Biology of Contempt and Shame
Two pigeons are fighting with each other in my gallery. I don’t know why. The stronger pigeon came and beat the weaker one on the back of his head with it’s sharp beak. The beak left small marks on the weaker one’s head. The other pigeon would precisely hit on the same wounds making them deeper. It also flew on top of the smaller pigeon and scratched the wound with it’s nails. The little one was fighting back vigorously. It flapped it’s wings incessantly. It tried to run away however it was just too small. Nothing was working. It was pinned in a corner and get repeated blows on the back of its head. No other place. The stronger one was very focused and persistent. As if it knew what she was doing. Systematically and methodically everyday.
It has been few days and the scalp of the weaker pigeon is now visible. There was blood dropping from it. The stronger pigeon has stopped coming now. Maybe it knows that her job is done. The weaker pigeon is not able to fly anymore. It is facing the wall. The corner. It would not move. It’s face is down. Frozen red blood marks across it’s head. Wings cringed and body shrunk. It is helplessly waiting for the inevitable. It is not eating anything or drinking anything. I can’t even imagine the agony and pain it is having. The next morning it is lying on its side. Wings wide open. Eyes facing the sky. Tear drops on it’s small face. There are few ants around his head.
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I open the semi-transparent glass door and enter the room. It is a narrow room. Longer in length and one fourth of that in breadth. I am facing the deep length. It is very dimly lit. The room is like an old Darbar of some king however much smaller in proportions. I feel my stomach cringe.
The boss is facing the entrance. He is covered by a big mahogany table in front of him. He is sitting on a big chair. A chair three times his size. He is old almost in late sixties. The two sofas on the side are facing each other. I took a seat on the one on right. I notice an man in his mid fifties on the opposite sofa. He is sitting next to the boss almost glued to the table between them. The table seemed like a hinderance for him as if he wants to sit on his boss’s lap. He seems like a right hand man of the boss. The second in command.
“I have come here to book a taxi for my friend’s marriage”. I ask looking at the boss. He ignores me and is busy fiddling with his mobile. The second in command started answering and asking his own set of questions —
“when do you want it? How much time? etc.” He takes a notebook and a pen to note my answers.
I tell them who is my friend and who has sent me. The boss suddenly looked up. Touching his face, he said “oh yes, I was just thinking about him”. His entire demeanor changed. He leaned forward and put his mobile aside. He rang a bell and a help came from curtains behind him. It was difficult to imagine how far the room stretched! He asked if I wanted tea or Coca Cola?
I said thanks but I am good and continued with my questions. This time the boss personally answered.
The man opposite to me in sofa cringed. He shifted his legs and his hands were fidgeting. I sense he somehow felt threatened. He was trying to speak in between however the boss cut him in his tracks two times. The boss made me a commitment on a price. The subordinate said, “But sir, this is not possible”
“You stupid moron. Don’t you get it who he is?” The boss shouted at the top of his lungs. “Just cancel the other appointments and cater to him. This is my shop. Do what I order you to do. Foolish idiot” Now his eyes were red. All the other staff members quickly moved around. One hid herself behind the curtain and one dug deeper in the newspaper in his hand. It was all so quick as if it were routine planned steps. It seems the boss had a flair for treating his staff with contempt. Everyone was just trying to save themselves from coming in the cross fire.
“Hehe I am so sorry for his lack of manners. He is just stupid.” The boss told me taking a sip of tea. His face was flustered. He was trying hard to hide it behind the saucer.
I was looking at the subordinate old man from the corner of my eye. The old man’s face was down. His body shrunk. He took a deep breath and hold it. His eyes getting moist, fighting. He didn’t let tear come in his eyes. He got up quietly and went inside. He was sitting on the side, facing the corner waiting for the inevitable.
I saw his face when he got up. There was no anger or frustration. There was just helplessness, shame and hurt. Something told me that he was subjected to such behavior regularly. I was just sad. My heart sank.
Both the events are completely true. Even though they were not directed at me, I felt very dearly for both the old man and the sad pigeon.
Contempt, shame and hate chip away our soul. Not sure how. But there is definitely something deeply psychological and physical in the way they manifest.
How do we fight for our dignity? How do we maintain self-respect amidst the sharpest of hate crime and oppression? I am yet to understand and learn. I think Gandhi and Martin Luther King have the answers.