Posts from the ‘Philosophy’ category

By Amrita Misra

Yes, I really mean that. And you would agree if you knew why I say so. I am so angry that whenever I am walking, as a proud pedestrian, who does not own a car & tired of waiting for the bus, which otherwise should be a healthy exercise is actually often very frustrating. People, rather smokers, pass you from left, right, center and back, listlessly letting their disgusting smoke into the thin air as if they own it. And the thin air, now smoke laden, hits my face and I have to inhale some of that filth no matter how quick I’m to stop my breath or how long I hold my breath. And this happens for 40 minutes (at least) everyday that I have to walk, to and fro work or running errands. No matter what time of the day it is (7am or 10pm), one thing is for sure that you will get the flavor of smoke brewed in the air.

I feel that if one smokes, he/she should be assumed to be insensitive towards others to some degree (already). People with other kind of addictions like drugs and alcohol, do not cause instant and consistent harm to passersby (except if they would be DUI, I guess!)

A friend at work said that she quit smoking when she was trying to get pregnant. Now, eight months pregnant, she claims to have been a non-smoker for more than a year. And she said that now that she does not smoke and does not want to stand by a smoker, she realizes how disgusting smoke can be to non-smokers.

It is amazing to witness and be a victim of such atrocity (if you may). Well, (not that I have not been tempted to) wish I had the heart to rebuff a smoker to have let off smoke on my face probably I would if I had asthma or were pregnant.

I feel like smacking the parents who smoke with their little children around them.

I see these ads on bus stops and subway trains with messages for “quit smoking”, and the dangers of “second hand smoking” (especially to children). I would really like to see some ads that would tell if the “second hand smoking” ads really work.

Working as a rehabilitation counselor and dealing with addictions, I wonder why we do not treat smoking for what it is: an addiction that corrodes the society. Cigarette smoking is not just any other drug/alcohol addiction in at least one way, i.e. not something to be ashamed of.

Oh! one should see the smokers congregation everyday in front of the art colleges (SVA or FIT for the matter), as if smoking is inseparable to creativity. Smoking is so normal, that its dangers have never been able to overcome the normalization yet. What can one say when counselors and doctors themselves are smokers, and we have designated areas to smoke around rehabilitation facilities/clinics/hospitals.

To understand the politico-economic basis of cigarette industry won’t be arduous. Following that it won’t be hard either to understand why cigarette smoking is not considered a social aberration, crime, and a serious threat to self and others, when it actually is.

What if we had public smoklets (like toilets, ya!), where smokers should go in to smoke away their lungs to dust? And the smoke would go through some recycling pipes before the air is let out to the open. Now I think that this is a legitimate proposal! Come on, if we can raise hell over pollutants from vehicles why not try to curb the human chimneys’ free poison reign over our air.

Now coming back to my claim regarding the fart vs. smoke choice, not that I would easily forgive a person to have let go in a crowded subway train or in an elevator, but at least I know that farts don’t hurt beyond the fleeting olfactory discomfort (I hope!).

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By Amrita Misra

It was an overcrowded bus, during rush hour, in Manhattan. I felt literally drained and was more than happy to have secured a seat. To my courtesy’s luck a young girl (about 13yrs old) stepped into the bus with her mother. The girl was holding a piece of pizza on a paper plate. And the mother-daughter combo drifted through the crowd and found a place to stand right in front of me. Oh well! I had to give up my seat. There were no elderly, pregnant women, or anybody with canes around & .so I thought this young girl (balancing a pizza slice) would be more deserving than me to have a seat. So I offered her my seat. She was delighted and thanked me profusely. And as we were exchanging our positions, the bus braked and my backpack hit the girl’s paper plate &..and plop! The pizza was on the floor, twisted, and a pepperoni piece landed on someone”s shoe. I bet I looked like I had seen a ghost at that moment, and the girl’s face was blushing. I said sorry and she said its ok. It was the courteous faux-pas of the year and it was not ok. I said sorry over and over, and the girl’s face turned sadder and sadder. I could think of only one thing to do, be courteous again. Before my stop, I offered her 3 bucks, and said have another slice, it will make me feel better. The sparks in her eyes were back and she gladly accepted the greens and I alighted the bus feeling better about myself.

Studying in a catholic school for the first 7 yrs of my school life, I learnt most of the courteousness rules that I was supposed to from my Anglo-Indian teachers and sisters (desi -nuns); “thank you”, “sorry”, “excuse me”, “to smile”, “eat with closed mouth and less noise”, and “greeting” being among the must knows. Now I feel, it was more an arduous effort to imitate our masters than becoming good human beings. At home, my parents also had their notions of being courteous, i.e. use common sense. For example, if there were a big stone (or banana peel, more importantly) in middle of a walkway it had to be picked up/kicked away from the path, lest someone should get hurt. Well, I figured out “simply being nice” could be the way to go. At times I would not want to be nice but something within would force me to become courteous, e.g. with bosses or despicable people, damn me! But then there are instances when I would not know what courtesy would demand, so it is much simpler to be just nice.

