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Mainstream, VOL LX No 7, New Delhi, February 5, 2022

Caught in the everyday rut | Kangkana Shivam

Friday 4 February 2022

by Kangkana Shivam

January 24, 2022

This article explores the living realities of modern societies and the hypocrisy’s that we have routinely accepted and adopted in our lifestyle patterns. Do we need rectification? ... I leave it to the wider audience…

Plot 1: Cogs in a Standardised system!

Sipping on a hot cup of cappuccino in her routinized 15-minute coffee-break, Nisha just like any other day was staring outside her 27th-floor office window. Two small children, carefree about the noisy surrounding and Bangalore’s pick-time crowd were intensely engrossed into playing ludo in the foot-path. Some others were anticipating for a possible red signal in the traffic point. But then Nisha witnessed an incident… a person wearing a tie-suit and speaking to someone on a phone, seated on the backseat of a luxury car, started intentionally avoiding a ‘katora’ (bowl) of one of those children; who was emulating facial expression of ‘hunger’- hands pointing on the mouth and slowly towards the stomach. After moments of silence and ignored gazes, the car started moving slowly. And within few seconds of taking up its speed, hurriedly the man pulled out a note (blurrily 20 rupee) and threw it towards the direction of a roadside temple with bowing hands.

Just when Nisha was sensitizing the realities of the globalised era, Radhika sneaked behind and intervened: What are you manifesting so deeply? Sir is looking for you.
Nisha (surprised-worried): Is the break over?

Radhika: Yes, and its almost 30 minutes late now. Didn’t you hear the alarm? Or are you still day-dreaming about publishing your articulated thoughts?

Nisha: No Radhika, I can’t afford to do so… I have responsibilities. It will take me a lot of courage to turn into a full-time writer. I was glaring those children and hoping to be care-free like them. Those innocent - happy faces will now haunt me for months.

Radhika: You are getting too philosophical, Nisha. You need to understand that you are on a good career track that many others desire. You are living lavishly; young-single- independent and earning a good sum. What do you aspire more?

Nisha: It’s not always about money. (Awkward silence) Lately, I have started building an inner guilt of not listening to my passion or for that matter wasting my creativity doing this 9 to 5 corporate job. My life unexpectedly has started revolving around attending calls, making presentations, delivering product speeches; as a whole ‘pleasing others’. I have rather turned to a rational-mechanised being, a mere product of IIT-IIM. At the end of the day, I am usually left with no energy/time to even converse with my family, whom I know; waits whole-heartedly for that particular moment of the day.

Radhika (confused): Then what do you want?

Nisha: Liberation.

Radhika: I am not getting you. Lately you have started sounding so complicated. Ah! Sir was looking for you, why don’t you show up?

Plot 2: The victim of constant surveillance & time-bound routine!

Nisha: May I come in Sir?

Mr Joshi: Yes please Nisha. Have a seat. I can get you…you are busier than me. I called you at around 11:30 and now it’s almost 12:15 at afternoon. You are 45 minutes late.

Nisha: No Sir, I was engrossed….

Mr Joshi: I know, I know. The CCTV cameras capture you with Radhika at an office corner. Am I exaggerating?

Nisha: No Sir, I was having a talk with her.

Mr Joshi (smirking): Really, during office hours? I think you are unaware of the golden work rule of maintaining impersonal-professional relations with colleague. Leave that, I have called you regarding your monthly assessment/ productivity report, which as expected falls in the lowest rank amongst all employee. And for this I can perhaps sue you too.

Nisha: Sorry to hear that Sir. I was little disturbed this whole…

Mr Joshi: Another excuse. What about the late-entries in office? We do check on the timings & biometric attendance, if you are wondering we don’t. Additionally, our cameras too have detected your defaulting behaviour. And as far as your productivity is concerned, it has contributed very less to the company’s overall growth. In fact, your quality of work also remains ‘average’. I am sorry Nisha if this continues then I will be left with no other options.

Nisha (Silent): Downward gazes

Mr Joshi: I suggest you start doing smart-works from today and make efforts. This corporate sector is like a war zone, you have to fight, compete, and conquer in order to achieve your goals. The more you touch on targets, the greater the prestige, the more the salary hike and add-on luxuries in life. So always strive for the best. Life won’t provide you with a second option. Grab what is been served in the scarce- competitive world.

