THE ROAD.

I could feel the tension. On the ground. On the surface. It’s like walking on a taut tarpaulin sheet that’s being stretched hard from all sides. Any moment it can give way. And that’s how I felt when I walked out of a pub in Bangalore one afternoon.

There were seven of us. Four men and three women. We stopped outside and were smoking. It was a weekday and the street wasn’t exactly crowded. I had to take a phone call and I stepped away. On the opposite side I noticed a bunch of boys who were staring at my friends. To quickly describe them, they were looking like they would work at a mechanic shop or with an electrician. Five of them. With one very old bike and one moped. Slightly ragged.

They were doing many things:

a. they were letching at the women

b. they were measuring up the guys in a way that suggested, what have you got as a man that I don’t have

c. and when one of my friends, a girl, laughed out loud I could see one guy saying something to the other guy and he laughed with some kind of sarcasm and then he spat on the ground

They were there for a few more minutes and left. I finished my call and walked across to my friends.

These are two entirely different worlds.

Their economies are different. Their cultures are different. Their gender-relationships are different. And when their citizens come into contact with the otherworld there’s such a serious tension it’s damn scary.

There’s this scene in Game of Thrones. When the king’s party comes out to see-off somebody at the port, one act of arrogance triggers a small fight with the civilians who live outside the fortress. And it grows to become a rampage, rape and murder of the palace folk… Today, even a forty-year-old corporate lady in her dinner dress if let alone in a suburban street is likely to get violated for (in the otherworld’s view)

a. being rich

b. being a woman

c. not behaving like how a woman should behave (a judgment that’s passed based on her clothes or confidence)

And in no particular order.

It’s understandable if you hate someone you know. It starts getting complex when you have hatred for someone you don’t even know. The person has nothing to do with your life. But you still hate. It probably starts off as some kind of a resentment towards a conceptual entity, and fed by the happenings in both worlds it grows stronger and over a period of time ends up as angst and hatred.

When you try to further understand the dynamics the first thing that you’d notice is the ‘economic inequality’. The new rich are so rich that the old poor feel even poorer. The divide has got wider. And it’s visible. The new cars. The Asia’s biggest malls. The new restaurants. The villas-starting-at-4cr hoardings. There are so many new things that haves can have that end up telling the have-nots what they cannot, making this divide more and more felt among the otherworld citizens.

They attribute the increase in tomato prices to rents, to the arrogance of the non-bargaining new-age-salaried. They probably secretly wish for this economic boom to implode. The feeling one gets is that they’re waiting, crouched silently on the side, to see the so-called upward mobility to come crashing down.

Next comes ‘gender-equations’. This is not just an otherworld thing. Double standards exist in both worlds. The degrees might differ. Just to illustrate this, we (men and women both) would take pride of our younger brothers having many girlfriends but can’t say the same if it were our younger sisters. Don’t know why but that’s how it is. That seems to be our fundamental outlook.

And if this is something that our world hasn’t sorted for itself one can imagine how worse it’s likely to be in the otherworld. Adding to the biological imperative also as a society by keeping boys and girls away from each other we have, inadvertently, made the girl a prized possession. An object. And therefore there are value judgments that get passed. These otherworld guys are of the belief a woman who drives will give. A woman who smokes will give. A woman who drinks will surely give. A woman who wears tight t-shirt is just waiting to give. Summed up with a frustrating realization that he’ll never be the person that she’ll give to. Extremely screwed-up minds. But they’re there on the road.

The other aspect is the ‘so-near-yet-so-far culture’. The otherworld citizens are ok as long as they consider us as really another world i.e. a European couple wearing a particular thing or behaving a particular way is something that they’re willing to ignore. But an Indian couple doing something similiar is outright unacceptable. And many times, according to them, it merits criticism or sometimes even deserves punishment. This is probably because the otherworld guy, very often a native of the city, believes that ‘he/she is part of my world but not playing by the rules that I had set for my citizens.’ However ridiculous it might sound but that seems to be their logic.

And when the two world’s meet on the road this gets really out of proportion. Women molested outside pubs.. Men pushed over.. The valentine’s day nonsense.. If these are one kind of manifestations of the above issue there’s another one of a very different nature - them putting up shamiyana’s blocking the entire road during local festivals, stopping traffic during their funeral celebrations (you roll your windows up and avoid making eye contact, while a dozen pair of the otherworld’s eyes silently scan you through). It’s like saying that you might have the money to pay the rent for your posh apartment, but I Own This Place. Almost literally trying to cover their (perceived) lost ground.

There is severe angst. There is serious hatred.

Given all this, we somehow believe that there’s a wall between our world and the otherworld. And walk on the road believing that it cannot be breached. The real problem is not whether the wall being breached or left unprotected, it’s the fact that there is a wall. And why is there a one.

(i am going to leave it here because i don’t really have one clear, conclusive answer or action. i just wanted to present this otherworld, its existence, its motivations as something to think about. therefore you could write your views. share. and maybe there’ll be some answers. the only view i have is that let’s not do to this otherworld what America did to the world. it’s not a successful model to follow. having said that you could choose to dismiss that view as well..)
*just one qualifier — no world, no society is entirely good or entirely bad. it’s just that in this topic, this particular part is being discussed. it doesn’t mean that ‘otherworld’ is entirely screwed up and this world is better off..