Thursday, March 19, 2015

Faraway lessons in dignity of labour

It was on my first trip abroad that I learnt about the dignity of labour as practised by people in the West. In 1976, I was a recipient of a travel grant from Round Table India to visit five countries in five weeks. During my stay with an Apexian in Geelong, Australia, (Apex is a youth organisation like Round Table) I had an interesting experience.
My host, 28-year-old Fred, was working with the local municipality. He had a small independent home and a car in which he took me on a conducted tour of the city. His walkie-talkie suddenly started ringing; it was his boss giving him instructions. He drove the car to a restaurant. After seating me and giving some instructions to the waiter, he asked me to relax, promising to be back soon. He vanished in the rest room and returned wearing a blue overall. After an hour he returned and apologised for the delay saying he had to attend to a complaint of a water pipe burst in a nearby street. I learnt he was a plumber and also a member of the local Apex club.
When I attended the AGM of Apex Australia in Mount Gambier in South Australia later, I was surprised to learn that the huge gathering of Apexians included a mix of millionaire businessmen, top company executives, teachers, plumbers, clerks and truck drivers—white- and blue-collar workers rubbing shoulders as equals.
When I joined Rotary later, a fellow Rotarian who was a former district governor from the club used to share an interesting experience during one of his official trips to the US. He was staying with a former district governor who was a member of the local Rotary Club in a suburb of Chicago. When my friend expressed a desire to have a haircut, the host took him to a well-appointed salon near his home. After seating him in a chair in front of a huge mirror, he vanished for a few minutes. When my friend was waiting for someone to attend on him the host returned wearing a white overall with a comb and scissor in hand. It turned out he was a barber and his classification in Rotary was hair stylist.
Can we ever imagine this in our country? It is not unusual for us to make derogatory references to one’s profession or place of stay when we want to insult somebody. After all, a gramathan or dehati (village bumpkin) or ambattan (barber) are commonly used terms to admonish people. In Delhi at social gatherings, if you say you are from Karol Bagh your company will be avoided whereas if you say you are from Defence Colony you will have an attentive audience. In voluntary organisations like Rotary, Lions or Round Table blue-collar workers will not even be eligible for membership. However, thanks to growing literacy and better education, children of blue-collar or skilled workers are being accepted, albeit grudgingly, as equals by our snobbish society. Education is a great leveller.
And now, with a so-called chaiwalla becoming prime minister, we hope to witness achhe din in terms of appreciation of dignity of labour.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Looks can be deceptive


                                                   There can be a lot of difference between what we imagine something or someone  to be and what it actually turns out to be.  

The other day I went to see a travel agent, whose service I have been availing for more than two decades.  Though I have been talking  to him on the phone, listening to his replies to my queries , I had never met him.  He had a friendly and sweet  voice on the phone.   I was very keen to meet him.  One day, on the  pretext  of settling his bill I went to his office, curious to  see the face  behind the lovely  voice.  I had imagined  that the man would be of medium built with a pleasing face and demeanor .

I was surprised to see a  big man with an intimidating handle bar mustache often sported by villains in Cinema.  Though his looks were daunting, he welcomed me with his  familiar, sweet voice.  He was hospitality personified.  I spent a pleasant 15 minutes with him  but returned bemused  at the mismatch between the voice and the looks of the man.

During my morning walks a few years ago, a lady was walking in front of me.  From the rear  she seemed to have a perfect  hour-glass  figure.  Her style of walking was elegant. In my curiosity to fix the face to the body, I walked faster to get ahead of the lady.  When I discretely looked back to see the face, I was disappointed. The face belonged to a middle aged lady in her 40s , not so good looking, wearing thick glasses.  I slowed down and allowed  the lady to overtake me! Curiosity killed the cat

On another occasion I was introduced to a well known RJ (Radio Jockey) with a booming and aggressive voice.  I was his fan and I was sure  that the man behind the voice  would  be tall,  handsome young man.  I was surprised  to meet a  puny, unimpressive man .

There can be also mismatch between looks and the character of people.  I know of a man who married a very good looking girl harboring romantic  dreams of life with a pretty woman.    After marriage he found out that the girl was not only most unromantic but was cold, rude and obnoxious in her behavior with people.  I also know of a girl who preferred a handsome boy among the choice of potential, well qualified grooms, presented to her.  Only to find that the  person behind the handsome face was a dreadful,  abusive and  sadistic person.  She had to get out of the marriage within a couple of years to save herself from a miserable life.

`Look before you leap` is an often used phrase in English. `Don`t judge people only by their  looks` can now be added to the long list of phrases used in the Queen`s language!

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