“Sir, when I put trust in someone, it is actually an investment. We thus create a possibility and an opportunity for someone to become a better version of his original self.”
To be fair, it would be absolutely wrong to stereotype 30 million people living in a particular city. Yet, every metropolis appears to have a typical soul and character of its own. Very difficult to define at times. It can however be sensed over a protracted stay as you make mental comparisons with where you are coming from. And then over time, you yourself subconsciously start thinking and behaving like the locals. That probably is the termination of the metamorphosis.
Suketu Mehta’s gripping book , ‘Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found’ (2004) captures this essence and soul of Mumbai like never before. It is undoubtedly a must read, if you have not already done so. My own perceptions about the city also have been on similar lines. The ‘city never stops’ and there is an unmistakeable 24×7 buzz.
There is so much of poverty and destitution but almost everyone swears by the city. People don’t complain very much. Surprisingly, they do not appear to be unhappy. They just get on with what they are supposed to do or deliver. The only simple advice to a newcomer is “Bas lafda nahi maangta” meaning, “Just stay on the right side of the law”.
One day, an ‘idle me in Mumbai’ kicked up a conversation with an equally idle street hawker, selling mobile accessories. He was a migrant from Bihar and I queried him about his perceptions about the city. The translated version of his reply was “Sir, misery has more than 256 shades of gray. In Mumbai, however bad your state may be, you will always find someone who is worse off than you. So, in a way you inwardly feel thankful and get on with life.”
I was actually taken aback by his profound assessment. Finally understood the theory of relativity! Post our brief interaction, I started viewing Mumbaikers with a set of changed lenses. Was I becoming one myself, I wondered?
My late father of course, had never visited Mumbai. He however harboured a rather strong impression about Delhi, of which he had been an inhabitant since the partition. A very disciplined and promising man he was. Blame it on his few bitter experiences or whatever, he found the majority of Delhiites not very trustworthy. Our efforts to make him change his perception remained futile till his final departure.
He was of the opinion that the capital city changes the best of people when they land up here. They neglect their relationships and become self-centred, if not totally selfish. To highlight his point, he would often relate a modified version of the ‘Shravan Kumar’ story.
As is well known, Shravan Kumar is a character mentioned in the Ramayana. He is best known for his extreme filial piety and devotion towards his almost blind parents. When they became aged, they expressed a desire to be taken on a pilgrimage (Char Dham Yatra) to purify their souls.
Shravan Kumar could not afford to hire a buggy transport. So he decided to put each parent in a basket and tied each basket to an end of a bamboo pole. He thus literally carried them on his shoulder and set course for the journey. Not an easy task for sure.
Needless to say, Shravan’s parents were delighted. The whole world also acclaimed his noble gesture. People would often cite his example to their offspring. The fond hope was that their children might also one day emulate him.
As the altered story went, Shravan Kumar one day crosses a river with his parents. Not much of a problem since the water levels were pretty low. Once he had crossed over, very surprisingly and quite inexplicably, he put them down on the ground and said rudely, “ I have had enough of this yatra business. Now you both should consider continuing on your own.”
Shravan’s parents were aghast with shock at this unexpected development. With limitations of a very poor eyesight, they moved around a bit and explained their predicament to a passer-by. “How could Shravan behave in this manner? What had gone wrong so suddenly? The whole world thinks that he is the embodiment of parental devotion. And out here he is behaving as if the devil has got him.”
At this point, my father would come to his jesty best and quote the passer-by’s cynical response, “My sympathies are totally with you both. Just in case you don’t know, this river you just crossed is Yamuna and the place that you have reached is called Dilli. This kind of a behaviour from loved ones is not unusual here. Here you can’t even trust your own progeny. I suggest you walk for about 10 km on your own. As you reach the outskirts, I guarantee your son will become his old self again.”
He would then have a hearty laugh, “Delhi water is to be blamed!”. It was certainly a ‘papa joke’ of his time. The power-distance ratio in our families used to be very high in those days. We would therefore always be amused with my father’s distorted version of the anecdote but would not openly challenge him. Today, the new generation is far more smarter and vocal about their convictions.
Rahul, a confident youngster in the corporate explains to me, “Sir, when I put trust in someone, it is actually an investment. We thus create a possibility and an opportunity for someone to become a better version of his original self. Probability wise, there will always be a few who would bely that trust. That does not mean that I stop making my investments.”
“Well said Rahul. But you still don’t trust your little one to cross the road on his own.”
“Sir, let us not mix up nurturing with trusting. Of course, I do not trust him enough at this stage. That does not make me a distrusting person and him an untrustworthy one. I will definitely keep an eye while preparing him for the plunge. I do the same with all my new employees. And yes, at a certain point you let them go with a leap of faith. Like launching an ab initio pilot for his first solo.”
“That is a brilliant analogy. But Rahul, how do you decide whom to trust or not?”
“Sir, to go purely by initial instinct can be a big mistake. To trust or not to trust is our choice. The funny part is that either way, people tend to prove us right. A kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. So, I would rather trust and be deceived the odd time than not trust at all. Makes you a bit vulnerable but seldom lonely. Another thing that I have observed is that people who repose trust in others are themselves very trustworthy.”
Amazed with the clarity of thought of the youngster, I asked, “Rahul, from whom did you pick all this wisdom from?”
A bit hesitatingly, he replied, “Sir, I was the naughtiest kid at home. I lost my father very early in life. I don’t know why, but on his death-bed, he appeared to trust me the most.”
As we parted, I could easily sense ‘the why?’.
First published at seekmediation.com on 23/03/23
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