What Would Mr. Kapoor Think?


Mr. Kapoor

“Get me some chai!”

This is Mr. Kapoor. He is a middle-aged man. He is married to Mrs. Kapoor. They have two children. Mr. Kapoor  owns his own electronics shop and his family is fairly well-off. His children are both pre-med. Mr. and Mrs. Kapoor are a part of your community and you see them on an almost daily basis. They are nice. They are extremely social with everyone. They ask about your children and how they are doing in their respective studies. In their heads, they compare your children with their children. Our children are better, they think. You know that they compare your children with theirs in their heads and you know that it’s stupid, but it bothers you nonetheless. You start to do it too sometimes.

We all have a Mr. Kapoor in our lives. Sometimes, sadly, there is more than one Mr. and Mrs. Kapoor in a community. Sometimes, everyone has a little bit of Mr. Kapoor in them. This is when things start to get really scary.

Mr. Kapoor is an inherent part of Indian society. Everyone is afraid of him, simply because he has the power of initiating a rumor about you, which most probably will not be true; everyone will believe him anyway, exercising the Mr. Kapoor in themselves. And, seeing the power of Mr. Kapoor, people will start to worry that he will say something about them, too. They will start to worry what they say around him, and what they do around him. For every action they take, they worry, what will Mr. Kapoor think?

If you’re Indian, you probably know by now that I’m referring to a scene in the movie 3 Idiots (directed by Rajkumar Hirani, starring Aamir Khan, R. Madhavan and Sharman Joshi). In the scene, a young man, Farhan, an engineering student at the well-known Imperial College of Engineering in India (ICE), is trying to convince his dad to let him study wildlife photography rather than engineering (a tough argument to have with an Indian father, even in a Bollywood movie). One of the father’s arguments (of many fathers’ arguments in cases like these) was the following:

Father: People will laugh at you! They’ll say you got to the final year and then quit! Mr. Kapoor was saying the other day that I’m lucky that my son studies at ICE! What will he think?!

Son: Mr. Kapoor didn’t install an air-conditioner in my room. After putting me to sleep in cool comfort, he wasn’t the one that slept in the heat. He wasn’t the one that sat me on his shoulders and took me to the zoo. You did all that stuff, dad. I care what you think. I don’t really care what Mr. Kapoor thinks. I don’t even know his first name.

A bit sensational, but touching nonetheless. And an excellent argument.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Indian communities are great. Ain’t no community like an Indian community. We have the best food, the best music, some great movies…and the most dramatic drama. Compliments of the Kapoors.

It wouldn’t be a big deal if this were a minor issue, or if it didn’t affect people’s lives and the actions they choose to take. But unfortunately, it does. Because of this inherent fear of what the rest of the community will think, there is a hindrance to do what one wants to do (even if it’s only slightly out of the ordinary) and worse, what’s right.

No One Killed Jessica, a film directed by Rajkumar Gupta, starring Rani Mukherji and Vidya Balan, expresses this exact, pathetic phenomenon in an actual case. The murder of Jessica in a high-society club (a club that had over 300 people in attendance the night of the murder) in Delhi had 7 actual witnesses, but only one witness who was willing to testify. The rest of the witnesses were bought by the murderer’s family, and the rest of the 300 people said they left the club by midnight, so as not to get involved in this messy affair.

The film made a sad, but true statement: when given the choice between letting a murderer go free and getting involved with a murder investigation, an Indian will not think twice. Why? Because the Kapoors of his community will talk about his involvement in the case with a negative tone, and in order to stay a respected member of the community, it’s imperative to conform to Mr. Kapoor’s definition of “respectful.”

I wish I were exaggerating because this is, indeed, crap.

How do we fight the Kapoors? This is the million dollar question. Fortunately, it has fairly accessible solutions, which simply require patience.

1. Recognize the Kapoor within you. Understand that everyone becomes a Mr. Kapoor sometimes; you do, too. Learn to acknowledge when you are comparing, judging, initiating or feeding rumors, something I call Kapooring (I don’t expect this to catch on or anything, but isn’t it fun to say?) Once you recognize what you’re doing, stop. Don’t feed the Kapoors.

2. Don’t be afraid of the Kapoors. Understand that the Kapoors of the world play off of people’s fear of them and society. If you know what you’re doing is right, don’t be afraid of explaining your decisions and your actions to people like the Kapoors. They may use their skill of talking to communicate your explanation to others. Much of the father’s fear must have come from the daunting task of explaining to his friends what a wildlife photographer does, and, therefore, what his son would be doing with his life. Don’t be afraid of explaining.

3. The Kapoors aren’t evil. They are insecure. Big difference. Engage in conversation with them, too. Maybe they will learn from you.

I hope that someday in the future we will have more wildlife photographers and less Jessicas.

*No offense to any readers whose actual name is Kapoor.

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