Nisha: I will try my best to add credibility to the Company, Sir.

Joshi: Good. That’s like a perfect- rational decision. Be disciplined in life.

Plot 3: The never-ending scrutinies and haunting fears!

After a long gloomy day at office, a tired & hopeless Nisha was welcomed by an envelope beneath her apartment’s door-mat. She took it, opened the door and kept it carelessly in the side table. Later after doing the daily ritualising chores and while preparing for bed, she suddenly heard voices… probably echoing from outside. Once arrived near the door, she heard the much anticipated conversation between her neighbours: ‘Hum akeli ladki ka risk nahi lena chahte. Kya pata kesi hai? Housing society allow kyu karte hai pata nahi? Rules- regulation, tameej nam ki koi chez honi chahiye! Jab man kare aati hai, kapde dhang ki nahi pehen ti hai’ (we don’t want to risk on a single girl. Who knows how she is? Don’t know why housing societies rents them? There must be some rules, regulations & proper behavioural patterns. She arrives at her own will, doesn’t wear appropriate attires). Another added: ‘Maine toh usse ladko ke sath aate hua bhi dekha hai’ (I have seen her arriving with a guy as well). And within seconds, Nisha felt an enraged wave from inside, although controlled her-self after much deliberation. After a chaotic-hectic- troubled day, the least she was expecting was this.
She quickly ran to the table to grab the envelope. It says:

‘Dear Miss Shukla, we are sorry to inform you that you are immediately asked to vacate the apartment, as per the society’s general meeting decision. The reason cited for the same is ‘non- allowance of rooms to single girls’ according to the new rules prescribed and agreed upon by the members.

Yours truly,

Landlord Uncle.

That night was a self-reflexive night. Nisha remembered all those scrutinies, un-comfortable gazes of the society’s civilised beings, which she was intentionally ignoring for so long. Perhaps everything has turned crystal clear now; no one is free in this surveillance era. Nisha accepted that all this time she was never at liberty even in an unknown city. And then she questioned her inner self: Am I happy here? Am I safe amidst the gazes who judge me head to toe? Why I am constantly being compared in terms of some productivity ratio? After juggling with questions in head, she tirelessly declared: I am not myself anymore; I turned into a robotic being, immune to accept every kind of judgements.

Plot 4: A phone conversation!

Hello Radhika, how are you been? Speaks a familiar voice from an un-familiar phone number!

Radhika (curious): Nisha is it you?

Nisha: Yes, Radhika!

Radhika: Oh My God! How are you? Why are you not coming to office? I am missing you terribly!

Nisha (giggling): I am at complete ease! I moved to Ranchi, Radhika. I told you, I want to widen my horizon and explore my creativity.

Radhika (anxious): But, why so suddenly Nisha!

Nisha: I would say it was a calculative move. I always wanted to resign from the job. You know it well! When they kicked me out of the housing society…I took my ‘vacating experience’ as a positive start; a second opportunity that universe provided me… to re-live my life but this time as per my wish.

Radhika: I know it’s your heart’s calling. But will miss you!

Nisha: I will too. Radhika, I wasn’t enjoying my life but rather surviving in that city. All those hierarchal relationships and prestige projects were killing me or rather my passion for writing. And after uncountable attempts to adjust, when I was threatened by Joshi Sir the other day, I finally realised how ‘inferior’ and ‘irrelevant’ my efforts- time- energy were to them. I resigned without a second thought and left.

Radhika (curious): And what will you do now?

Nisha (smilingly): I will write… about the blue sky, painted mountains, sweet breeze and greeneries. And there will be in my story; a flock of liberating birds, flying freely in the clear sky.

Radhika: I don’t as usual get your words, Nisha!

Nisha: You don’t need to Radhika. Remember I was telling you about those children playing ludo?

Radhika: Yes. Why?

Nisha: I have turned one of them!

[Special Acknowledgement to Avijit Pathak Sir, Professor of Sociology at JNU; who encouraged us to explore our lost creativities, sensitize the world and be better versions of ourselves]

(Author: Kangkana Shivam, MA, JNU- Delhi, kangkanashivam3[at]gmail.com)

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