Monday, December 25, 2006

Identity


Soon after my schooling in 1994, I did Hotel Management from IHM, Chennai. As part of the course, students get opportunity to work in star hotels and get a feel of the industry. What I observed was that in 5 star hotels autos were not being allowed to go till the portico. Guests who traveled by autos had to get down at the gate and walk into the hotel.

I quit the industry soon after I joined. No, it was not because they did not allow autos inside hotels. I hated the life as an employee in a hotel.

After many years, I was recently standing at Taj Coromandel’s porch. And to my amazement, there came an auto and two foreign tourists got down and walked in. The security which is quite tight at Coromandel allowed the auto to go. It was quite shocking, actually. I quizzed the Durban on how come an auto was allowed. He told me then that many foreign guests had requested hotel management to allow auto inside the hotel. Why? Autos to them were true Indian experience, amongst many other things.

Isn’t it quite funny? As Chennaites (and am sure it’s true for other metros, too), we abhor autos. And here are these foreign visitors who want to experience it.

And actually, autos are truly Indian. They are our identity.

I have been thinking about it for sometime. I have come to believe that the recent attempts by some Western Governments to dissuade Muslim women from wearing bukhas and head scarves to school/class is an indicator of intolerance. It is an attempt to erase a strong, historical identity.

Similarly, very recently, British Airways got into an unnecessary skirmish with the church in England over its decision to not allow Nadia Eweida, an employee wear a tiny cross while on work.

Think about it, can you ask a Brahmin to remove his cross belt or a Sardar to shave.

Why is it that the tolerance levels today are so low?

Its not just identity, even behaviors we are not familiar with is matter of ridicule.

A couple of years back, I had gone to Delhi as part of a training program. Couple of colleagues from other metros too had joined in.

After our work, when we came back to hotel room, I switched on TV to watch Sun TV. A colleague from Mumbai commented in a not so subtle derogatory manner about Tamilians and their affinity to Sun TV. Hey come on, that’s what I like! Similarly, many North Indians ridicule that South Indians prefer plumpy heroines. First of all, it is not true; secondly, even if it is so, what’s wrong with that.

I guess if each one of us is able to increase tolerance levels and appreciate different cultures and their identity, we will have a better society to live in. I guess that is a difficult proposition.

While, there are many ways to achieve that, I feel that educational institutes should not be run by religious institutions. Nor should an institute have religious leanings.

Anyway, I am sure our leaders are thinking about it. Or are they?

One has fallen back to the temple issue while the other is busy segregating.

Picture source: http://www.rajinifans.com/
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