A second-class citizen

So, it has happened. The thing that many of my dear ones had been apprehensive about after I planned to move down under has realised. The fear of being called names and being subjected to abuse has just materialised -- one close friend had even gone to the extent of warning against the ‘convict blood’ running in the veins here.

But hey! before you jump guns and picture a hefty Aussie throwing racist abuses at me, let me rein in your horses. Because that isn't what happened, in fact something exactly opposite did. Two years into my move to the land down under, I was tagged "a second-class citizen". Not by a work colleague, not by a fellow parent, not by a road side Joe... but by someone whom I thought as one of my own from back home (Yes, I still consider Goa and India as my home and always will). And all this happened over the battlefield of the social world, WhatsApp. My crime being expressing an opinion (which was promptly tagged 'long distance advice') that was contrarian to their collective thoughts. Now I think I know what the intelligentsia back home has been crying over the growing 'intolerance'. No, I am not overrating myself to be among the 'intellectuals' ilk, but certainly I can empathize. I don't know if 'hurt' is the correct word for the feeling I got when I read his comment but I surely lost a good night's sleep in this pleasant weather and was moved enough to vent out my feelings on this blog which has been dormant for quite a while (wearing the optimist cap, something good turned out from it). 

It wasn't an 'off the cuff' remark because the person calling names thumped his chest saying he made the comment 'not in Josh, but in full hosh' when another common friend tried to play the good cop. More so it wasn't the first time, it did happen earlier as well -same person, same platform, similar abuse. The first time I did take it casually for I have known this person (or have I?) for some time, shared common interests and had some good time together.

Going back to his comment I wonder what made him say what he said? What did he mean by the term 'a second-class citizen'. To begin with and to eliminate the technical aspect I am not an Aussie citizen and still hold Indian citizenship, and very dear to me. I moved here as an expat (yes yes, fancier word for immigrant) to advance my career and in the process avail what " the world's most liveable city" had to offer for its constituent.

So, is it jealousy? I beg to differ. It can't be that because there is no commonality between the two of us, be it age, be it profession or be it social status. He surpasses me in all these three criteria by far and while I toil hard abroad to make ends meet, that person can surely go roaming round the world least caring about the bank balances thanks to his affluent background. I am positively confident that by no means he wants to live a life of ‘a second-class citizen’ that I am relishing now. So, no it’s not sour grapes.

So what is it? Ignorance, perhaps. But the common quizzing group that we belong to and on who's WhatsApp group this all transpired, shouldn't we be striving to seek knowledge rather than making unfounded comments. Perhaps his opinions were formed based on media reports he subscribe to. About news items of incidents of racism and the tiffs between the natives (did I hear aboriginals?) -- or in a more proper way of the saying -- early-arrivals (… and they say expats is a fancy word, eh?) and the recent migrants. But anybody who has spent a decent amount of time under the Melbourne Sun would vouch that it harder to spot a true blue-blood Aussie amongst the potpourri of second class citizens that arrive from various parts of the world bringing in along their rich culture helping shape the cosmopolitan fabric of the city. I can’t rule out existence of racism here but then doesn’t it exist everywhere? Isn’t it racism when we (and even I am culpable to that offense) as Goekar would rue the influx of ‘Bhaailye’, or tag someone ‘Ghaati’ or ‘Bhingtakaar’? Xenophobia exists everywhere and if we dwell at it at a micro level I believe it might even be a survival trait deeply ingrained into our genes. All said and done, this country has been kind to me till now, well at least no one has tagged me ‘a second-class citizen’ as yet.

Or is it Intolerance to a divergent perspective? Most likely yes. For my views, I emphasize ‘views’, were at odds with the views that were being commonly expressed on the group at that time. I might have ruffled a few feathers with a contrarian but none came back with an ad hominem rebuttal as he did. I certainly can’t see any reason why it was called for, even more so when I had myself conceded that we can exist with difference of opinion and that views and opinions need not be mutually exclusive. After all, apart from various cultural shocks this country has taught me to be a bit more inclusive while being less judgemental and never to generalise.

Or is it something more sinister?
When ordinary people - whom you once called friends - tag you this, its shouldn’t surprise us when their elected representatives tag us ‘toilet-cleaners’ on the floor of the assembly. These MLAs are just the extrapolation of the feudalistic mindset that the privileged few harness and feed into. When one is their subject they are treated as inferiors based on the social parameters and always kept under the tab. And when one tries to break the shackles, -makes one’s own choices and chart one’s own path that is when it comes to hurt them the most. What better then ridicule them for their life choices?

