Thursday, 30 June 2011

Quo Vadis Domine?

Vishwas Omjee

Visualize this.

A visibly harried mother rushes into a nursing home, and pleads with the staff on duty to admit her daughter. The kid, visibly ill, and in urgent need of immediate medical attention, lets out a heart-rending wail. The staff on call, as well as the superintentendent of the hospital however, throw the rule-book at her, asking her to fill up a form and deposit Rs. 20,000.00 before they can admit her daughter as a patient. By the time, the desperate lady returns with the money, the daughter is so sick that she needs to be admitted immediately to the ICU. Critically ill, she fights a losing battle for the next 36 hours… before making her onward journey to the comparable peace of Hades, leaving behind her disconsolate mother.

Corruption Map of India
Her companion beaten up, a young lady gets molested at a busy intersection. There is virtually no one around to raise a voice. Invertebrate passers-by scurry off, feigning hurry. It is only much later that another lady comes to her help, and takes her to a hospital, and she gets some medical attention.

A young man, visibly tense, keeps thinking about the interview he is about to attend. Clearly distracted, he does not notice the red Maruti Suzuki Omni which suddenly veers off its path and bangs into him, before settling off undeterred and fast into the distance..

One could really go on and on with similar examples, unique occurrences giving the impression of circumlocution. Tragically, none of the three anecdotes mentioned above, and thousands of others not shared, are fictional –au contraire, they are everyday and commonplace enough to be make the newspapermen pick and choose from the lavish spread. Incidents similar to the one depicted at the beginning occur with frightening regularity at most government hospitals & nursing homes. So too incidents of eve-teasing & molestation. The 1997 multiple National Award winning film Dahan, helmed by Rituparno Ghosh, was based on one such incident, which, fortunately or otherwise, got more than its share of public attention.

Let us take a slightly closer look at these.

A harried mother unable to get her sick child admitted to nursing home on time, a young wife is on her way home, and a young man about to step into the corporate world. Three different incidents reflective of three issues, right?


Running through each of the above incidents is one single thread that explains very clearly what we are faced with perpetually, and permeates every strata of society. Simply put, India, as a nation, is riddled with an amazing, almost constitutional lack of discipline and conscientiousness. That, in a nutshell, is the crux of all the problems we face.

Let me list some very typical examples.

An extreme example first. Suppose we are returning home late, and it’s approximately 1.30 am. How many of us would at that point in time, stop at red lights, especially with the roads all empty? It is easy to say that at that time of the day, it would not make a difference.. the fact of the matter is that it actually does.

Why is human life so cheap for us? Why don’t so many of us care a fig about say, the Naxalite movement? Or, the insurgency in Nagaland? Or, the earthquake in Japan, for that matter? The crux of the matter is that these days we are so taken up with I, me, myself – that we do not really bother about anything else, anything at all.

Let us take another commonly observed scenario. When one travels the bumpy potholed roads of any of the major metros like Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai or Mumbai, one very often notices a family of three riding a motorcycle. What yours truly never fails to get shocked at is the parents refraining from having the child helmeted while their own heads are more often than not in the relative safety of helmets. One also sees myriads of instances of parents hurrying across the streets with the hands of their little ones firmly in their own hands, depending solely on their sheer experience to navigate the chaos safely. If these are not cases of culpable callousness, what would be?

Next, let us take a look at our current education system, if one can really call it that, which is rife with myriads of problems. The one which is the most pernicious is the way it encourages the breeding of corruption. Yes, corruption. Right from childhood, often from middle school, intensity of competition and being constantly compared with friends and peers often lead youngsters to start cheating in examinations. The bitter icing on the cake is when over-zealous parents & guardians, in an effort to see that their wards are performing (read : getting the best results) optimally in examinations, actually encourage them to go ahead & use the unscrupulous techniques. This is how the seeds of corruption are sown.

As a nation sows, so it reaps. Cheating in examinations gives teenagers the confidence that they can get away with pretty much anything.. and helps them lose their inhibitions. Not to say that our schools and colleges are solely responsible for us being as corrupt as we are – but sure, they are one of the biggest reasons, there’s no denying that.

As I mentioned at the beginning, corruption is certainly one of the biggest evils facing us.. the other being indiscipline. Why do I say that? Very simple. Let us take a look at any problem facing us – be it in transportation (read : traffic), healthcare, education, sanitation, infrastructure or any other.
Take traffic. It is said that someone who can drive confidently in Kolkata or Delhi, and safely for some length of time, can drive anywhere in the world; and not without reason. Traffic in India’s metros is notorious, and the infamy is well-deserved. Truth be told, the entire blame should not be foisted on the drivers – pedestrian traffic is equally chaotic and unruly. It really is a wonder how we do not see more accidents than which actually occur. Now if people were a little more disciplined in their approach while driving, casualties would certainly go down a lot – but does anyone care? Neither is it rocket science, but then human life has apparently become so cheap for so many of us.

What applies to traffic, applies to all areas. Take infrastructure. Contractors, builders, promoters, engineers et al will cut corners to maximize their profits. Hardly anyone will do what they should be doing. The end result is a bridge (or a flyover or an apartment complex) that is obnoxiously below standard. In the worst case, such bridges or flyovers can collapse – as has happened in Delhi in September 2010, just prior to the Commonwealth Games.

So, how does one address these monumental problems – of corruption & indiscipline? Not sure if there are clear cut solutions – but yours truly genuinely feels that they need to be addressed, if India is to attain its true status in the world. Moreover, it is not that the problems are insuperable – just that they deal with basic human needs and wants on one hand, and mass education on the other (I refer to education in its true sense, not literacy which currently passes off as education).

One common thread across both of these is conscientiousness – each and every Indian citizen in his or her small way must want to contribute to society. The contribution can be as small as keeping your own home clean and green, or it can be something on the lines of each-one-teach-one, or some similar initiative. Only when everyone, literally everyone, feels for the country, can we actually hope to attain our rightful place as a nation.

That today seems so far off. Quo vadis domine?

Vishy is a dreamer stuck in the corporate world.

In this issue, he focuses on the lack of discipline & conscientiousness amongst most of his fellow countrymen

No comments:

Post a Comment