Elites & their gross sense of entitlement

We live in a society that has extremes. Super rich and absolutely poor. Then there is a large middle-class. I don’t want to slot people according to their wealth or income. I will rather think about this disparity in relative terms.

I get up early and go to the nearby (Forest) park for an early morning jog. Every morning, I see a couple cleaning the street. Be it a Sunday or holiday or Holi or Diwali. I haven’t missed a day when I haven’t seen this couple work. As early as 5 AM in the morning, they are up and cleaning. Some day, I would notice my landlord, admonishing them for not picking up trash from our compound. And they would simply go inside and pick up trash without uttering a word. I don’t know why the landlord does that.

As soon as I reach Forest park, an elderly watchman would be standing at the back gate. We would exchange smiles. Out of nowhere, a man would call out this elderly man by his name and ask him to bring a water bottle from his bike parked outside. This elderly man would take the keys and go and get him his bottle. I wonder why? I am sure, this man must be somebody because I see him surrounded by bunch of guys doing the rounds inside the park.

On my way to my office, I stop by a popular morning snacks center near Unit-6 market for breakfast. I would order my favourite ‘Bara guguni’ and eat. Then I would notice a sedan stop by in the middle of the road and honk. The small child working at the tiffin center would run to the car. The lady sitting in the rear with his son would order some tiffin for themselves(not the driver). This child will then take the ordered food to the car and they would eat inside the car. After finishing the driver would honk and this child would again go there to collect their plates. I always wonder, why this tiffin vendor is extending such service? Curiosity got better of me and I asked the same to this tiffin guy. He said, ‘If I don’t, I wont be able to run my business here’.

Anyways, I reach office and meet our office guard who has brought in his son to his duty. We exchange pleasantries, I ask him what his son is doing and why he is around here today? My female colleague passes by and she calls me to come quickly for an important discussion. And I come to my desk. As soon as I sit down, my female colleague says[censures/criticizes/rebukes], “Why are you always chit-chatting with that security guard? Do you know him? Let’s order cold drinks.” She checks that office boys are not around. She then asks me to call the son of security guard for bringing us cold drinks! Convenient I think! I say I am not in a mood to have cold drink now and ignores her.

Just before lunch break, boss walks in with his son. Almost the same age as the son of our security guard. Now everyone leaves their seat to cuddle this young boy. Some say, he is so cute. Some say, he is just like the boss. Huh!

After lunch, I bump into our new office boy. A young 18 yr old. He requests me to help him in submitting some online form. I oblige. And I inquire why he is doing what he is doing. He tells me his story. I then tell him keep aspiring higher and keep trying. Meanwhile my boss comes to my desk and we work on something. Then we proceed to an internal management meeting. I point out few inconsistencies in what my boss(he happens to be the CEO)is saying although majority are merely supporting him. I explain my rationale and boss agrees to it grudgingly. He then deep dives into other unrelated agenda points and finds out how unprepared I am. I silently listens to this. He then reprimands me not to waste time in doing unnecessary stuff like helping out office staff but focus on my work. I keep poker face and we conclude the meeting.

Towards the evening, my female colleague and we are chatting. 
She: You guys are so cool. No pressure of marriage.
Me: Yes
She: Society is so orthodox & sexist. My Dad has shown me two candidates. One is in Australia. The other one is SBI. 
Me: Great. So when are you marrying?
She: I don’t want to. I am earning. I am independent. 
Me: Okay
She: This Australia-guy is dark & too bald for me. And I am earning more than this Bank guy.
She: The guy should at least earn more than me and be fair. 
Me: Sigh

I turn to Twitter to check what is making news. I see outrage pouring on autorickshaw drivers and how they fleece passengers. I thought about it and remember days, when I used to depend on this form of public transport. Have you seen an average passenger hailing one rickshawala? The tone and language in which this service providers are called out? Whatever amount the rickshawala would quote, the passenger would deduct half of it and make a counter offer. And he had to comply because, if he doesn't then there are many others who would. Once boarded, the passenger has to be addressed as ‘Sir’ and Sir has every right to talk rudely. Sometimes people take his auto and refuse to pay; sometimes they are drunk and mistreat him; sometimes they scream at him and say, “You’re no good." But it isn't this autorickshaw drivers alone. Be it parking guys, helps working at shops, waiters. The contempt and disdain with which these people are addressed is shocking. The usual scene of elitism in India is on Indian roads. And it’s not about road rage although very conveniently elites call it a ‘road rage’. It’s about being rich, and the privilege, callousness and arrogance that comes with it.