Yes, I am a second-class citizen but not because of the choices I have made, the places I have moved to or the manner in which people treat me here. But rather because my own people ridicule me and alienated me not just now but even when I was there amongst them all. All this made me think and gave me a few life lessons and most definitely a signature to sign-off this post with…

-A second-class citizen

भाजपा, कसले गोंय सरकार! (Konkani version)

भाजपा, कसले गोंय सरकार!
ना खय राजा , मंत्री पांगळे , ठप्प सगलो कारभार !
भाजपा, कसले गोंय सरकार!

खाण अवलंबितांक मरण दोनदा, कॅसीनो पुण बरे धावता
मोपा खातीर झाडा मारता, कचरो जाला सग्गयार!
भाजपा, कसले गोंय सरकार!

चोरांनी घेतल्यो गाड़ियों बंगले, गोयकारांक दिले फक्त भोपके
भुंर्ग्याक मेलना नोकर्यो धंदे, PDAचो हांहांकार!
भाजपा,कसले गोंय सरकार!

विज दरवाडीन लोक सोपल्या, म्हाद‌ईक हे सुकोंक उटल्या
गोयकारपणाच्या सरकाराचो ना गोंयकाराक आधार!
भाजपा, कसले गोंय सरकार!

-अमेय मार्दोळकर

भाजपा,गजब गोवा सरकार!

भाजपा,गजब गोवा सरकार!
आजारी राजा,प्रजा पांगळी,अधांतरी कारबार!

इथे खाणींना मरण दोनदा, कॅसीनोंना पण चिरंजीविता
मोपा-दाबोळी उगाच झटती, कचय्राचा प्रहार!
भाजपा,गजब गोवा सरकार!

लबाड जोडिति बंगले गाड्या, जनतेला मात्र थापाड्या
गोयकारांच्या गळ्यात धोंडा, PDAचा हांहांकार!
भाजपा,गजब गोवा सरकार!

विज दरवाडीने लोक त्रासले, म्हाद‌इचे भाग्य नासले
या गोयकारपणाच्या सरकाराचा ना गोयकारास आधार!
भाजपा,गजब गोवा सरकार!

Ctrl+Alt+Del : Routine Day # 21

Getting laid off… Ah! The other way  ;)

Quiet uncharacteristically I woke up early today. The hands of the clock were pointing in the North-South direction, but I seem to be wide awake. More unlike me, I had no intentions of lazying around and I jumped out of my bed, ala a cadet in front of his drill master. Rushing through the daily routine, I slumped myself at the French window.

‘Aaaaahhhhhhh!’, I heard myself sigh.

I had been in the apartment for over 3 years, but never had I seen the sun rise over the horizon. I may be considered a fortunate soul by the fellow city dwellers to have such an beautiful view outside the window, but I never attempted to seek advantage of the vantage point I had rented for a premium. Suddenly it dwelled upon me that it might not for the proximity to my office that I was charged a premium and the actual reason was unfolding infront of me. The twilight was fighting a losing battle as the first rays of light were making way through the winter fog.

I could see a flock of birds fly across the horizon.
“Early morning flight!” I laughed to myself. May be I had unravelled the etymology of the phrase that many of my on-site bound colleagues had been flashing time and again.

“Tring! Tring!” I heard a cycle-wallah approaching the front gate. When had I last heard that sound? I questioned myself. It definitely sounded music to my ears and reminded me of my cycling escapade during younger days. That sound would soon be lost in the honking of cars that would start emerging on the streets as the day progresses.

“Oye! Yadavji…. Good morning!” Our watchman greeted the milkman on the cycle, as he emerged from his security-cabin cum apartment with an empty pale in his hand.
“Good...Good... Thapaji” the milkman greeted him back as he brought his cycle to an halt in-front of him. Alighting from his cycle they exchanged pranaams. I could hear some murmurs making me wonder that was a gossiping session. A few puffs of bidi ensued. Their tet-e-tete concluded with the milkman pouring a some milk into his pale as he moved on to supply milk to the rest of the society members.

