JournalismPakistan.com August 7, 2017
For those of us who live our lives cocooned in smugness and believe that thunder in the sky is celestial applause for our status and our sense of self-importance here is a wake-up call. My daughter carried a forward on Facebook exquisitely well written by a lady called Sangeetha. It certainly resonated with the 30 something crowd who have grown up in Dubai and know no other place to call home, having arrived on these shores swathed in baby clothes or starting off in kindergarten.
It is a nostalgic piece internalizing the conflict of having to leave after 30 years and go back home because dad has been retrenched and one cannot afford to stay.
So, it is up on the personal site and the messages start pouring in. Some people wish my daughter good luck, other people say they are sorry to hear she is leaving. A couple tells her they know she will do well in India. One person even says she should think about it, major decision. Someone she has been friends with writes to say you will love Canada not that the maple leaf was mentioned anywhere.
After we have stopped laughing, we assess these responses and what they mean. For one, people do not read. They glance or skim and leap to conclusions without really ingesting the information. Just as we have stopped listening we have also stopped reading or paying attention. The fact that many of these people are known to my daughter makes it all the more hilarious.
It is such a come down with a thud thing. That’s how important you are in the lives of others. For these kids, unlike their parents who have known of a life in another country, the relocation is a lot more traumatic. And being wrenched away after three decades and more is truly tough. This is home. Yet, it cannot be forever and one has to compare living here to the transient nature of stopping over in a biz class lounge. Great amenities but once your flight is called the 40-minute friends are out of the window. Gone is the intimacy.
Pretty much like these people who dumped you in a jiffy, I say with a supreme lack of tact, ha ha, ha, they didn’t even bother calling you on the phone, they just sent you off with a meaningless fare thee well.
Being quite a sport she agreed that expat land is all about interests, not friends and foes.
And I was thinking of those splendid people who seriously surround themselves with status symbols and actually believe they are a cut above and behave like that and they do not see how quickly the waters would close over their writings in the sand. How quickly would there be a comeuppance?
We all know some of them. Pompous, highly successful people who think they are authorities on every subject and are constantly harping on about themselves -people who are in important jobs and flaunt their absurd designations like badges of honor, and fling the accouterments of office in your face to give them that sense of power.
And it never strikes them that there will be some other person sitting on that chair one day and that will happen, no one is forever and somebody will come along, so take it lightly, stop being so insufferable.
But they cannot help it and then one day, it is all over and they are retired and the sycophants and lickspittles have deserted the ship and now they are so pathetically lonely that they are not only available, they are in your face, all pleasant and warm and friendly and full of bon homie and stories to tell. Oh, what stories to tell, endless sagas of life, trying desperately to capture an audience, not even a little apologetic for the runaround they gave to 10 thousand people and more. I met one of them a few days ago, bereft of the symbols of power, no lackeys in attendance, buying groceries. He met me like we were long lost brothers, asked me to have coffee with him. Say what???
So, let me give you the six indicators that the person who thinks is worth being a friend with because he perches like a parrot and preens on some temporary Olympian cloud is not your friend or anyone else’s.
They never learn, do they?
As some of us go up the ladder of the social pyramid we tend to lose not only ourselves but our manners. Naturally, wealth and power attract hangers on and the more people who gravitate around you the more important you believe you are.
After a while, this constant attention and adulation (even if it is faked) convinces you that you are someone special and deserving of the praise lavished upon you. That is when you start to become insufferable. You actually discard old friends, forget where you came from and who you truly are; the trappings of the wealth make you blind to the reality of it all. You actually begin to believe you are anointed. You elect to go the right places, be seen with the right people (whoever that is) and not waste time on the old lot.
You would not be seen dead walking in the park or eating at a roadside stall. You drop brand names, knowing full well you cannot be contradicted. You give out certain restlessness in a company like you are bored and want to be elsewhere.
People like these who don’t believe that once they lose their jobs and their power they will be written off so fast it will make your head spin ... or they say they are leaving and taking their arrogance elsewhere and the earth doesn’t move. Not a tremor.
(The writer is a Senior Editorial Advisor of Khaleej Times and the paper’s former Editor. He has also been the Editor of Gulf News, Gulf Today, Emirates Today and Bahrain Tribune)
The Nation, February 16, 2017
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