However, defining nice is a difficult task, as different individuals would have different view points about being nice, depending on their personal experiences and social location. So, I switched to courtesy reluctantly. What should courtesy involve? For me, I guess, it would be providing needful (probably legitimate) assistance to someone other than oneself and acknowledging such an action verbally (or otherwise) when bestowed onto oneself by others.

I feel saddened and angered (more often) when I see that courtesy is not as common place as I expect. And I do not mean the lip service “thank you” “how are you” kind of statements one could hear echoing across the civilized populace. I mean the genuine instinct to be nice and feel good about being nice (rather than feeling proud).

According to a recent report, Uncommon Courtesy, by Reader”s Digest, NYC proved to be the most courteous city (among big cities in 35 countries). Well, a quirky smile escaped my lips, since it was not “Great” Britain. However, living in NYC since last couple of months, I was a little dismayed by the standards upheld by RD. And my dismay springs from witnessing (mostly in the public transport) discourteousness being displayed shamelessly in the city in public by alarmingly high number of people. One would see people with canes standing by the subway-train doors, while young men and women listlessly drooling on seats marked “Priority seating for disabled”; or for the matter a pregnant woman standing in front of a man dressed immaculately in a suit (apparently without a physical disability) sitting with a Metro newspaper and acting as if he cannot see the woman.

I feel that such instances are a reflection of how people feel towards others (strangers) in general….i.e. indifferent. Although we are all huddled in almost the same condition we have mastered the art to shelter our individualistic interests even when the situation demands otherwise and we do not see anything wrong in it. No wonder then that we are living in a country which is at war, and we do not even feel the pinch of human suffering. Our daily chores are not interrupted, we are reporting to work ceaselessly, and losing our consciousness in the sole pursuit of protecting “me & mine”.

Courtesy is mauled when I see hundreds of homeless sprawling the city streets and in subway stations. It is mauled when I see women, the elderly, and people with disabilities on the trains and buses begging. It is mauled when artists offer their skills for pennies on the stations or streets. It is mauled when I witness people with disabilities coming in at my workplace for “vocational rehabilitation” or “vocational evaluations” and being judged by the standards of the “non-disabled”. It is mauled when I read about violence being unleashed on women and children incessantly”.. and courtesy is going haywire, but it doesn’t hurt enough I guess.

So much for courtesy! I will be content in being nice (and angry), as and when necessary.

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By Amrita Misra

My sister (a software engineer in India) had an essay competition. The topic was “Career and Marriage- Can women have best of both the worlds?” She wanted my opinion on it and I opined:

I will not answer this question; I will simply try to critically analyze it briefly instead. I feel that the basis of the question is flawed. It indicates certain assumptions that should be discouraged; for example

1. assuming men have the best of both worlds
2. assuming women need to struggle disproportionately in order to achieve the best of both worlds
3. assuming that career is an addition to the (traditional) role of women
4. assuming that women have not found a way to juggle home and job duties satisfactorily

Secondly, who defines what is “best of the worlds”? And whose aspirations are we discussing:

1. of the chauvinist husbands of the “career-women”
2. of the patriarchal society, which dictates what’s family and what’s happiness for women
3. of the “career-women” who have “circumstantially” attained education and job, and yet adhere to the traditional notion of marriage which cannot provide an equitable position to women

The question is not only pitting the condition of women against men from a very sexist and conventional lens, it is also overlooking the social conditions that are maintaining the subjugation of women. The question is a very male centric question, which showcases a very natural concern of the male centric society.

Why should it be any less/more difficult for women to have the best of both worlds than men? It is a great matter of concern because we are unwilling to break the cocoon of our knowledge/expectations of what the role of men and women should be.

If work is a part of life, so is marriage; may it be the work of a homemaker or moneymaker or money-cum-homemaker. Traditional marriages are more of an economic subjugation of women, than the need of women to be “homemakers” or the belief that children need the mothers to be at home.

What kind of careers are we talking about? If you remember/notice that we always had women around us with “careers”. The housemaids, female-laborers, female-farmers, and female-construction workers etc., have been juggling home and work (for ages) just like men, and owning more responsibilities than men. Nobody showed any concern to their well being? Then we had teachers, secretaries, nurses, clerks etc., making a little more than the ones mentioned above, who always have been a part of India’s economy. And most of them had families.

Thus, viewing it from another angle it might seem that, as the earning power of women is increasing, and the range of careers they are infiltrating into is broadening, the apprehensions for the wellbeing of the family unit and the ability of women to secure the best of two worlds is growing. The women are marching on to claim their economic independence; however the basic societal unit, i.e. the traditional family structure and roles are not keeping up with the change. Additionally, the government and the corporate sectors, which are primarily male-dominated, have not been able to restructure in order to accommodate the changes that are required to re-weave the social fabric and make it more favorable for women and children.

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