Anyways, as I return home from office, I meet my friend at a restaurant for dinner. My friend immediately calls out ‘Chhotu’ loudly. The waiter in his teens arrives. My friends orders. We eat. we pay the bill. Then my friend calls out ‘Chhotu’ again and tips him Rs 20 just before leaving in the middle of the dining floor. Surely, there is more discreet and better way to tip somebody.

As I hit my bed in the night, I am reminded of the last flight I took from Bhubaneswar to Delhi. Two seemingly innocuous looking men arrive with me at the airport gate. I see them all at sea. One of them runs towards me and shows me his ticket. I could know, it is their first journey and I tell them to follow me. The CISF guard at the gate rebukes them for nothing, as if it is derogatory for him to allow these men. At the boarding pass counter, airline staff becomes arrogant and uncouth. She speaks English knowing fully well that these guys cannot speak English. One of the them had extra luggage which she said she would charge, but easily this could have been sorted by distributing between the two, and it was nominal. Later we completed the security check in and sat in the waiting departure area. By this time they were nervous like hell and very self-conscious. Told them few tricks and how to deal with it. By the way, these guys were masons going to work in some Gulf country.

We Indians are amongst the most ‘servant’-dependent people in the world. From getting our dishes washed to our toilets cleaned, our children minded to our dogs walked, from being driven to work to having our lunch boxes opened and our clothes ironed, our need for domestic servants is total, at least 16x7, leaving out the sleeping hours. The term for these workers, even in the mainstream English press, is, simply, ‘domestics’. Cooks, drivers, security guards (who are essentially doormen), cleaners, house-keepers, valet and baby-sitters et al.

I have no view on the infamous Aarushi-Hemraj case. Everyone remembers Aarushi but poor Hemraj was killed too!

My neighbourhood in the upper-middle-class area of Forest park where I live. But I find many of them have appropriated about half of the pavement space to the front and side of their house, claiming it for their own. This means less parking for others, less pavement for children, less walking space for everyone. Of the 200-odd houses in this area, at least half have done this. At the same time they have also collectively seen off the only roadside tea stall in the area that served all the service providers — the guards, the drivers, the domestics, the sweepers.

Odisha is changing so fast that it is starting to look like someplace else. Skyscrapers are sprouting. Towns are ballooning. The young date, drink, smoke freely. But many of the people who are making the new India are responsible for preserving a certain gloomy element of the Odia past: a tendency to treat the hired help like chattel, to taunt and humiliate and condescend to them, to behave as though some humans were born to serve and others to be served.

Then I was reminded how in the childhood, we were constantly fed this, if we don’t study well then we will be a chai wala (tea seller) or a taxi driver or farmer. Study well, and become a doctor or engineer or an IAS!

In general, do people lack empathy and decorum? I often noticed increasingly, a serious lack of general respect for others. One time I was in one of the best ranked hotels in Bhubaneswar, and I’ve seen guests yell and berate low-endline-hotel staff, yet suddenly become friendly and nice when dealing with the manager or a higher-up employee or staff.

Looking down on others who are less fortunate than you financially gives some people pleasure and something inside them makes them want to abuse it because it allows them to exercise power and call the shots. They know the person with less money than them cannot retaliate or put them in their place lest they lose their job. Since most people do not have the authority to call the shots in all aspects of their life, having power and control gives them a sense of superiority that they rarely are able to independently exercise.

Why do they behave so badly towards their fellow human beings, and why is their behaviour so widely accepted as ‘natural’? Isn’t it gross sense of entitlement?

Do check if you have an entitlement complex here (15 Signs!)