Thursday, 20 September 2007

Man-watching

I've always wondered why plainclothesmen look, well, so much like plainclothesmen. Perhaps it's that old adage, once a cop, always a cop. No matter what you're wearing.

The other day, an Ambassador filled with burly plainclothes officers heaved it's way past us near the M G Road. And as usual, the men inside looked like they were sitting on a hot, tin roof, and about to jump out any minute -- you know what I mean, that shoulders-hunched-up, body-turned-towards -the-door, head swivelling-around posture
that is the trademark of cops everywhere. Of course, if these were the FBI, they'd also be shouting "Let's Go! Let's Go!" into the sleek, robotic arms stuck in their ears and they wouldn't be caught dead in an Ambassador. But then thankfully, Indian cops still look more or less human.

Anyway, the minute I saw those men, I knew they were cops. Which got me thinking? Do we look like our jobs? Politicians look like what they really are -- never mind the starched white kurtas they favour. Purity is not external, isn't it?

For that matter, I don't think that IT guys, if you'll pardon the slightly derogatory turn-of-phrase, look zoned out, unless of course you hear them speak of codes and C++. After all, if she's talking about Java, she could be referring to coffee. And then of course, if you hear a patently false American accent comin' out of an obviously born-and-brought-up-in-Mumbai-or-Bangalore Yuppie, I guess you can safely assume he or she works for a call centre.

But do I look like a journo? Okay, so I don't wear khadi stuff, but then no one really does nowadays -- apart from my mother who loves khadi silk sarees (which are quite lovely, by the way) --unless you're working for a arty NGO and have an "issue" that you need publicity for. But then, I notice things others don't. I see how smartly dressed youngsters have no qualms chucking soft drink cans, rolled up wrappers and god knows what else onto the road and no one cares; I see little street children with dead eyes cartwheeling before an audience of stony faces in air-conditioned cars; I see respectable old men staring lasciviously at skimpily-clad barely-out-of-teenage girls who don't give a damn. I shudder for the girls' mothers; I die inside for those street kids. I feel like spanking those pampered youngsters. But I do nothing.

If that's what being a journalist means. I now realise what I'm about. I don't look like my job. I live it. And hate it and love it. All at the same time.