Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Screw the rules, We are Indians!

Case 1: I drive everyday over the Eastern Express Highway in Mumbai. There is a flyover along the route near Sion. The mouth of the flyover is very small, tucked away to the right corner of the large expressway. Anyone wanting to travel towards South Bombay will need to take this. Cars wanting to take the flyover are expected to stay to the right most lane. There are cops stationed at the mouth of the flyover, to ensure that drivers maintain a single file and people don't jump the line or cut it from the left. Now people in the single lane, find it hard to digest the fast that motorists heading below the flyover, are zipping past them on the left side on the wide expressway. Its almost criminal! And thus starts the story of queue cutting, where vehicles move close to the mouth of the flyover, from the left and then butt in, cutting the cars waiting in queue. Now this is manageable if the cop is in place and if he is not, God save Mumbai. The traffic gets totally choked up, all the way back to Suman Nagar junction, close to a kilometer behind. And it doesn't matter which vehicle is breaking the line. From BMWs and Audis to rickety old cabs, every one is a culprit. 

Case 2: The air hostess first announces, then she requests, then she pleads and finally she yells. Only then the people standing in the aisle, get back to their seats. Then she again explains that it not safe to stand in the aisle of a plane taxiing in the runway. Its not safe to open the latch of the luggage compartment. But who cares. The moment the plane lands on the runway, you can simultaneously hear all the seat belts click, like a machine gun gone mad. The air hostess covers her face with her hands in exasperation. 

Case 3: The speaker in the event,before starting off, requests all participants to first put their mobiles on silent mode and then specifically, not to pick calls in the middle of the session. Please give respect to others sitting in the hall, if not me, he graciously point out. Three minutes more are all that are needed. 'Har taraf tera jalwa' starts blurting out from some one's pocket. He doesn't even cut it quickly for courtesy sake. The speaker waits for the idiot to cut the call, while giving him a dirty look. The second time the speaker is not so lucky. The lady who gets the call starts talking loudly about how to reach the venue to one of her colleagues. Sorry! Respecting others time and presence, is not in our ' Bharatiya Sabhyata'.

Case 4: Everyone wants to see the Taj Mahal. Some dream of seeing it all their lives, some see it only in pictures and movies, some are fortunate enough to see it in person. To enter the premise though, one has to stand in a long queue and go through a rigorous security check. Once you buy tickets, a horde of middlemen approach you openly. 'Sir, lamba line mai khada rehna padega. Teen Sau dedo, peeche se entry kara denge.' The fat kid standing next to me with a bag of chips in his hand, yanks his father's hand and says, 'Lelo no Papa. Dhoop mai khada nahi honeka!'. Its the middle of fricking December in Agra and the father relents to his son's 'dhoop' story. Cutting lines is a business in our country. I don't even want to speculate this at the Tirupatis, Shirdis and the Vaishno Devis of the world.

Case 5: My parents went on a long trip to Europe. They were driven though six to seven countries in a luxury bus, which made the journey very easy and comfortable. The memory they carried back though, was not so positive. Everyone was clearly informed at the time of buying the deal and the start of the journey, that tips would have to be pooled and given to the driver, as a rule. That is the culture in that place. There were some families which shopped like crazy at every location for thousands of Euros, but at the end of the day just refused to comply to paying the tip. Reasons included, "We haven't budgeted that into our expenses, No one told us we have to pay the tip and finally we have no more money!". All this, while carrying large shopping bags!!

Case 6: We are nature lovers and have made several trips to National Parks in India. And when I was of slightly lesser volume, in the not so recent past, I used to go on lots of treks. Just get out of the cities and there are umpteen number of places where one can lose himself in the lap of nature. That is only if you don't get irritated by all the debris left behind by insouciant travelers. Mesmerizing horizons, dotted with non degradable plastic covers, is not exactly, what you can call a photographers utopia. On our recent trip to a National Park, we were joined by a large family of holidaying people. Of course, requests to maintain silence so as not to disturb the wild life and by that our chances to spot it, were brushed off with louder peels of laughter. And what better way of telling that world that 'I was here' than dropping large empty packets of bright orange Lays chips over patches of pristine green grass. The rate at which tigers are disappearing in our wild, these might well be the only orange things left in the jungle anyway.

I can go on and on. Every time one such incident occurs, I am forced to ask myself "How! or Why are we so hell bent on not following rules?". Are we such a superior breed of people that we find it insulting to be directed? Are we people with absolutely no pride about our country? Or are we the most lawless country in the world, where no one needs to be afraid of the consequences of one's actions. We keep blowing our own trumpets about the great Indian culture aka 'Sabhyata'! Is this the culture we should be proud of? Are touching the feet of elders and equating teachers and parents to God, candidates enough to brand ourselves holy. If we at our levels of existence, so brazenly break rules and have a 'Don't give a shit' attitude, why do we get livid when politicians play their dirty games on a bigger canvas. Somehow, Suresh Kalmadi is a bigger villain than us for breaking the rules. It is so easy for us to sit on ivory towers, blame it on the corrupt babus and throw garbage into the neighbor's yard.

I try to figure out the reasons (RCA in the corporate parlance) for such audacious behavior. Agreed, that we are in a country of over a billion and half people. Resources are always limited and there is gross mismatch between supply and demand, be it food, water, IIT admissions, movie tickets, place in the Ranji teams etc. We have always been taught that if we don't fight for things and beat your neighbors to it, at what ever the cost, we can't reach Eldorado.  But somewhere the combination of this 'Kuch bhi karke' and 'chalta hai yaar' attitudes has painted us as the worst citizens in the world. We are no longer cocooned in our own little corner. We live in a globally integrated, highly aware and unforgiving world with zetabytes of memory. Ask anyone from outside and you will get a very quick and dirty reaction to the Indian 'Way of Life'. And every time this happens, my pride and respect for this great country, its people and culture, goes down that much more exponentially.

I got a SMS forward the other day. A beggar found a Rs 100 note, picked it up and went to a 5 star hotel. He ate for Rs 5000 worth of food and then declared he didn't have any money. The hotel was livid and sent him to the cops. The beggar bribed the cop Rs 100 and walked home free.

At first I thought it was damn funny, but in hind sight realized that the joke is on us!


Deep Gaur said...

couldn't agree more on this, the funniest part is most of these behaviors change the moment we step out of India, to US or Europe for obvious reasons.

Ian said...

True, I agree to all you have said. And yet, its our own making. We teach by example more than anything else. And the education system has become more impotent than ever. I'm glad for the shift towards alternative schooling systems growing slowly and determinedly. The seed has to be planted early to move away from the fear based system and apathy to one of a connection with the world we live in. Nice post.

And yes, as Deep mentions, we change as soon as we step out and again this is more out of fear. If those countries were lax, the same behavior would be repeated. True change has to come from within.