The succour provided my cousin’s comfortable shelter from an obstinate mid-monsoon Malabar thunderstorm was disrupted by the full screen graphic text on a popular English language news channel. ‘BREAKING NEWS: THREE BLASTS ROCK MUMBAI’. Instinctively I paused. Even as I was cranking up the volume, a fast-clipped high-pitched narration of a near-breathless male voice consumed all attention. ‘Three simultaneous explosions have been reported at three separate locations in Mumbai and we are awaiting further information about the nature and intensity of the blasts’. Without a moment’s pause, the voice proceeded to paraphrase the same over and over again for the next few minutes. The full-screen textual graphic announcing the ‘breaking news’ vanished every few seconds and reappeared letter by letter, plastering itself to announce the grim news yet again. The announcer remained hidden from view. The feverish pace of the narrator combined with fast changing graphic visual succeeded in maintaining a perception that fresh news was being delivered every second. The pressure to deliver some new information was also taking it’s toll on the news reader probably because his time was running out too. The channel’s star news reader must have been on his way to replace him. This, to me, was yet another instance to reflect on the age of brash shameless opportunism.
In cases of emergencies at places of public gathering, crowds are urged to exit in a calm and orderly manner. This is the most assured method of evacuating quickly and without substantial physical damage. This has been a universally accepted idea. One that is gaining newer adopters. However, this idea constrains itself to physical harm only. What about mental anguish? Is that not important? The news channels cause a virtual stampede on the airwaves in their efforts to deliver fresh and exclusive news to it’s viewers. Veracity goes undetected as yet another victim of the macabre. It seems that the considerations afforded to how speech and visuals could negatively impact someone is being neglected each passing day in favour of a better shield for the physical. ‘Mind over matter’ has become just another convenient cocktail catchphrase.
Begging is the unique art of wringing another’s conscience (or patience) sufficiently enough to make it submit in substantial measure to one’s entreaties. The result one seeks could be either a few coins, a raise, a promotion or in the case of the two richest beggars of our times, the chance to form a club of the richest charitable donors in the world. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet made news prior to their visit to China with the much publicised objective to rope in some of the freshest members of the billionaire club to join them on their journey to immortality through their stage managed redistribution of concentrated wealth. They have made similar overtures towards the Indian millionaires as well.
Evolving idea of charity
Societies in China and India have mirroring trajectories of the rags to riches cycle. Diverging only in the political chapters, the morals from tales in all other aspects of one society could just as easily be applied to the other. Begging in this part of the world, at least the destitutional kind, has a long and complex history. It is only natural that a society with surplus manpower, limited natural resources and a history of concentrated and hierarchical flow of wealth and power should find beggars weaved generously into it’s social fabric. Their survival relies mainly on the mercy shown by the ruling class while their quality of life is dictated by the collective conscience of their neighbourhood. For most parts, begging is a feature of cities and other pilgrimage towns or tourist destinations that creates a noticeable disparity between the haves and the have nots. As a result, everybody in this society imbibes the technique of dealing with beggars very early in their childhood by emulating their guardians and elders. With such an overwhelming pool of lower and middle class folks (nursing aspirations of joining the wealthy class) it is not surprising that most among them grow up with pragmatism as the driving force in dealing with beggars. Compassionate perspective is a rarity. For the working class who drone about their lives trying to fulfill their emotional inheritance of providing a better life for their immediate and extended families, beggars are usually viewed as the lazy bunch rather than the unfortunate ones.
I happened to meet my cousin and a friend of his for dinner the other night. My cousin had recently extricated himself from his 10 year sojourn in the BPO industry, now working in Insurance. His friend, who was also his ex-colleague, was narrating some of the changes happening in his company.
With a straight face he said that the target for next month is to add 500 more heads. Scaling of teams this rapidly and in such huge numbers happened frequently in the BPO sector, especially in it’s champagne years of 2005-06. It also rarely happened with such urgency, without the need, having already knocked on the door twice, made itself present. I wondered how they were coping with their workload now. Pat came the answer, ‘OT’.
‘Hi’, popped a chat window on my laptop while reading some news stories on the good ol’ web. It was my 10 year old niece from Dubai. We had added each other to our chat profiles a month ago. Now the communication channels to Dubai are open daily, for at least 4 hours. It’s always good to hear her voice when she decides to start an ‘audio chat’. Today she chose to continue typing. It’s only much later that I figured out, with much clueing in from her, that she chose typing today because she was playing a game simultaneously.