Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Small town syndrome

As it usuaually happens, Suman called me at around 5 in the evening to see if we can meet up for a drink.

As it usually happens, I relish at the possibility of discussing the world over a quater of fav whisky, gobi manchurian.

As it usually happens we meet around 7 at one of my favourite hangouts in town. Brigade fuel.

located right opposite guzzlers and right next to pecos.

There are some real pluses about Fuel. Firstly, it is a place where you can order your quarters without being given the shocked look. You get personalised service, cos we know the guys very well. The music is managable atually you can hear the other person talk. I even heard "Ellodhagoppa ninna aramame" once. There are two t.v.s playing the latest in sports.

There are a ton of things one can keep telling about such places, but the truth is "Its got a small town feel". That is what I decided to blog about today.

What is a "Small town Syndrome" ? People from the dusty small towns of India who generally migrate to big cities and countries often leaving a trailblazing path in their wake. They never tire, never stop, never pause and certainly never rest.

Never think someone having the "Small town syndrome" is an easy pushover. Most of these guys are driven like V8 engine, acidic as vinegar and most importantly risk takers the likes which vegas blackjack players would respect and be proud to call as one of them.

They are people who have a higher dream to pursue and achieve it with plain, brute force. They have a tremendous appetite for learning, a dogged perseverence to feed their ambitions and a street smart approach which would make the rest of us look like wayside admirors. Some of us may even cry horse and say "Its not fair".

Small town India stretches across the vast hinterland like hubli, madurai, chitoor, coimbatore, satara or Ranchi, Gorakhpur, Gaya. These are the places from which people with dreams and people with a real desire to achieve something greater than what fate seems to ditate for them gatecrash into the big league with impunity. Generally these are people who have a sense of confidence, sometimes bordering on cockiness and arrogance. They have the attitude "Nothing can stop me from reaching my destination". The arrogance and cockiness apart, these guys are toougher than hibernating spore. They cover their insides with a tough protien compound which renders all other distractive elements of city life useless in derailing them from the goals. They have scant regard for existing norms and end up redefining them.

Pasha, A muslim friend from coimbatore with English skills only in the written and the reading world arrives in mumbai. A phone call the day before warned me of his coming and I was notified that I would have to provide him with a place to stay for a while. Till he got a job in bustling mumbai.

I knew pasha for 3 years in coimbatore and for the next 3 years I had no contact with him. Another friend of mine, located my number through a quick investigative search and called me at my on-location office. Imagine my surprise when I heard Vijay's voice over the telephone telling me "Machi, Pasha is coming, do the needfull". Small town guys can track look upon themselves as a community and would never shy away from returning favours. They live by an honour which makes them remember their roots, yet they fly free unconstraint by their roots.

Pasha's stay at my place itself was interesting. He would have tremendous humility at our place always concious of the fact that Vasu is not the same Vasu I knew. I tried telling him, that nothing has changed except the fact that I spoke hindi well now.

What really surprised the hell out of me was, it was October and my US Visa was in process when Pasha came to mumbai. October 1999. Pasha could not talk, english, or hindi and all he knew was a tamlish urdu and tamil itself. Hardly helpfull if you want a job in the shipping industry. But the way he went about the process of getting a job and achieving his dreams was just too tremendous.

Everyday he would be up before 6 and off to the harbour scouring every little dingy export/import company near the docs. Deligently compiling a list of names, contacts and addresses he would follow them up with clockwork regularity. Never losing the hope that one day, he is going to make it big.

Somewhere in december, Pasha calls me and says that he has got a job with an Aircargo company in mumbai and he would work out of their Andheri office. He even takes all of us out for a drink. A small town guy, feels a sense of gratitude for whoever had helped him. Its actually not a great help, we shared our room with him. Where it was 3, we were 4. No big deal actually, but Pasha would never agree on that.

Most importantly small town guys, never forget. A helping hand or a stinging slight. They never forget. The drive and focus is so high, very soon you will find yourself in a situation being paid for your helping hand or the stinging slight, pretty handsomely.

months passed and my US visa had arrived. The ides of march were there and I was standing outside the US counselate in Walkeshwar in stinging unseasonal rain when I heard a familiar voice. Pasha was standing along with his cousin just 2-3 steps behind me. We spoke a lot about our lives and the way this great city had altered it forever, when Paasha interrupted me with an announcement.

Machi.. next week nan dubai poren. (Machi, I am going to dubai next week).

My jaw dropped literally and the first words out of my mouth was vow!!!.. Apparently his boss had shifted companies and took him along with him. this guy was so good at his work, he offered him 10 times the salary he was drawing. A somersault from Rs. 4000 to Rs. 45,000. All within a matter of few months.

