how a woman yelled at a little boy who was doing dangerous stunts, while obviously untrained, and later rationalizing by saying how she’d be late for work if the boy falls off and dies. I mean, don’t we wonder where our priorities are, just sometimes?
I know that at times, when strangers stop to ask me if I’m doing okay, after say, I fall down, I feel forever grateful for. But then if there are these moments when they are too nice, or too involved. And it is at these moments that the question of who we are sets in. While there are people who don’t know how much is too much, there are others who don’t know that it is too less.
Under these circumstances, I can’t help but wonder, how many faces do we have? As an individual, we might talk of masks and duty, but as a society, we are so diverse, and so dynamic that it comes as a shock, at times. And these faces, and these forms are probably what makes life in Bombay worth it.
Because we live in a dissonance. A mixture between a melting pot, and a salad bowl. And the city is a city of two faces. The poor, and the elite. The too nice, and the too distant. The strange and the unusual. The American and the British. We all coexist, and help the other. It is a city of dreams, and miracles, much like America is. And it is a city of poverty, and struggle. We dream, yes, but our dreams could be as easily shattered.
Bombay is often called Mayanagari. This literally means The City of Illusions, or the City of Dreams. This can be accredited to Bollywood, which makes and breaks lives. That is the reference in the last paragraph.
On a related note, if you’d like a post on Bollywood, just leave a comment, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I’d be more than willing to.