Saturday, December 27, 2008


Today I had a bit of a run-in with a man I presume was an officer in the main branch of the State Bank of India. I pride myself in being able to tolerate a lot of things, but rudeness is something that just galls me, especially when it’s unprovoked. Here is what happened.

Having gone to the bank to get my University Teachers’ Association passbook updated, I noticed that two ladies were engaged with the person sitting in the tellers’ cubicle. I patiently waited for them to finish their business, kept a respectful distance, and when they were done I approached our man.

Me: “May I have my passbook updated?”
Rude Bank guy: “What the..!! Haven’t I just said that the updating machine (or whatever it’s called) is broken? Do I have to repeat myself over and over again? @%*$#!!”
Me (having slowly but surely lost my cool during this colorful tirade): “Excuse me, but I just arrived, did not hear any part of your conversation with any other customers. You people are so impolite!”
Rude bank guy: “@*#$$&%)$)#%!!”

Out I went, seething. In I came again, realizing that I would never get a moment’s peace unless I vented out my frustration at someone. The unfortunate (but most appropriate) recipient was the Manager. Fortunately for me, he was not a Mizo, and I had the opportunity to use what turned out to be a surprisingly extensive vocabulary denouncing the unprofessional conduct of the bank’s employees, how this particular man had no right to shout at me, and how, we, the public, were generally fed up of them acting like they were doing us a big favor for every transaction when in actuality they were just doing their duty, how none of their customers – especially those from rural areas – had the courage to seek guidance or clarification from his rude staff, et cetera. I also added that since his blessed machine was broken, and since it was obvious that people would keep coming to him to update their passbooks, he could jolly well put up a sign saying that the machine was broken since repeating that fact seemed to make him explode every time he had to do it. Miming it wouldn’t have worked. Neither would shouting it out at the top of his voice (which he did) make his life any easier.

The manager was apologetic, and admitted that they had been having these problems, that they had even had a meeting regarding this recently but not to much avail, and so on. I think he was also a little scared that I’d throw a full-blown tantrum right there in his office… which I was rather tempted to do. The upshot was that he asked me to submit a written complaint against the man so that action could be taken, which I couldn’t quite bring myself to do. Sigh.

Well, maybe this guy had had a bad day, I reasoned. But that was pretty early in the day, and it still did not excuse his behavior. What was really quite surprising also was that usually it’s the women workers who get all the flak. This rude person was not just a man, but he was well into his late forties judging by his looks. I wondered what could have happened to make his fuse so short.

The Bible says “a gentle answer turns away wrath”. How true it is. And how far we so-called professionals in Mizoram are still away from practicing that truism! I think it’s high time government employees step down from their ‘secure’ jobs and realize that just because people need our services, it doesn’t give us the right to abuse them. It’s so much easier to be kind; and true kindness is not motivated by the fear that we’ll have a bad record or lose our jobs. It just stems from the desire to be nice to others. It even has a side-benefit: it gives us that warm glow inside which nothing else can beat.

As Jewel says, In the end, only kindness matters.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Feliz Navidad

It's that time of year again. 'Tis the season to be jolly, tra-la-la-la-la and all that. This year, I'm not as apathetic as I was last year. With a miraculous lightening of my workload comes a corresponding lightening of the heart. Sure, there are things to worry about, mistakes I have made, wounds I have inflicted, loved ones I have lost. And this year has certainly been chaotic, with me trying to make sense of what seemed to be losing sense each passing day. And for some reason, I always seemed to be two paces behind whatever was happening; I felt I was constantly running a race where the moment I finally reached a pit stop, the next hurdle loomed large, a hurdle I should have jumped over days ago. There were days when I literally sat down and asked myself, "is it worth it?" and moments of despair, when I was so dog-tired and frustrated that I threw my hands up in the air and cried, "I can't do this anymore!" Yet, somehow, with the approach of year's end, things have fallen into place. There is a sense of harmony, a unity, an imperceptible click that miraculously restores everything to order. In other words, Peace.

Maybe that's what the season is all about. I've always marveled that Christmas should coincide with year's end.How very fitting. We rush through our jobs and our lives and all the inconsequential but necessary activities that make up our existence. And then, it's the end of the year, there is sense of closure, a promise of new beginnings. Christ's birth is a symbol of that promise. After all the chaos, the madness, the rushing around... Peace on Earth.

On to lighter things, Peace is not the word that comes to mind when one looks at the markets in the city of Aizawl at Christmastime. It's positively bustling with activity, and one begins to wonder where all these people came from! And where were they throughout the rest of the year?! You don't even have to make an effort to walk, you get pushed from behind anyway. You literally 'go with the flow'. And the wares are interesting. While more upmarket stores display overcoats 'imported' from 'foreign' at three thousand and four thousand rupees, the second-hand shops, not to be deterred, also display overcoats, also imported and equally fashionable, at less than half that price. And while some shoes set you back by four thousand and five hundred rupees, mom went to a sale today and came home extremely satisfied, having bought a decent pair of pumps for three hundred rupees. See? Nobody gets left out.

What is forever associated with Christmas in the Mizo sensibility is the good ol' Boney M Christmas Album. Scores of new artists, Mizo and otherwise, record Christmas songs every year; yet, the ultimate Christmas songs will always be those sung by Boney M. I ventured up to bara bazar today, and true to the spirit of the season, Boney M was blaring from shops everywhere I went. Personally I've overdosed on it because when we were growing up in Dawrpui, Aizawl, there was this store downstairs that sold music systems, and the day the sun rose on December 1, they would start playing that blessed record. Over and over and over again, the whole day, everyday, until Christmas Eve. Nothing else. I kid you not. So, I guess you understand the mixed feelings I have about that particular album. I wonder if Boney M will ever realize the impact they've made on Mizo culture. Probably not. Oh, well.