Friday, January 11, 2008

The Threat Of Violence
















On the edge . This paanchod is asking for it. Nah! It's beneath me. Primitive. But he's pushing his luck. One centimeter I gave this fucker and he took a whole kilometer. Yeah I know it's a miles and inches but he's liable to correct me. "We use metric here"Christ! He's asking for it. He has that little smile on his face like it's a quizzing contest and he's way ahead. Oh fuck it. "Listen you little arami what's your game. Everyday you come up with a new way to piss me off. I ought to just slap

".
"Please so sorry. I did not think you would take offense. "He was frightened. It felt good to silence him. So easy. So corrupting


And that's how it starts or some variation of that scene. A part of living in India. I laughed when I read Suketu Mehta's Maximum City where he described the gangster mentality that pervades that city.

The threat of violence in language and gesture a daily necessity to conduct your affairs. Without it people were liable to walk all over you. But I was never comfortable with it. Guilt would accompany an outburst. Losing control never felt right. But people would invade your personal space with such consummate ease and when they noticed a reaction it would become a game. How far can I go before this fellow blows his top. What new ways to aggravate him.

Some encounters with skilled provocateurs were a demonstration of technique bordering on talent of a perverse sort. Like a drive by knifing. A nominal encounter but as you walk away you notice blood on your shirt, a wound. A few choice words, clearly planned and then expertly delivered.


Over time you learned to modulate your responses. Take more intrusion than you were used to and roll with the punches. After some time it became theatre. Give and take, up to a point and then it would be best to throw in an effect, even if you were not in the mood so you would be taken seriously. In the end it was the threat of violence that was the important thing. Not actually committing any. That made it a more palatable.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

SO true... I used to get really mad at my brother because he keeps threatening people and not unconsciously either - he deliberately scares people into doing what he wants (and he looks scary so it works, lol) and it would bug me no end. And then I realized he was getting a ton of stuff done with considerably less aggravation than I was. I still find it hard to be rude to people but now I know where and who to watch out for.

--Amrita

Gagan said...

I suppose I could have done that more but much prefer blending into the background and taking everything in.It was funny when things started to dawn on me how it was all so different. Wasn't just a case of being about the other cos I had friends who had never left India who would complain of the whole thing all of the time,like they had some platonic idea of a place where it could be different without having experienced it.After a while I came to understand how I was being seen. I mean I think they thought the neutral stare I gave was some sign of me not being aware of the little games unfolding. I was aware but I wasn't sure of the point. I noticed a lot of times there would be such a confirmed sense of judgement, a lot of it regarding sexual issues. Talk to anyone of the opposite sex and right away everyone seemed sure of lasicvious intent. It struck me as so strange coming from the west where everything was just so laid back and unassuming.There it was assumed every word was loaded and nothing you could say would change their minds. The interesting thing was a blend happened. For me, I tended not to divulge other people's secrets just out of habit. It was amazing how much I learned doing that. I guess that's why I take some exception at what suketu mehta did. I am glad he did in a way cos he showed me bombay but at the same time I can't believe he did...it just seemed so passive aggressive.
Just one other point..it was a big contrast to return to the west and not feel like your every move was being tracked. A return to anonymity felt a little lonely...there are pros and cons everywhere I guess :)