The Chameleon In Our Blood
The heat is on… there’s red-hot cusswords on everyone’s lips, perfectly complemented by that dehydrated, prisoner-of-(summer’s)war look on most faces. Bombay’s reputation as the ‘melting pot’ takes on a painfully literal avatar during the summers. Even a measly fifteen minutes in the sun paints most of our fair-skinned bawas/bawis into sizzling hues of red, enough to make Delhi Darbar’s tandoori chicken blush! When I pointed that out to one of our octogenarians (at her South Bombay Baug, ground-floor apartment, from where we watch our lovely lads and lassies pass by) who was hosting me for a delish lunch over the weekend, she grudgingly agreed, sipping her falooda, lamenting how we used to be so much more “gora” during the British Raj…
“After the British left, we started looking more like Indians and became darker,” she said in her matter-of-factly tone, with her unique ability to not make that line sound racist. Truth is, she’s anything but racist – doesn’t have a mean bone in her frail, little body and has been exceedingly kind and generous with all who come her way, especially her domestic help – right from treating them with respect, educating their children to contributing magnanimously towards their marriages, etc. But she has her ‘scientific observations’ (I call them moments) and sticks to them with a passionate intensity – comparable only to the love of us Parsis for our eeda (eggs)!
Over the years, I have learnt to not argue with her ‘racist-sounding’ statements and let the moment pass. But apparently, Peelu aunty wasn’t there yet and went on to add yet another gem with, “Maybe we have some chameleon in our blood!” And that – as much as I hate parting with my falooda on a hot, hot afternoon – made me splutter some right out of my mouth!
“What? Now we are chameleons?”
“Ya baba, ya!” she gushed, revelling in her Eureka moment. “I think we try to camouflage ourselves as per our benefit – we change our colour based on those around us!” Being someone who learns from experience, albeit at shameful speeds, I did not bring in biology’s limitations, nor point out that we weren’t on Mars. Plus, I had learnt just a half hour ago that she had boycotted watching the IPL this year altogether, inspite of being a great cricket fan, because she was “torn between her loyalty to Mumbai Indians and her undying love for Dhoni”, and had refused to spend another entire IPL season marinated in guilt. Plus, I wasn’t ready to return home lunch-less.
But as I did return home that day, I couldn’t help but reflect on her candid statement, “Maybe we have some chameleon in our blood,” and how we are susceptible to camouflaging ourselves to our advantage. Needless to say, I’m not talking about our integumentary system – the truth in Peelu aunty’s statement went way beyond being skin-deep. As a Community, we seem to be increasingly losing, over the decades, along with our ‘fairness’, also our sense of loyalty, integrity and steadfastness of purpose. Our myopic penchant for selfish, short-term gains shows across most walks of life, across multiple situations – in terms of our relationships, our industriousness, our (lack of) enterprise, and in our choices that impact us as individuals and as a Community.
When we give in to that ‘chameleon in our blood’, we do the biggest disservice to our own strength of integrity and dilute the camaraderie and commitment to our Community, ultimately decimating our very own sense of self-belief and identity. This ‘chameleon in our blood’ perches atop the uppermost branch of the tree of disunity, rearing its ugly head the highest during situations loaded with political f(l)avours. It’s only going to get hotter as we head into another season of campaigning for the oncoming elections, with the social media circuit already ablaze this summer with untruths, half-truths and lies… all twisted to match the various hues of selfish, gray agendas.
In the coming months, as we ready to get bombarded with election campaigns and propagandas, it would serve us well to base our decisions not on false promises that serve our selfish purpose, but on verified data and track records that prove their commitment to the betterment of our community. The Chameleon in our blood needs to be tamed, if not exorcised – there is no greater boiling issue this summer!
Have a good weekend!