Saturday, 7 March 2009

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.

16 comments:

Scarlett said...

Thought the situation would've resolved itself by now. Seems there are only two options for you now - wait for the old man to die to go the litigation route! Unless you can get hold of someone at the Registrar of Housing Society that is. After all, you NEED to rent out your old house, right?

The knife said...

@Scarlett...no still stuck. On a mortal pane my in laws are going to the registrar today. Let's see. Plus we plan to write to the other members and pepper them with letters. Also thought of doing a police complaint - full Khosla ka Ghosla...Karmakar version

Rhea said...

Yeah. You should go to the cops. Man, this sucks! It's your house.. N what is he getting out of the whole deal? Maybe a little bit of arm twisting is needed.

The knife said...

@Rhea: yes we are planning to go to the police. Just need to get someone who speaks Marathi!
On a serious note the system is just loaded against regular folks.
My inlaws went to the registrar at Bandra all the way from Dadar. Only to be told that the relevant guy is on leave as he has to take an exam! this is our fifth visit. Kainaz and I left our work and went twice. Then she went alone once as I had a meeting. My in laws went twice.
How can anyone who has to work for a living beat the system? The society guy probably knows this and is banking on it

Rhea said...

Sucks!! I hope things work out for you both soon. Let us know.

Rhea said...

Oh, that sucks! I hope things work out for the both of you real soon.

Anaggh A. Desai said...

Pardon my saying this, but your secretary of the society is lying thru the teeth. Get a book of bye laws of the society (RS 30-50) from a book store & it would have all the details.

Citing the section, send a letter to all the committee members by Regd A.D. giving them 7 days notice, failing which you would take it up with the Registrar of the society.

And the Registrar has become quite efficient these days.

Besides there are umpteen people who would take this case & help you sort it out.

Let me know if I can be of more assistance.

k said...

my mom has the book of bye-laws. we can go through it.

The knife said...

Dear Anaggh,

Thanks a ton for dropping by and writing in. We were planning to write to the committee members. your suggestion of quoting the bye laws and giving a deadline would definitely make the effective.

Am keeping my fingers crossed in the registrar. My mom in law is good at making people more efficient...she once helped us take on an insurance company that was acting funny

Anaggh A. Desai said...

Page 16 Sub letting etc of Flats 43.1;2; 44;45 of the book Bye Laws of the Co-operative Housing Society Limited

The knife said...

Hey Anaggh, thanks a ton for writing in with the specifics. I have got hold of the book and will write an application in the prescribed form.
Not too sure about the registrar's efficiency levels though. They don't have a number where you can find out if they are open. My mom in law was supposed to go there, then found out by calling a peon (she is a resourceful lady) and found out the guy wasn't there

Brian said...

As I understand it, Morality is a state of conduct not necessarily expenditure. Middle-classed morality could be understood to be the expectation of men to fend for themselves and to protect women, while women on the other hand are expected to be tended to, having certain social tasks done for them in a chivalrous manner. The definition is unclear yet middle class morality strikes me as social expectations. I don't see a connection to material possession, or needing to have a "means" to live up to within the term.

The knife said...

Hi Brian, thanks for pitching. The point I was making was similar to yours. The middle calss lives by certain social mores - some of which you had described. Living by these mores means living by rules which then makes it difficult to take on who don't play by the rules.

I was not making a connection to material possessions though

C. Ialis said...

What we have had, therefore, is a process that has been running for many years, with massive discussions between officials – with the very occasional intervention by ministers – a full-scale consultation exercise with groups in all member states and then the appearance of legislation. But this has all been done at a European level and they only time our parliament gets to know about it formally (or at all) is after the new law is made and due to go into force.In a different time, this highly contentious measure is one that we would expected to get a full airing in parliament, with a vote taken representing the best interests of the nation, based on full evaluation of the issues and the competing claims.But the one body which has not been involved is that parliament, demonstrating its impotence with absolute clarity, as completely irrelevant to the legislative process. No doubt, the MPs are highly delighted with this. Relieved of the duty to discuss and approve legislation, they have that much more time for constituency work, for electioneering, for internal politics and for submitting their expenses claims.

L. Ovex said...

At the risk of misusing the word, I'll just point out that the truth is that we all filter everything we learn through structure of our own beliefs and the mental models we construct to support those beliefs. I like to think of science as a powerful means of penetrating the structure of those mental models, but that's probably not a good analogy. That's because, for science to work at changing our preconceptions, we have to have the validity of science already strongly incorporated into the structure of our own mental models. If it's not, then science is more likely to bounce harmlessly off of the force field our beliefs create to repel it. (Yes, I'm a geek.) As a result, all other things being equal, when people see studies that confirm their beliefs they tend to view them as unbiased and well-designed, while if a study's conclusions contradict a person's beliefs that person is likely to see the study as biased and/or poorly done. As MacCoun puts it, "If a researcher produces a finding that confirms what I already believe, then of course it's correct. Conversely, when we encounter a finding we don't like, we have a need to explain it away."

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