The short clip went viral before you could say ‘Krishnamachari’.
It showed a man standing by his two-wheeler, open the carrier, take out a package – an aluminium foil tub-like container used by restaurants for takeaway stuff, carefully unfold the crimped foil at the edges, lift the cardboard lid, take a few mouthfuls with a spoon, and then put things back the way they were – the container showing no signs of being opened.
What’s the deal?
Well, this was a delivery ‘boy’ – actually a man in his late thirties, reaching it to a customer his order of biriyani.
The social media went berserk ‘lynching’ the ‘boy’ to shreds. The concerned store had no place to hide on mother earth. Consumerism in full cry:
- ‘How could he do it? Why are they not careful about who they employ?…See what happens when you employ never-seen-good-food-in-life. Must have picked them up from…’
- ‘Don’t they keep a watch? For all the money they charge us…’
- ‘OMG. all along I’ve been ordering from this place?…feel like puking…’
- ‘For the money we pay this is what we get in this country…where every buyer is an object of jealousy…It’s a sin here to have a good time never mind you sweated to earn it.’
- ‘The last time I was in US – oh, only a month ago…’
This was just the moment the activists were dying for (but never die). Here’s a crowd of wannabes and hoi polloi baying for the blood of a poor worker, a victim of circumstances and compulsions. Time to clear their throats, order fresh full-sized candles, banner cloth and new sheets for placards, pen slogans to raise all but the dead, plan the routes for the morcha’s and get the flock together and sharpen their knives. Before all that, set the ball rolling by announcing to the friendly press, the self-assumed purveyor and guardian of ‘the Truth’ thriving on a life-line of dysfunction in any society:
- ‘How insensitive can you (pigs) get? Do you know if the poor man gets two square meals a day?’ Do they still come in squares?
- ‘The store is exploiting them by not paying living wages. Can you blame them for wanting to live and with some dignity?’ Dignity, eh?
- ‘Can’t you have a modicum of sympathy for him – he braves heat all day and cold all night (those were conditions at the gulags, you thought, right?) for you to have food in the comforts of your home.’ If that doesn’t get you rushing outside with your unfinished plate in hand, in an attack of guilt, what will?
- ‘After three years of service, why has he not been made a supervisor yet? Where are the promotion opportunities?…They must be made permanent employees with benefits….Make your customers pay for it. Why not – they’re having it good, don’t they?’
- ‘What is the government doing about it? Does our country-hopping PM ever spare a thought for them?…Why don’t they fund the benefits at least?’
Stung to the quick by the unfolding events, the store with great alacrity retrieved the situation for itself the only way it could – called the contractor supplying the ‘boys’ to order his man double-quick back to the barracks and issued a merchant-cum-employer-of-the-year-award-winning statement assuring they have taken action right away to protect the interests of their esteemed customers and, what more, they would push their contractors to ensure a fair deal for the ‘boys’. The MBA’s at their HO had earned for once their keep.
However, even after a couple of days, thanks mainly to the activists piping in unmixed oxygen, the fire did not show signs of abatement. Until…
On the third day, a maverick from the press claimed he had uncovered the ‘Truth’, the whole ‘Truth’: it was all a sham show engineered by a business rival against the store…In those two days the perpetrator had even ‘rehabilitated’ the poor thrown-on-to-the-street ‘boy’ in a supervisory position in its own operation! He did not get a snap of the ‘boy’ laughing away.
At one stroke, many things happened or changed:
- Suddenly the store became the victim eliciting loads of sympathetic clicks, real tongue-y ones and virtual on screen.
- The activists lost their hero who just disappeared from public light, leaving them em-bare-assed to a shocking shade of pink. Not before floating a counter-allegation: the whole show was a PR stunt by the store to garner attention! Proved to be a damp Sivakasi-cracker (Though it did raise in some minds the plausibility of alternative theories). But then, they were not to be denied; after all no dog (read ‘the society’) is forever free of sores – there was always one more to pick.
- The consumers, happy to overlook the deviant behaviour marking it as unfortunate and one-shot, quickly reverted to their old ways.
- General public were amused initially at the breaking report, some spitefully at that with evil glee, later confused by what the adversarial groups pressed on loudly as the ‘Truth’ and finally turned apathetic out of sheer fatigue, not caring one whit on how the matter stood eventually if at all. To heck with the ‘Truth’. They just didn’t want to think, to be bothered – that was it.
- The story was no longer worth column-inches for the press. A follow-up story a few months later? Yes, perhaps. The maverick reporter became a pariah in his community for doing the unthinkable – bringing a story that had all the potential of becoming another saas-bhi-kabhi-bahu-thee (an interminable Hindi soap that stretched over years) prematurely to an anticlimactic closure.
The fiction above is but a microcosm of the play in real world where the curtains stay permanently raised up for a non-stop run of scams and the public looking away helplessly in disgust, disbelief and disinterest.
The wise rishi’s up there in the high mountains meditating on and seeking ‘Truth’ are not back yet. It is quite likely they’re successful in their quest before long while we putter around in the plains?
Source: Inspired by a one-page story in Kumudam which in turn was based on a recent real-life incident widely covered in the press. Image from latestly.com