Who said we are intolerant?

I woke up that morning and with lead-leaden half-closed eyes, walked into the kitchen to see it brimming with dishes that were a sad reminder of all the glorious meals I’d cooked the previous day. While those meals had been inviting, the look of the dishes was repelling, to say the least. Yes, my domestic help hadn’t shown up. She’d asked for a day’s leave, and here I was reeling under her absence for three days. I was furious. I had a work from home shift that would start at 8, the hands of the clock barely 30 mins away from my sign-in time. I knotted my out-of-the-bed hair into a shabby little bun and got to work.

I made a mental note to give it to her when she’d return; I mean, asking for a day’s leave and disappearing for a convenient vacation was something I wouldn’t tolerate, obviously. Once I got started with my shift, I somehow got thinking. We, as working professionals, have a fixed number of leaves we can avail. These domestic helps have none. I softened. She didn’t come for the next two days. When she did come, she had no excuse. I let her off, all I told her was, “please don’t do this again.” She nodded her head and went about her business. “You were that tolerant,” my husband asked me. I shrugged my shoulders. Yes, I was.

The other day, we went to this hip place and ordered some food. The aloo gobhi we ordered turned out to be stale. I wasted no time in pointing this out to my husband, who sensed the same. We called the waiter and in a hushed tone, told him that same thing. No, he didn’t replace it with something else, but he did strike it off the bill and we had sealed the deal there. Had it been in the United States of America, the restaurant would have been sued. For millions of dollars, that too. We let them off, because we are tolerant.

And then there are people who decided to use the roads and streets as their ancestral properties, demonstrating their unhappiness in the form of protests, or celebrating the birthday of one of the gazillion Godmen we have. I don’t have a problem with that. But, when one is trying to reach some place urgently, it’s these demonstrations that cause traffic snarls and choke the roads, leaving no room for vehicles to even move at a snail’s pace. Job-goers get shouted at as soon as they reach office, meetings and appointments get delayed and some plans just fall flat on their faces because of one section wanting to demonstrate their opinion on the roads. Do we shout at them? Do we beat them up? No. We simply wait for the traffic to get unclogged. Because we are tolerant.

Our phones buzz with people wanting to us to know that we are eligible for credit cards and that our online shopping experience can be better. There are times this happens when we are expecting an important call or in the middle of something significant. Do we yell or threaten to raise a complaint? We simply ask them not to call, or the fact that we are not interested. We are polite, we are civilised. Because we are tolerant.

We tolerate Arnab Goswami high-decibel-led rants, we tolerate the neighbour’s nasal voice screaming, we tolerate people deciding to celebrate Diwali right at the time when we are slipping into an intense night-slumber. We are aware that the pani pura waala might have been digging his nose right before he pricks open that crunchy puri, we are aware that people might do a shoddy job when we are not watching. But, we tolerate. We tolerate power-cuts when we drown in our own sweat, we tolerate the pot-holes that threaten to break our spines. We tolerate a stray auto driving on the wrong side, we tolerate our drivers using their phones while ferrying us to our destinations. Yes, we tolerate.

We tolerate not because we are a bunch of imbeciles, but because we know that not everything can be solved by yelling or fist fighting. Sometimes, when things and people around us are so diverse, we have to learn to merge in; we have to live and let live. We tolerate because we are humane, we try to slip into the other person’s shoes. We are not stupid, and once the boundaries of tolerance are breached, we won’t hesitate to pay back in the same coin either.


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