Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ganesh Chathurthi and a day-dream

Yesterday evening, while I was watching TV, I heard my doorbell ring. Upon answering, I found a young boy.

He said, "Uncle, we are celebrating Ganesh Chathurthi and we will be bringing an idol and.."

"So you need a contribution ?" I interrupted him.


"OK, so be it." I took his notebook, and wrote Rs.50 as my contribution.

He saw that and said, "Uncle, 100 please".

I stopped for a moment, and made it Rs.100.

As I was giving the money, I asked, "So what exactly do you plan to do ?"

He said, "We will be bringing the idol and doing the decorations and.."

"Bring the idol where ? And decorate what ?" Once more I cut him short.

"The community hall."

"Alright, thanks a lot."

With that, I let him go. I had my answer. I went back inside, a little uneasy. May be, I should not have paid. Or even if I did, I should have told him what I thought. But then, he was too young to appreciate. I imagined what I would have liked to happen. Perhaps, in stead of him, his dad should have come.

After paying, I would have asked him, "So what exactly do you plan to do ?"

"We will be bringing the idol and doing the decorations and.."

"Bring the idol where ? And decorate what ?" I would have interrupted, as I did with the boy.

"The community hall."

"Alright, thanks a lot. I just wanted to make sure that I wouldn't need to do anything else."

The man would reply, "Well, you just need to come to the community hall. We have a pooja and a few cultural events. It should be a good get together."

"Well, I am afraid I won't make it. I really don't want to get involved much. Thank you very much." I say, trying to hide my irritation.

"Oh.. alright, we will have someone get the sweets from the pooja for you."

"No please. I don't quite need them." I tell him, as politely as I manage to be at that point.

"Don't worry yaar !", the man says, trying to be friendly. The `yaar' word pushes me over. I hate that word, when used by someone in the middle of a conversation in English.

I say with obvious irritation, "Well, I mean.."

"Don't worry at all. It is not difficult for us to.."

"What I mean is, it would be very difficult for me if you were to disturb me once more in the name of your festival. Quite frankly, that is what I meant."

The man is a little confused now. He gets a part of what I said though.

"In that case, we don't really need your contribution."

I reply, "That should be fine with me. But I don't really mind the contribution. That choice is yours."

"If you were not interested, why didn't you say so initially ?"

"Well, as I said, I did not mind paying, as long as that was all I needed to do. If some kid had come in your place and asked for a contribution for his cricket club, I would have still paid."

"We don't need your 100 rupees. What we need is participation of the community."

"You never asked me for any of that. You did not even bother to check if I had anything to do with your silly festival."

"Silly ? What do you mean silly ?"

"I am sorry to have used that word. I take it back. Nevertheless, I have nothing to do with the festival."

"For one, it is a national festival. And being residents of the same apartment complex, we belong to a common community."

"It's not a national festival. I agree about the community part. It's just that I regard my privacy above my community feeling. Basically, I don't want to do something for the sake of community if I don't feel like it."

"Please take your Rs.100 back. I don't want to talk to you anymore."

"Thanks. It just occurred to me; I am glad not paying. I presume you are going to immerse that idol in some lake after your pooja. Quite honestly, I am glad not to contribute to polluting the environment."

"Don't you drive a car ? Don't you use plastics ? You are being such a hypocrite."

"Call me what you want. To answer your question, I do all that, and I admit that I do pollute. I am not left with a lot of choice in those matters. But I am doing what bit I can though. And I certainly don't want to pollute the environment when I have no gains from it. Face it, I am selfish. Anyway, I don't think I owe you an explanation."

"Being so arrogant does you no good. Good bye."

"I shall try to remember that. Please understand, I have nothing against you. Good bye, and enjoy your festival."

I know I was being absurd about that pollution bit. More than that, I know I was being arrogant. But I did not mean to be. The man simply dragged me into it. I wouldn't have told him what I thought if not for his instigation. I believe my arrogance surfaced only to counter his own. Yes, I mean his own arrogance - an arrogance that was so fundamental to him - an arrogance that was so much a part of him - that it was hard to notice. I mean his arrogance in assuming that a festival important to him was going to be important to me as well; his arrogance in believing that every one of his festival was a national festival; his arrogance in believing that representing the community for collecting the contributions elevates him above my individuality; his arrogance in believing that being conscious of the community makes him holier than me, and could advise me against being arrogant to the community.