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Two kinds of people

Metaphor bipolar disorder mind mental. Split personality. Mood disorder. Psychology and mental health.  

Until a few years ago, I ran a small restaurant in Vellore. We had two kinds of clients. At lunch time, a group of labourers from the nearby cement factories would come in with hungry stomachs. They carried 50-kg sacks on their backs from the lorries to the godowns and back all day. When they came, they were tired, famished and covered in cement dust.

The first time they came in, I cringed, as my spotless floors were soon covered in dust. But then I saw them eat. The rice and sambhar disappeared quickly and after the first round, it was rice and rasam.

It took us some time to get used to each other. Slowly they began asking questions. “Why are you, a woman running this place?” “Oh, you’ll close down in two months…” Then two months later as we were still open, I noticed a new respect and affection for me.

I, in turn, tried to look out for them too. I chose fresh vegetables to give their lunch variety. I found them picking them out and placing them in one corner of the plate. Just give us potatoes and pickle, they said. One day one of them said, “Amma, we work hard until our bodies ache so much; we drink hard to ease the pain. That is the only life we know. But we want more than this for our children.” And one by one they told me how well their children were doing in local schools. Their faces beamed, their voices so full of pride.

My other clients used to come in mainly in the evening — they were the privileged sons and daughters of the wealthy from all over India. Most grumbled that they were sent here by their parents and would rather be somewhere else, doing something else. Some of them would spend the afternoons having coffee, watching TV, playing board games. One day, some of the cement workers and the students were there at the same time.

I introduced them to each other and told them what the other was doing. One group of students was playing carrom and invited some of the labourers to join the game. After a while all of them had a loud, boisterous game. I watched from the sidelines, quietly happy. The great differences of class, background, language had all been conquered and for a while they were all just men enjoying a game.

This harmony that I saw made me think about a time when another group came in and asked, “Can’t they sit outside?” and when I replied, “No,” they made a rude face at me behind my back.

After a few months, it pleased my heart no end to hear that some of the students were helping out with the workers children’s education — from giving special classes to playing cricket.

What is it that makes some people respect the poor and reach out to them, while another set treats them with disdain?

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 3:07:05 AM |

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