Life's Like That

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Inconsiderate Great Indian Junta

We went to watch a play yesterday. Waiting for Godot featuring Naseeruddin Shah, Benjamin Gilani, Randeep Hooda. Considered one of the most significant plays of the 20th century, it was certainly not entertainment remotely suitable for children, leave alone babies. The fact that it was a play, with actors performing live, makes it all the more important that there be no distractions/disturbances from the audience. Yet just as the lights dimmed, and the play started, a baby started wailing from somewhere behind us. For a split second I thought perhaps it was part of the play. Surely noone would be idiotic enough to bring a BABY to a play! But as it turns out, there are such amazing parents around. Thankfully they were ushered out immediately. The tickets clearly state that no children below the age of 8 will be allowed inside. Yet not only did these people decide to bring what looked like a 3 month old baby to the play, the organizers, who checked the tickets at the entrance, and could not have missed seeing the baby, allowed them to go inside anyways. With such display of stupidity and utter disregard of basic courtesy towards other people including the actors on stage, I only wish certain places would be declared child free.

I know I'm probably courting controversy by writing this, somehow to say that you dont want someones baby wailing through a theatre performance or someones child bonking you on the head as you try to eat your dinner at an expensive restaurant, amounts to you being a child hater, and that is completely unacceptable in this country. Especially if you are a woman. Im not a child hater. I like children as much as the next person and I positively adore small babies. Not in a play though. And not in a movie theatre. And not in a certain kind of restaurant. I have no problems with them on flights and trains...the parents do need to travel. I do however have a problem with inconsiderate parents. Sometime back, travelling back from Chennai on a train there was a 2-3 year old kid in the same compartment. As people started to go down for the night,switching off lights etc, this kid started crying. This was at around 10 p.m. The parents tried to shush her. She only got more hysterical. This continued till 11 p.m., when almost everyone was in their berths, clearly trying hard to sleep. The kid screeched and wailed louder with every passing second. Im not a parent, but it seems to me,that if your child has been screaming murder for more than an hour, you take the child somewhere else, with some fresh air and possibly more distractions, to calm her down. Walking up and down also helps sometimes as I have noticed in my limited experience. You don't just sit in a darkened compartment and shush the kid listlessly. Especially if you are in a public space with people trying to sleep. Especially when, unlike a plane, you have the option of taking the kid outside near the loos where the lights are on and there is fresh air and a door to prevent her screams from reaching the others. But that would probably be expecting a tad too much consideration from some people. After all, its a child. In India, you cannot object to anything a child does, even if it has been kicking you continuously from behind as you try to watch a movie. A child's kicking has to be forgiven and smiled indulgently at.

But then why just parents? We seem to be a nation of inconsiderate people. Last night as the play progressed, 2 people walked onto the stage, disturbing the actors who stared at them dumbfounded. They were upset about people who had parked their cars outside their garages and gates and chose to disrupt the play, walking onto the stage mid performance, to announce the car numbers and threaten to call the cops. Naseeruddin Shah exploded...and justifiably so..and stormed off stage followed by the rest of the cast. We sat shell shocked, not believing this was actually happening. Anyone who lives in Bangalore, knows Chowdiah Memorial Hall and knows that parking can be a problem. Of late, the organizers facilitate parking on this open area behind the hall. However getting the cars out of there after the performance is over can be a time consuming affair. Therefore, some people choose to park their cars in the narrow lanes around the theatre blocking the lanes, and evidently, blocking people's gates as well. These are educated, so called "cultured" people mind you. Driving the biggest and the best cars. The home owners are no philistines themselves. To own a home in that area you can't afford to be. The two people who walked onto the stage were well dressed affluent looking people, clearly well educated as well. Yet they chose to indulge in this appalling display of disrespect to everyone in that theatre. The organisers quickly called out the car numbers so that their awesomely cultured and educated owners could go move the cars. I'm glad, to say the rest of us sitting there sarcastically applauded each car owner as they walked out.

I don't know how things are in other countries. But Indians seem incapable of basic manners and courtesy. Just drive in any Indian city (especially Bangalore! OH. MY.GOD!!) and you will be left with no illusions about the courtesy offered by people around. In the absence of the manners chip in our collective brains, perhaps stringent rules would not be a bad idea. Child free zones, impounding cars parked in no parking zones, parking in a way that obstructs other vehicles from moving freely, immediate heavy fines for jumping lanes, heavier fines for jumping signals, maybe even suspension of licenses, immediate expulsion from movies or theatres for leaving mobiles on and answering calls / texting people during the performance (this too was in evidence last evening) would be a good start in my opinion. Are the authorities listening?