Monday, November 19, 2012

Money, and what dogs do.

There is something extremely offensive about the presence of dog poop on a footpath. It's not so much the fact that a turd is in itself repulsive - it's more about the fact that we all know what sort of dog the turd has come from. Certainly not the much maligned Indian pi dogs that form the populous of stray dogs you see around the city. These dogs, besides being extremely hardy and well suited to the Indian climate are very clean in their behaviour. They don't do their thing in the middle of footpaths; they choose an inconspicuous location most of the time, a tree in undergrowth or a gutter that has seen worse.
No, the dogs that make our footpaths a living hell to walk on typically belong to citizens. Well fed, pampered citizens who yet manage to bear a striking resemblance to the ten million slum dwellers that surround them in the city. Indeed I will be so bold as to affirm that for a majority of them, were they born under similar circumstances as these unfortunate souls, there would not be too different from them.
Sound like a grandiose assumption? I will justify it.
Bombay's slum dwellers are some of the strangest human beings one could encounter. They live in squalor of a kind that's terrifying in its magnitude. Most of them share their premises with scores of dogs, bats, rats and other vermin. They eat filthy food a few metres away from where the fresh poop from their most recent defecation resides. They practically swim in mounds of wet, stinking garbage. And during the terrible monsoon, they literally do.

When looked at from a compassionate viewpoint, it seems very sad. Yet while pitying them, there is that chord of revulsion that is struck in all of us. For these people surely don't need to live in this Kafkaesquely regressive manner. For the same  the slumlord (typically a local politician) demands, they would get a pucca house, (even if it is a  chawl) in a more remote location like Mira Road or Nalasopara. Which would afford them a much more dignified and hygienic living.
Yet they choose to live in the filth that is the centrally located slums.  They seem to be willing to endure what should be termed a subhuman existence just because of the fact that city living affords them an income convenience that might have otherwise been more difficult.
What has made them this way? Sadly, it is the very Indian idea of money-worship. Money is so important, that one may compromise one's dignity, one's principles, one may compromise one's very being just to have more of it. Have a look at our  richest billionaires - the word 'philanthropist' is practically alien to them; I doubt they even know how to spell the word. In some cases, this is a family legacy. After all, the 'great' Dhirubhai Ambani once stated that the only thing important to him in life is his 'business' . He didn't need a hobby or a target for benevolence, he never felt enough was enough - Oh no! He had made his fortune all by himself and he wanted every single penny of it.
In many ways, Indian culture views money not as a means but as an end. If you have made your fortune, that's where it stops.
This is the bond that connects the slum dweller in Dharavi to the rich man on Pali Hill possessed of a troop of St Bernard's who mess up the footpath on my road. They both see money as the end. They are both willing to endure all sorts of disgusting conditions, physical and moral, to make that money. And once they have it, they don't give a damn. For law, for order or for improvement of the world around them. As a matter of fact, they never did.
One, you see, is the owner of the dogs. The other is the servant that walks them. 

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