Just as the watchman had moved back into his kiosk, the newspaper-wallah popped at the gate on his moped. The squirling entry he made followed by the screeching halt of his excessively overloaded two-wheeler, he could easily give the Abrahams and Dhonis of the world a run for their money.

“Abe Thape! Mar gaya kya?” he shouted …
“ Aaya! Aaya!” came back the reply from the watchman.
“Jaldi !” he screamed back.

The loads of bundled newspaper stacked all around him as in some kinda of body armour to protect him. Barely managing to keep his eyes above the stack and easing the moped to an halt with his leg, I could sense why was he in such an hurry.

As the watchman came running back, he was subject to a couple of choosiest swear words from the newspaper-wallah. But he didn’t mean any of those as they soon lit up. The newspaperwallah informed our watchman about what’s happening around? His loud voice ensured that I too stand informed about the happenings of the day..rather the previous day. But his reporting was mostly restricted not to the main headlines but rather to thing like crime and accidents in the nearby areas and the whats hot and whats naught of the Page 3 world.

The drubbing of the Indian cricket team at the hands of Kenya the previous day thankfully didn’t feature in his news-brief. In India, everyone keeps tab about ball to ball happening of any cricket match that India is involved in, so reporting it the next day is merely for the records. The following day and many more are kept exclusively for critiques, discussions, arguments and things like that.

The newspaperwallah was ready to move on to his next stop as our watchmen kicked started the moped. But not before he passed a bundle of newspapers from the stack to the watchman to be delivered at the door. He slipped a note, what looked to me like a fiver, in his pocket.

“Nice!”, I exclaimed as I saw him delegating the tasks of climbing up and down four multi-storreyed building to the watchman for just five bugs.

And so the local valentine Rossi was on his way for the next pit-stop. Or is it Naren-kartikeyan on a sans a couple of his wheels?

As I gathered back my thoughts, I saw our watchman was on his way to accomplish his tasks. I looked around to see a few more of windows were lit up. I walked up to the door in anticipation of fetching my daily dose of news feed. I opened the door just as he was about to slide the newspaper through the slit.

Totally surprised to see me awake, his face was a site to see. He had his mouth open, bent still he was totally flabbergasted.
“Koi bhoot dekha kya??” I mischieviously questioned.
“Haan saab…” He spontaneously replied, still bent over
“HUH?” I thundered.
“Nahi saab…” as he recovered from his trance. “Aapko kabhi itni jaldi uthate hue nahi dekha. Toh thoda shock ho gaya.”
“Hmm…” I acknowledged as I pulled the paper from his hand.

I closed the door on his back as he moved to deliver the newspaper to the rest of the tenants. I longed was a hot cup of tea but was too tired to make one for my own self. I had a thought of going to the tapri for a quick bite but then changed my mind.

Once again I rested my bump on the French window and picked the ‘Times of India’. The headlines read ‘Pink slips reaches India’. All of a sudden I was transported from the wonderland back to the reality. Not that it was news to me and offlate it had become an everyday affair at office. But since the time I woke up in the morning I had forgotten about it and these headlines just reminded me of the grim times.

Not intending to dwell into the details of the same… atleast for now… I frisked the following pages. The gloom and the doom was spread everywhere and how could it have eluded this medium. All the pages talked about the recession and the ills of it, only the extent and the severity of it differed from one writeup to another. Some doomsayer even talked about the imminent depression. All had mentions about the lay-offs like any other day, the thing that differed each day was the organisation that was involved and the numbers of people to be sent to the gallows.

I moved to the editorials hoping to read something refreshing and stimulating. But I wasn’t feeling lucky today. I could read titles all referring to the gloom, albeight in more tech-savvy language interspersed with economic terms and business jargons. Thus only the ‘lay-offs’ were replaced with ‘staff rationalisation’ and the ‘pay cuts’ were replaced with ‘cost restructuring’.

Disgusted I flung the newspaper  which landed with it cover page right on top and the headline still poking fun at me. What I observed this time was a small table printed at one corner. I inquisitively propped the cover page to read through it. It had presented the top 20 companies that have ‘fired’ its employees and the number thus in a tambular manner. I involuntarily picked the paper back and began grazing on the data.

