Saturday, April 25, 2009

First Among Equals

The other day, I had the privilege of visiting the world-class plant of an established global beverage in one of the principal cities of Maharashtra. Sadly, this honour came wrapped in a package of third-rate disappointment - the amazing gentleman who was instrumental in coordinating our visit voiced enough sterling views to make you lose faith in humanity.

The revered sire belongs to a caste that stakes exclusive claims to culture and intellect in Maharashtra. Having half-inherited this clan from my mom, I already have an insider view into the parochial and anti-human beliefs of this high and mighty club....but what I heard was nothing less than shocking.

According to him, human beings come in three slabs of a self-sprung pyramid - at the top are the blessed members of his community, then come the "other" brahmins, and at the lowest rung are the non-brahmins. Best-in-class is only about being best-of-breed...he tells you straight. His disgusting thoughts notwithstanding, I admire the intensity of his audacity - that's intact in the seemingly "equal opportunity" environment of the MNC that employs him.

To match his foolish authority are his intense gestures - the bulging eyes full of contempt for lesser mortals like me...And to render an unconditional and overwhelming applause to his great sermons, we had few members from his tribe, unfortunately in the wrong group - who were visibly reassured of their "supreme status" in the world through his pearls of wisdom.

The high-tech operations of the plant proved a stark contrast to the dehumanizing and regressive ways of one of its managers. Personally, it was a matter of shame for me to find such a narrow-minded individual in a plant that boasts of broad-based operations across the globe.

His sympathizers are quick to point out a lame excuse in a meek defense - that the lower castes have won favors and reservations from the powers-that-be for long and that this contempt for the "lowly" is the need of the hour... Nothing can be more shameful.

This is not to defend the anti-social protests of the scheduled tribes as also the impotent government protection offered to ensure power-giving "vote banks". The sad part is we do not wish to look at the whole picture - we open versions that suit our purpose - whether it's a Dalit seeking to win a favour based on reservation or a Brahmin blaming the world for his "helpless" status - each clings to the version of choice...When would we care to look at the whole picture, to analyze the whole story - what went wrong and what can we learn from history?

The next decade, they say, belongs to India..

We surely are making rapid global strides but are we growing as individuals - we sure are far away from the new paradigm of "global citizen"...but we can at least cover some ground in treating each one of us as an equal, honorable and dignified citizen of this country - with every right to carve a niche in respective spheres. We can break many a ground on the strength of this simple and humane belief.

Till such time, the "Best" in Best-in-class and Best-of-breed runs the risk of being a claim sponsored by parochial patronage.