One of the greatest joys of marriage is that your partner's stories become your stories. So my wife was sitting in the kids play area at Plaza Cortezar, the local park and restaurant area where we spend a lot of time. The kids were busy digging in the sand, sliding and playing their never ending game of tag. It was late morning, lots of folks were milling about, many sipping coffee, some setting up for the daily craft fair, and some preparing their restaurant for the day. A couple guys in their late teens were a part of a construction crew working on some repairs in the plaza. One of the boys was drunk. The two broke out into a fist fight. All bystanders remained in their pre-fight positions; no one rushed in to stop the fight or gawk, but everyone was watching, and aware of the fight. At one point, the drunk boy fell to the ground and struggled to stand. Blood gushed out of his nose. The other boy kicked him hard in the face. At this point, immediately multiple older men, around 50 years in age, stepped in, constrained the standing boy, and walked him away. Other men helped the fallen boy, someone arrived with a large bottle of water and poured it on his head; another brought a towel and started cleaning his wounds. Soon the police arrived.
So what my wife found most interesting were the cultural dynamics at play. For one, it seemed no one was particularly worried about weapons, or serious danger. Also, there was an acceptance that boys will be boys, and the fight was fair and therefore immediate intervention was not required or desired. Upon the violence taking a turn toward the "unfair," however, with one boy clearly down and incapacitated, bystander response was swift and thorough.
This story reminds me of another story. One day a few years back in Punjab, we were driving home from a day trip to the Himalayan foothills. My Thiaji (father's older brother), myself, my wife and kids. We slowly drove through the chaotic, dusty streets of Nawanshar. A cacophony of cars, goats, people, cows, honking buses, strewn wires, and a uniformed policeman directing traffic. As we approached the town center where multiple streets intersect, right in the middle of the street were about 15 boys, again late teens, in a full fist fight. My Thiaji scratching his gray beard, started laughing, "Deep, look at our boys! This is how we live. Ah, I wish I was young again." Thiaji then stopped the car in the midst of the chaos to chat with a policeman who was calmly directing traffic as if nothing was going on. Thiaji asked, "what's going on?" The policeman responded, "oh the kids are just bored, it happens every Friday evening." My uncle looked at the cop like he was totally daft, pointed out his window toward two flying fists a few feet away and said, "well of course, but what is this particular fight about?" He needed the details. Something about a boy, a sister, a crass remark. Thiaji rolled up his window, waved to the cop, smiled at the fighting boys, and we inched along, wondering what was for dinner.