Social beings that we are, we instinctively catch on to the grapevine (or it finds us) for spicy stories of people we know, or many times don’t even know. Just last week, I overheard my house help talking to another member from the building’s housekeeping staff. They were discussing, in hush tones and in graphic detail, the lax attitude of Swamy, the security guard currently on night duty.
“The advocate from flat 204 gets home from work at 12.30 am or later every night. This lazy man would be so drunk and asleep, he doesn’t even do his duty of opening the gate. The poor ‘saar’ has to get down from the car and open the gate himself,” one lady said to the other. The second woman replied: “No, actually it’s Chandran’s fault. He hasn’t taught Swamy his duties…”
Swamy was a wafer-thin uniformed security guard, who looked like a watered down version of Salman Khan in Dabangg, except one would wonder how capable he is of protecting the entrance to some 30-odd houses when it seemed like one strong wind was enough to blow him away. Swamy’s most visible manly feature was his moustache (Yes, just like the one Salman Khan sported in Dabangg but the similarity of physical features ends there).
Later that morning, I asked my house help about Swamy and Chandran and what was brewing between the two. And so the grapevine spread when she told me this: “Chandran has been working in this building as a security guard for many years. He has become a default Man Friday for many house owners here. He knows the workings of this apartment and knows how to solve problems.”
She continued: “But he has one major problem – night blindness. So he cannot do night duty. That deprives him of the extra money he can make from overnight charges. But, he makes up for it by working hard during the day.”
I asked her: “So what is the problem?” The house help explained: “Chandran doesn’t want to train Swamy or any other security guard and teach them all their duties properly because he is insecure.” She said that Chandran thinks that if Swamy learns the job well, he would do it better than him. This would make Chandran lose his importance in the building, especially given his night blindness. This is Chandran’s way of dealing with his own insecurity and thinking he is surviving.
I thought about this later during the day and realized that Chandran has his reasons for denying Swamy his right. It’s true that Chandran is the most popular of all security guards that rotate on shifts. When there was a leaking tap in my bathroom, I called Chandran to fix it. When I wanted my plants watered when I was out of town, I asked Chandran. When I wanted a loaf of bread from the corner store, I called Chandran.
Did this story from the grapevine, however, change my perception of Chandran? Not really. We all want to be part of a group in which people like us and appreciate us for who we are. We want to share time with people who validate our beliefs, attitudes and politics. Home owners in the apartment building appreciate Chandran for his quick thinking and problem solving skills. He wants to protect that at any cost. Yes, he is feeding his insecurity by not giving Swamy what is rightfully his. Then again, it is Swamy’s learning curve to grow out of his inertia and be aware and open to his surroundings and arrive at his own solutions.
Of lately, insecurity has been turned into a virtue. It’s insightful, what Daniel Taylor writes in The Myth of Certainty: “When people defend their world view, they are not defending reason, or God, or an abstract system; they are defending their own fragile sense of security and self-respect.”