Monday, February 02, 2009

What's in a Name ?

A certain classmate of mine back in MHS used to claim the latest kid-on-the block as her relative. Be it a recently acclaimed singer or the reigning Miss Universe (at that point, Sushmita Sen), everyone with even the faintest trace of fame shadowing him or her seemed to form part of her immensely talented family tree, irrespective of how tortuous the path of ancestry appeared to us. Others used to laugh at this tendency of hers the moment her back was turned but were either too timid or too tender-hearted to tell her exactly what they had to say about this silly habit.

Strangely enough, she is not a rare instance. After several years of my pitifully plain and plebeian existence, I've come to be acquainted with numerous variations and specimens of this type. Several of them being educated adults with sufficient potential of their own and making a name for themselves in their respective fields of work. And therefore, you would think, not likely to have to glorify themselves by such a puerile habit. Unfortunately, such reasoning doesn't help when you encounter the complex species that is human. On countless occasions, I have had to bite my lips to prevent myself from vociferating against this inclination, in order to not strain my relationship with these people, often very decent, friendly and kind from every other viewpoint. Hence, the problem remains.

However, the issue is a disturbing one, to me at least. Gone are the days when one needed to provide proof of allegiance to a certain monarch or party or to be of illustrious lineage to claim right to a job or jewel, a possession or position. Nowadays, merit is supposed to be all that counts. I remember the case of Sanjeeb Basak, a boy whose mother worked as seamstress to sponsor his education and their family needs. Our parents were overwhelmed by his dedication and determination and did their best to convey the same to us. We deciphered that it was important to be lauded for earning one's own laurels rather than falling back on the feats of others to gain appreciation in any form. Another case I recall was that of a batchmate of ours in SPHS (let's call her A), who was extremely dark-complexioned, short and painfully thin. A used to avail of the schoolbus in which I travelled and provoked immediate attention by the skimpy and faded navy blue skirt that formed part of her school uniform. In short, she looked poor and plain. But I was touched by the great awe with which a very wealthy male classmate of ours (and who, btw, I was madly in adolescent love with) used to accord to her whenever he referred to her. This was because of her record in academics, which was scintillating. I myself have been at the receiving end of such bizarre difference in treatment when I shifted from MHS to SPHS. At my previous school, most (not all) classmates were from stinking rich families who distributed pencil torches with their ward's name carved on it on her birthday and viewed with disdain commoners like me who received a mere Rs 10 as pocket-money for a school fete or who, along with her sibling, carried a torn and tattered bag to school for several months at a stretch simply because their father lacked the time (not money) to go get them new ones. I felt I had come home when I moved onto SPHS. Everyone respected me only in terms of my academic performance, which was by a great stroke of luck, good. I therefore still consider the latter my true alma mater.

I diverge. The point is that when someone name-drops, it immediately gives you an impression of the way they perceive people. Not as friends or relatives or good or gifted or graceful. But as of being either potentially useful or useless to themselves in their climb up the socio-economic ladder. These are a different category of snobs. Parasitic and piteous. They thrive on their connections and networks for giving value to their own selves. They measure you in terms of set standards of the branded clothes you buy or the people you disco with or the car you whizz by or the profile of the company you work in and the salary you receive. Neither do they evaluate your intrinsic merit nor do they treasure your integrity as a person. They are too busy dropping names (in all possible ways) of the inside scoop on important things and persons (thanks to their contacts) to bother about such things as possess sterling worth.

I'm not being vitriolic. I really feel sorry for them. I was watching 'Luck By Chance' yesterday and it suddenly struck me that the Greek concept of 'Anagnorisis' still holds water. Only, some people are too busy and un-blessed to attain it. In time.


Kaustav said...

By far your best blog post till date. Loved it. BTW Sanjib Basak was my classmate at IEM and he's still the simple soul that he was. I remember TCS Management had arranged for a shuttle cab for him when he came for a job interview :-) Needless to say that he bagged the job by just producing his Madhyamik marksheet.

Casuarina said...

Thanku :-)


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