The one thing about small town guys are, they dont complain about hardships. They just roll with good and bad till they reach their spot. Mumbai I have a feeling has been made of a million small town guys. Not Delhi, Not calcutta. Small town guys make the best rags to richest stories. Is that a right definition of small town syndrome ? A need to break the ceiling so desperate that they not only break the ceiling but tear the sky.

Small town guys are pretty naive about social norms. They would jump ahead of a waiting woman into an auto and there is no place of chivallry. Their sheer naivity and ignorance gives them the license not to conform and most people end up accepting that.

A conversation I overheard at a friend's engagement party. This friend worked with MX as a sales executive one of the most cut-throat workplaces.

Miss X: "You know, Joshi ?"
Miss Y: "Ya, that ghati (slang for someone coming from maharashtra. Usually used as a derogatory reference to lack of sophestication), who doesent have any sense of decency ?"
Miss X: "Ya, he is the top performer for this month. He is going to spain for a vacation. Company paid".
miss Y: "Spain ?. You must be kidding me. What does he know about spain ? bloddy unpad, gawar.. (hindi slang for uneducated)
miss X: "Ya, but he beat Pramod in sales. Thats no mean achievement."
Miss Y: "so what, he doesent deserve to go to spain. I mean what does he know ? He cant even speak english.".
Miss X: "The best part is he is not going. He is encashing it out. I find his raw drive very very sexy."

I burst out laughing, the whisky-soda combination almost exploding in my mouth. As the scorching glares passed through me, I could not help but think "These guys dont have a clue as to how to handle someone who is brash, unaware of his non-conformance and infact self assuredly ignorant of his rock bottom reputation. Infact joshi was a good friend of mine and I had to reveal to him, that Miss X found him sexy. Maybe he will get to score. Pretty surprising how small town guys appear as romantic to some of the sauve women in corporate mumbai.

As suman and I wound up our drinks, we agreed that for being a 'small town guy', you dont need to be from a small town. You just need the attitude to go get your dreams or die trying.

Some examples of small town guys.

1) Dhirubhai Ambani
2) Shehwag
3) Dhoni
4) VG Paneerdas (of golden beach fame).
5) Don Vito Carleone (remember the godfather dialouge ? "The weakest, of the weak will one day become stronger than the strongest of the strong", In response to sony caroleone's exasperated questio to Don asking him why he patronised such common folk like the cobbler, baker and the butcher.

This list is endless and certainly pasha does figure there. But then I was left wondering have I become sophesticated, become a little more of a conformist ? Have I become someone who can agree with someone even when I disagree about it ? Can I play ball and do the dew, to get my share of the booty ? Do I agree very easily when the whole world says something.

Important questions which need answers. It was pretty clear. I cant think the way the conformist world does. I cant, wake up and say "Yes, How can we sacrifice merit and quality for reservation ? chi chi chi" and nod my head in mock disapproval.

I cant do that. I am a small town guy and that makes my life interesting.

Its hard to define exactly what it is to have a "small town syndrome". Even with all these disjointed thoughts put togather, we cant get accurate. Afterall as you are reading, some small town guy is on his way to mumbai to become the next new kid in town out to change it all.


At 11:45 AM, Blogger Viewer said...

This is really a very intersting topic which u have discussed.
I too have sometimes been like those towny guys who never could figure out the sucess of the small town people around me. but after reading ur post i think i have a better picture and probabaly will think again before i question other credibility just becase they are not so polished enough.

At 2:15 AM, Blogger Anita said...

now i know why both of you have disappeared from the social scene. spending more time at brigade fuel, aa?

At 1:20 PM, Blogger the wannabe indian punkster said...

thanks for your hilarious comments! Jus wanted to let you know Im linking to you now:)

At 12:42 PM, Blogger the wannabe indian punkster said...

You have been TAGGED!
Do not worry this is not a ridiculous tag(like mugs, lovers, jobs etc). It is a very serious issue and very similar to my Hinduism post. So pls check out my latest post and youll know what to do.
PS: Vasu, your input is very imp as you are one of the few people who sees humor in a situation like this so your view will be greatly appreciated!

At 11:32 AM, Blogger Akhil said...

"A few Small Town Syndromes"

- Hang to the already overflowing bus/train & reach destination at any cost.

- Don't give a damn to what other's think. Most of us waste a lot of our time conforming to (what we believe), the people we will never meet again in our life time will think about us.

- Celebrate the most petty things and extract happiness out of just anything.

Just a few examples to illustrate that the most successful people are always those who care about lesser things in life.

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At 12:15 PM, Blogger Abhishek said...

a good read before hitting the bed.. !!


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