Almost instantaneously it dawned upon me that top 5 amongst those were IT/ITeS firms and totalling to 8, followed by BFSI firms figuring 6 in numbers and the rest of the slots being filled by Automobiles, FMCG, Aviation and other industries. I was in a fix whether to feel elated to have missed the axe although my company ranked third amongst the slayers or feel bad for those of my colleagues whose once promising career was abruptly cut-short, Shakti being one of it.

The thought of Shakti sent a chill through my spine. For he wasn’t the one who’s not only career was cut short, but  life too abruptly came to an end. The axeman had been doing the round of our centre and quiet a few had fallen a prey to him, their employment being abruptly terminated citing recessionary conditions and general slackness in inbound business. Those who had been sent off gave no clue as to who were been targeted and what being the criteria for picking them. I always personally felt that being the laidback person that I was, I should have been the first one on the firing line. But fortunately or otherwise I had been escaped that fate till now.

The last round of lay-off that happened a couple of weeks back saw some promising careers being ripped off from the bud. There were a few surprises and few as expected. The latter category included our “beloved” manager who went brandishing that he was being given a ‘golden handshake’ and not being ‘laid off’. Either ways his days were numbered.

Now very much used to this chopping, everybody would come to office getting prepared for any eventuality that might descend upon. On that day as I made my way into the wing, I could see a few ladies crowding a cubicle many sobbing and rest with their eyes wet. I sensed it was yet another employee down from our team. One could easily identify who among the man is been axed from his facial expression. But when it came to female employee I always found it tough to locate who is could be? Typical to the feline gender, they get some involved in the loss, that there exists no way of determining as to who actually it as loss? Even the cubicle they had gathered could not provide any pointers to my thought.

I zipped my path through the cube–farm to my cubicle. I saw Shakti sitting facepalm.
“Man, who…”
“Its Smriti this time” Shakti cut me before I could complete my question.
“Hmm.” I nodded.

I remained silent expecting Shakti to say something back like he usually does, more often expressing his fear of getting laid but his time he didn’t.
The sobbing of the female folks had subsided and there was an eary silence spread across the entire length of the wing.

 All one could hear some random click of the mouse buttons interspersed with the spurt of random hits of the keys on the keyboard. If you are truly attentive then you really gauge that it was indeed recessionary times from the keyboards keyhits or the mouse clicks. During the heydays, one could hardly find some pause in the sound emaciating from these hardware devices.

Not able to bear the lull, I thought of breaking the shackles.
“So who’s next?” I questioned almost involuntarily.
That was one question I definitely didn’t what to put forth, especially infront of Shakti, but deep within me I had that query and it simply took verbal form on the way out of conscience.

A couple of seconds of silence ensued and I had started getting happy thinking Shakti has ignored it, but it wasn’t to last for long. May be Shakti soon realised the other two selves from our cubicle were already be pink sliped and the onus was on him to answer the question.
Or maybe my question sounded to him as “So who’s next from our cubicle?”

“Its Shakti Sarang, Milind” Shakti just broke down “Its me next”.
Totally caught unaware I gazed what to do at this situation. I have faced Shakti apprehensive about the job and expressing his concerns but never had he broke down into tears. He put his head down on the keyboard and made no attempt to hide his sobbing. A few of the still surviving colleagues from neighbouring cubicle did prairie dog at us but no one was willing to offer condolence for they few it was just fooling our own selves while doing it.

“Relax Shakti, don’t you worry. Nothing is going to happen to us. How can CTS survive without us two?” I tried to lighten the mood.
“Cut the crap” Shakti yelled back.
He continued with his sobbing though definitely the intensity reduced.
He knew and so do I that we were just fooling ourselves and there was no way one could be assured about the survival for the next day.
“If we were to be hacked, it should have happened by now” I added.
“You never know” replied Shakti, lifting his head.
“True, but then what can we do about it? We will have to accept the harsh reality and move on as others did” I said.
Shakti turn his head to give me a weird stare back. I was sounding too philosophical for my character and probably he was confirming where those words popped from?

He turned back to gazed at his screen.
“It might be easy for you man; but isn’t so for me” Shakti retorted.

‘Oh no, Not again’ I thought to myself as I anticipated Shakti starting with his autobiography and a sad one at it. I had heard about the sorry plight of his family- ailing mother, retired father, unwedded sisters and younger brother story -  many a times and each time I couldn’t resist myself likening it to setup of old Bollywood movie. I was so bored of his reciting the same thing that I used to somehow change the topic and even at times tell him to stop, but not this time.