Monday, December 25, 2006

The great certificate race

This -- "Certificates reduced to ashes, hockey player tries to end life" -- is something one could hardly imagine transpiring in the U.S.

As someone who likes to think of herself as having risen based upon merit (rather than looks, legacy, or relative luck), it's hard to understand why someone would be so shaken up that a few pieces of paper no longer exist. The girl is presumably still an excellent hockey player, one who has honed and can display her talent at will; a few missing papers, in the grand scheme of things, is rather minor.

But this is India, the land of a billion, and relentless competition imbues these documents with real worth. Although one can sometimes take others at their word, it's far more likely that the girl would be harassed until she furnished some tangible proof of her history. Sure, she could forge some papers, but that is a) expensive and b) risky.

Most of my American homeboys have this inkling that people here can fake everything, buy papers, hide behind the proliferating population, slip through the cracks and have it all turn out all right. But it seems to me that it's the opposite; yes, you can navigate life relatively unmolested, so long as the social constructs that have been erected portend your safe passage. Step out of line -- lose your papers, choose an alternative sexuality, marry later than people in your family traditionally have -- and, unless you are the lowest of the low or the highest of the high, pay the price.

Oh yeah, by the way: Merry Christmas!

No comments: