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The impotence of middle class morality

We studied George Bernard Shaw's 'Pygmalion' in school. I remember a character, Mr Dolittle (not sure of the spelling), who made a compelling argument against what he called middle class morality. The crux was that the rich can do whatever they want, the poor are desperate and therefore have no standards to match up to. It is the middle class who get screwed (I am paraphrasing heavily here) because they have to live up to certain norms of morality without the means to do so.

Closer home was this serial called 'Wagle ki duniya' which used to come on telly in the eighties . This was about a middle aged, middle class man, Mr Wagle, and his struggle for existence. There was an episode where he had to give a bribe to a government official. Nothing new about that. But the twist was that straight laced Mr Wagle had no idea about how to give a bribe!

I remember our then school principal, Mrs Kapper, gave that as an example of how all of us should be good, honest, law abiding human beings.

We learnt a lot of things in school - Shakespeare's favoured metre, the directive principles of the Constitution, the reproductive organs of a frog, the rise and fall of Napolean, Boolean algebra (what the hell was that now).... and so on.

Unfortunately what we didn't learn was how to deal with the real world. The world where there are no rules.

Look at us and our housing society problems for example. We have been held to ransom for about three months by the senile, obstinate, one foot in the grave, uncooperative secretary of our 'cooperative housing society'.

To quickly recap the issue - we wanted to rent out our house and rent a larger place. The secretary had said there was no problem. We went ahead and to took a larger place. Once we did so he said we could not rent out our OWN house! He cited a resolution to this effect which has been allegedly passed by the society. Since then he has refused to show us the resolution. Nor is he offering a solution. He says the 'committee' has to decide. And that committee apparently has not met for the three months since. He has even brought up ridiculous thing saying that the bank we have taken a loan will not allow us to rent out our house. I called my bank immediately, found that this was not true and told him to stop bluffing.

So this means that that we are now paying a sizable rent for new house and the EMI for the loan on our house. Without being able to rent out our own house.

We thought we will at least shift our loan to a bank with lower interest rates. We are stumped there too as they want a no objection certificate from the society.

Our only fault was that we played by the rules and were civil. We have tried everything. Put in proper applications. Been very courteous and polite with him. Then been curt with him. Yesterday I even lost my temper with him(tough as people who know me will find this to believe).

Some suggested going to the Registrar of Housing Society' office. That is a maze like all government offices - no timings, no accountability, be prepared to grovel. We went there a couple of times on an office day. The person wasn't there. We met the registrar on the third attempt and was told to come a week later. A week later they were busy. You get the gist.

The system is not geared for working couples like us and now my in laws will try their luck again.

The other suggestion was litigation. Again that's something people like us wouldn't want to get in for time and money constraints.

And for what? For being able to rent out our own flat? The flat which we have paid for by our hard earned money? Money for which we put our lives on hold for at least two years after we bought it by cutting down all expenses - eating out, movies, etc? The flat for which we have paid every possible tax and paid in white without resorting to any form of subterfuge?

What right does the society, the secretary and their ancestors have to put us in this position? In fact as I asked him yesterday, how does he sleep at night with a clear conscience?

The system is geared against one. You have a body like the housing society, with no accountability or use, calling the shots. You have a government body, the Registrar, which is a maze. And a litigation system which only fools rush in.

And the irony is that this system exists in Mumbai. The city which is supposed to be the one which is synonymous with freedom.

There are people who can get their way around to get their way. Bravado, muscle power, bribery, hit men, sweet talking, manipulative call it what you want but they get what they need through any means.

And then there is us.

We fret, we blog, we quitely stomach what's dished out to us and live out our life by the rules of middle class morality.

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