[Reader-list] Being confused by the normal

Rana Dasgupta rana_dasgupta at yahoo.com
Fri Oct 19 16:52:27 IST 2001

The CEO of the company where I work recently recounted
to me how he had been walking in one of Delhi's
upscale markets when someone driving past threw a used
coke cup at his feet.  He picked it up, walked up
behind the car, and handed it to the driver.  "I think
you dropped this," he said.  The man took the cup from
him, drove on, and threw it out of the window further
down the road.

I quite liked my colleague's stance of mock
bewilderment.  The affectation of a kind of utter
confusion when confronted with mere normality - "You
cannot have *intended* to drop this cup!"

I tried the experiment myself.  Outside Defence Colony
bakery a man threw his burger wrapper in the street in
front of me.  I called out to him in my most fraternal
voice, "You dropped something," pointing urgently as
if at a crucial piece of paper that would have been
lost were it not for me.  

He turned round.  "Oh that - it's just a wrapper," he
garbled through his burger, with a smile of gratitude
mixed with protein.

"Yes I realise.  Why are you littering the street with

"This place is full of litter anyway.  It doesn't make
any difference."

"Maybe it's littered because of people like you." 

But he'd gone.

A couple of weeks later in the same market a
middle-aged man threw a polystyrene container out of a
car in front of me.  I picked it up and gaily knocked
on his window, gesturing to him to lower it.  "You
dropped this," I said with a smile, returning his
waste to him again as if it were a long-lost and much
regretted pet.

He did not seem emotional at the reunion.  He took it
with a glare and wound his window up.  

I walked out of the market into the street and stood
waiting for an auto.  As the traffic moved, the man
followed me in his car, stopped in front of where i
was standing, wound down his window, and threw the
packet at me.  And drove off.

People can be quite hostile when you take them for
being more concerned about the city than they actually
are.  They seem to think you are criticising them.

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