Thursday, April 15, 2010

Face/Off



In Athens, in the 4th Century BC, the great orator Demosthenes ridiculed his rival Aeschines, who was once a well known actor. He called Demosthenes a hypokrites; a technical term for an actor. The latter's skill in acting was considered as undesirable for some one who was taking up politics. An actor who could imitate another person was considered untrustworthy for the public office. All this as it is obvious, happened a long time before the times of Ronald Reagen, Arnold or Jesse Ventura.

I am least bit concerned about what a politician was doing before he became what he is now. But what he would do after could be a matter of concern. However being a "hypokrites" is the common factor between me, Demosthenes and Arnie. But modified versions of course. Interestingly, here the roles of an actor and being a hypocrite, means often the same thing.

The actor and hypocrite in me emerges mostly after the flight touches down in my home state during the summer. Until the rubber skids off the tarmac, I am 100% Indian. Once I step out of the craft, I suddenly turn into a purebred expatriate.

I realize that the trees, the rain and the mud I missed back where I worked, didn't look all that romantic as it were when I explained it to my "firang" friends over some beer and roasted nuts. I suddenly could list a dozen reasons why "my country" would "never prosper" and how "organised" is the way things are "back there".

The familiar stench of human feces at the railway station was unbearable this summer. Must have been the protein rich food that is making the present plump generation plumper.

The apparent disdain to hygiene by street vendors, cab drivers and the pan-chewing men folk was overly disgusting. I wanted to take them by their collar and tell them that they were wrong.

The ride back home in an old ambi illustrated how the public works department employees had been getting rich at the cost of the taxpayer. I wondered aloud why they make cars these days with out air-conditioning. I asked my driver why the public transport buses looked dirty and dangerous.

While my tirade went on, my father looked at the driver and smiled. The driver smiled back. He must have heard this every time he brought back an expatriate to his town.

Back at home I had more complaining to do before the religious procession blocked traffic for half a day, during the intermittent load shedding and after the telephone line died in the middle of a conversation.

I also didn't forget to ridicule my aunty over her silly confusion in choosing which saree to wear for our old family friend's memorial ceremony in the evening. I scoffed at all the gold the women wore and poked fun at the pot bellied men who competed in the same category along with their women.

At the pre-dinner cocktail session I explained to the men about the differences between whiskey, brandy, vodka and other beverages while they got more impatient as I offered them my wisdom.

A month later, during the ride back to the airport in the air conditioned comfort of a chevorlet, I found the stench of uncleared garbage a lil less disturbing. I saw the rain clouds in the horizon and wondered if the flight would face turbulence. The greenery whistled past the car and the hypocrite in the chevorlet felt sad...and a bit ashamed.

The Covariation model