Unlike the rule of law, the rules of social conduct are often strictly obeyed. These “rules” ,obviously unwritten and silent,dictate the gamut of social behaviour, from socially appropriate body language, to gestures, mannerisms, pitch of voice in a particular social context, to clothing, dress,etiquette, and accent.
Normally, the majority of people in any group or culture know the rules. But sometimes they don’t. Which brings us to Bangalore. Pardon the hyperbole, but never before have so many people, made such a big transition, in such a short time:in our city of about seven million people, about half are immigrants in the sense of having moved to the city within the last 15 years and the other half have seen Bangalore change so much in the last 15 years, that it’s not home anymore.
From an emotional perspective, we are all immigrants.
In this new, emerging culture,the rulebook is up for grabs.Each group or subculture triesto influence the direction of the culture, writing rules, so to speak. In its most egregious form, the lack of social consensus about these new rules allows such things as attacks on women for wearing western attire. If the majority were in consensus – that women have every right to wear whatever they want and go to pubs if they choose to – it’s doubtful that the attacks would have even occurred.
It is the lack of social consensus about what’s right that allows people to do what’s wrong.
In one way or the other, everygroup and subculture is in the process of negotiating and understanding its own rules:organisations and employees,politicians and constituents,employees and employers,parents and children, between in-laws, friends, and husbands and wives, and sometimes,shopkeepers and customers.
Recently, I was at anupmarket shoe shop in thecentre of Bangalore.
By way of piped music, theywere playing unexpurgatedEminem “Yo motherf*****.”
“Does your manager know you are playing this?” I asked the man behind the cash counter.
“I am the manager, Sir,” he said. And added, by way of explanation, “This is rap music.”
My issue is with the lyrics, not the genre, I wanted to tell him.But what’s the point? It’s not as if I don’t listen to Eminem – I happen to think he’s a genius.I just thought it was inappropriate in a shop I might bring my child to. Then again,the two other customers inthe shop, women in their fifties, seemed unconcerned as they leisurely browsed through the shoes. Why was I suddenly indulging in moral policing?
“You want me to put some other music, Sir?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “Thank you for asking.”
We will eventually figure out the new rules. But until then, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a tourist or a long time Bangalorean, son of the soil, or fresh off the plane, boat, or bus.You don’t know the new rules.