Last week my bicycle (bike as they call it here) was stolen. I had it locked in front my apartment – which is usually busy 24 hours – and it still got stolen. It’s summer here, so most of the students have left and hence there aren’t many who walk in and out of the apartment after 11.00. I had used a thick wire connected by a ‘number-lock’; I don’t know if the ‘thief’ noticed that I wasn’t using a difficult combination or to top it wasn’t mixing the numbers thoroughly when I locked. It should have been one of those scenarios, because the ‘wire’ was too thick to break using a regular cutter. Or probably he/she (well no bias against men, the thief could have been a woman) is professional who can cut open all kinds locks given the privacy.
This is the second time it has happened to me after coming here. Nothing big has been stolen from me when I was in India. I have left my motorcycle with keys in it, motorbike with a Nike cap on it, unlocked bicycles, unlocked doors (sometimes with the key hanging on it); I’m a careless guy in that sense. But by Murphy’s Law they have always been intact. And here I come to a so called developed country, get a used bicycle for $60, leave it outside the apt without locking it. It got stolen the 11th day. I told my friend about this then (8 months ago),
Suresh: and you know what? I bought a bike and let it get stolen too
Friend: that sucks
Suresh: well cannot blame them, I didn't lock it at all for 10 days. apparently some one was watching it.
Friend: oh god. what were you thinking
Suresh: "well this is Canada, people are good"
Suresh: that's what I was thinking
I wasn’t too worried about it though. I make decent money to afford such “losses”, and moreover it’s not out of so called hard work or intelligence. I make it because this country gives it1. And if the country is going to take some of that “undeserved” money back by letting someone steal my bike, so be it. I got another bike just after 4 days and this time a new one for $120. With a new lock, fender (mudguard), carrier etc, it came to $160. After riding it for 8 months it was stolen last week in spite of locking it. So clearly I wasn’t “asking for it” this time. Anyway, coming to the actual topic, now whenever I see a red bicycle I stop for a while and give it a closer look to check if it’s mine. It’s silly I know, because my bike would have gotten shipped (along with two dozen other bikes) to a city or town 400 miles away, already. I thought this feeling guided by instinct – one that supersedes your conscious logic – will be there just for 2, 3 days. But, after 1 full week, I can’t get it out of my head. Red things in a long distance draw my attention, if it happens to be a bike the attention becomes careful observation. If a bike that didn’t really get itself attached to me emotionally or otherwise can control my mind beyond its wish, I wonder what it would be to lose a person or miss a person.
This might sound like a stupid theory (may be it is), but I think we see ‘familiar’ faces in a crowd because that face was some way close to us or we miss them2. It doesn’t have to be a real life friend, even your favourite movie actor would fit the case. I think the whole idea of “love at first” sight works on the same principle too. While it’s normal for all us to get attracted to “beautiful” people some of us are smitten by not so good looking people. Some times people who are downright ugly and obnoxious. They still manage to attract us because they probably resemble your half burnt Barbie doll from 2nd grade or their chins are protruding like your favourite cartoon character (Batman, Superman). This might be extended to voice, music, movies, jokes, dress everything that is driven by instinct the first time you are exposed to it. Of course it also applies to things you hate (as I had pointed in my post impulsive prejudices)
The next time you find something/someone attractive but your friends don’t, don’t think that there’s something magical about it. Just try to reflect back in your life, you might be able to find a perfectly logical explanation for it.
It also explains the attachment that I had with Hinduism and still have with India as a nationalist. I used to be a proud Hindu – Meaning I cannot stand anyone talking less about Hinduism (wherever it is), or say Christianity or Islam is better than Hinduism. I would immediately jump in to an ego battle with 'that' person, trying to prove him/her wrong. For me Hinduism was the best religion in the whole world, but the very claim is against one of the fundamental ideas of the culture that was then brought under a religion named Hinduism. Now, for me, the pride that is associated with being Hindu has disappeared a bit. I think it’s a crime to associate yourself with something – whose essence is of high value – with you, when you yourself are no where near it. What’s the point in claiming that you come from the cleanest city in the world if you yourself reek?
Most of us would be irritated if I say – I’m the smartest person in the whole world. But we fail to see the underlying ego-booster when we get together with a few more people and say “we belong to smart people’s community which is the best in the whole world”. What am I saying from this? To say that you are a proud Hindu just means that you’re boasting about reading a few Vedas and doing a few rituals (sometimes without doing any of it, for whatever makes one a Hindu). Of course I cannot stay calm when people put forth factually incorrect or logically flawed arguments against Hinduism or related issues (about conversion etc.,). But even that only when the person shows signs of willingness to change his/her idea. Being an agnostic, that's how far I can go with my religion.
But how come I’m still a nationalist? – I had the red bike for just 8 months, but my country had me for 23 years. I am a product of my country, good or bad; product that was shaped by the geography, demography and philosophy of that country. I’m not necessarily proud about India, but my interests will always be in sync with India’s3. So it’s not the values that make you go fanatic about your religion or country. It’s the duration of possession that makes you fanatic about the values and then about religion or country. Yes, what we have is often good not because it's good, but because we have it, and more so when we have it for a long time. My moustache being one of them.
1 The work-credential-wage inequality from country to country would need an extensive discussion that analyses global economy and colonial history. By stating that I didn’t lose things in India I’m not suggesting that Indian people are more trustworthy. It’s just that my luck worked better in India than Canada. And yes, developed nations have their share of thieves and crooks too. The person who stole my bike could well be a rich white teen (and not a poor black immigrant as you might have imagined immediately). But stealing and getting (read running) away with it is harder in India than in US or Canada. Indians are more than happy to scream "thirudan thirudan" or "chor chor" and catch the person and give him "charity beating". It's not the case here, people are just too indifferent.
2 Close doesn’t necessarily mean friendly. It could also be a teacher who you hated or a cousin who regularly steals your share of chocolate.
3 I used to be a proud about India too, but it is too hard to defend all the events that shaped India in to what it is today. When there is so much influence of external elements in shaping a country's contemporary existence, I don’t know which part you should identify with and feel proud about. I’m not proud about Bihar, but proud about TN. But in TN I’m not proud about Trichy but Madras. In Madras I’m not proud about Saidapet but K.K.Nagar. There is so much dichotomy that you cannot escape.