“No more fiendish punishment could be devised than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed. If no one turned around when we entered, answered when we spoke, or minded what we did, but if every person we met “cut us dead” and acted as if we were non-existent things, a kind of rage and impotent despair would well up in us”

~ William James.

In India we not only have status based on class, we have it based on caste and also a combination of both.  Neither matter under some special “circumstances”.

Let me share a recent story.  I had gone to a party where I was introduced to a highflying executive.  While his present status was clearly mentioned, mine was simply mentioned as a Senior Citizen of Pune.  In fact, the host had no idea whatsoever as to who I was and I was there only because his son wanted to meet me as he had brought a book for me from the USA from another friend.

This executive after exchanging pleasantries disappeared and I did not meet him again that evening.

Last week, I had invited two friends for lunch at my club and we were busy chatting about a project that we are involved in when the same executive happened to pass by and stopped at my table to say hello while his host was delighted to see me there as he had not seen me for a while.  It registered on the executive that I too was a member of the club and his entire demeanour changed.  He insisted on sharing his visiting card with me and said that he would like to come over and meet me at home.  All because I am a member of that club.  A status symbol if any thing, and one that explains what status can do to individuals. This incident was still fresh in my mind when I suggested the topic.

Once a tiger entered the washroom in a Corporate Office and hid in a dark corner.
Many people frequented the washroom, after four days it couldn’t bear hunger anymore, so it caught a man who had come in, and ate him.

This man happened to be an Assistant General Manager in the organisation but, nobody noticed his disappearance.

Since nothing untoward happened, the Tiger became bolder and after two days caught another man and ate him.

This man was the General Manager of the organisation.

Still, nobody worried over his disappearance.

Next day, the Tiger caught the Vice President who was a terror in the organisation. Again nothing happened.

Then Tiger caught a man who had entered the washroom while balancing a tray of teacups in one hand.

Within 15 minutes a huge hue and cry ensued, and everyone in the office started looking for the man. The search team reached the washroom, flushed out the Tiger and saved the unconscious man. He was the tea boy in the office.


*It is not the position, but our usefulness to others that makes us loveable and respectable. If your subordinates are happy in your absence that means you are not a perfect leader.*

From the book *Tiger in the Toilet*

This topic has been suggested by me for this week’s Friday 2 on 1 blog posts.  Please go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say on the subject.


Payback Time.

“Everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough.”

~ George Bernard Shaw

Just as I was about to doze off on my siesta, I received a phone call on my land line. A man I had not heard from over half a century ago was on the line. He had found this blog while searching for something on Nashik and my last post on The Refugee Part 2 had a tag on Nashik.

I knew Prabhakar in Madras in the early sixties of the last century before I quit my job and went to Business School. Prabhakar was then working for a multinational oil company and was full of himself because of that and was very condescending towards me for not having graduated from a university and slogging away in the Madras heat. My friends and I thought that he was insufferable.

Naturally I did not like him much and would avoid him if we were accidentally in the same venue which often used to happen.

Prabhakar was all sweetness today and told me how he found me on the telephone book after finding our from the blog that I lived in Pune. He wished to renew our acquaintance and I almost could not resist the temptation to tell him to you know what! My curiosity prevailed over my dislike for him and I agreed to meet up with him. He now lives with his son in a newly developing suburb of Pune about 20 kilometers away from where I live. I suggested that we meet at a central place so that neither of us has to drive that distance and when I suggested that we meet at my club, I could sense that he was quite surprised that I was a member there.

Age has perhaps made him less condescending but I relished turning the screw a bit and said that I was lucky to have got the membership many years ago as now membership is closed though it is much sought after. And he took the bait and asked me how I managed to do that and I said that I applied, went through the normal high brow selection process and got selected because the selection committee felt that I would be a good addition to their membership.

We have agreed to meet up next week and I intend laying it on thick. It is a nice feeling after all these years to be able to be condescending in return.

Snobbery In Clubs.

I recently came across an interesting article in the NYT about dress codes in some New York clubs.

This led me to remember another very interesting incident in India at the Calcutta club about which my favourite news paper reported under the heading “Days Of The Raj?”

To get the full flavour of this post, please do read the two articles in depth.

The two articles talk about two different types of clubs. The former are the night clubs whose sole purpose is to provide entertainment, drink and food for their clients. The latter epitomises the social clubs which offer much more like sports and games, gyms, functions, gathering place etc.

I am a member of three clubs in India and have resigned from one very old club membership as all the three clubs that I am a member of have reciprocal arrangements with it. In two clubs I have already earned the qualification of life member and annual fees have been exempted on that score. In the other, I should hopefully be earning that distinction in the near future. I am therefore eminently qualified to write on this subject.

My home club, the Poona club the pavilion of which isfeatured above is 125 years old, with a rich history. It is a vibrant club with a great deal of activities and membership is now extremely difficult to obtain, as the infrastructure is already groaning to provide service and facilities for its members. I am a member but very inactive for the past many years but intend to change that in the near future. On the odd occasion I use the facilities to meet with people who come from the other side of the city, as the club is located in the center of the city, I make resolutions to visit more often, but laziness overwhelms me.

Many older clubs of other cities in India, like the Poona Club, are in a similar situation and with increasing population, newer clubs are sprouting in all towns and cities of India providing similar facilities. Many are better equipped and more modern, but old timers like me still feel more comfortable in the older stodgy clubs.

Apart from a very few, like the Calcutta club featured above and possibly the Madras Club, now have dress codes, though there was a time when almost all of them had. Now, if dress codes are imposed, members will simply stay away! So, the snobbery that is the thrust of the two articles linked above, is really not there. It however exists in different ways. Members of the older colonial clubs and their rival clubs started by Indians, tend to look down on the parvenu clubs and their members! Employees of the former also consider themselves to be superior! Very interesting conversations can take place when members of the older clubs meet up with members of the newer parvenu clubs and the clubs are compared with each other! I have been involved in a few, mostly as a bemused observer with little to contribute.

I am looking forward to visiting another very old Poona based club, which is just short of being 100 years old, The Deccan Gymkhana, this coming Saturday, when I attend our alumni association’s local chapter meeting that has been arranged there. I have lived in Pune the last 21 years, but have never visited that club. Shameful really.

To end this post, an interesting exchange between Big John and me in his post “It’s my turn to wear the blue sash” is worth a read. Please do read his post and all the comments in there to get a flavour of the Raj and its relics. You may even come to understand the peculiar relationship that India and Britain share.