Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. Mark Twain
23 lives were lost. Scores injured. Many dreams, hopes and livelihoods destroyed. Elphinstone Station bridge tragedy in India’s maximum city symbolized everything that was wrong with India of today. Inefficient, ineffective, overstretched, overwhelmed, inconsiderate, corrupt, desperate and lot else.
I had used the Elphinstone Station for nearly two-and-half years to reach my place of work in IndiaBulls. It shudders me that I could have been one of the 23 who lost their lives on that fateful day. Condolences and prayers to all those affected by the tragedy.
Over the past 6 days read numerous articles in the newspapers, whatsapp, facebook and watched mindless debates on TV. The judgement was unequivocal. The system failed, cheated, looted and left us without a choice. It was the system. Blame the system. Hang the system. There is no doubt the system failed. Is it just the system that failed or it is us, who use the system failed? Is it about time we Indians reflect upon ourselves as to how we fail the system?
Wish to share with you a few areas in the system as to how we hurt the system than benefit from it.
Traffic. It is everyone’s bug bear in urban India. Chaos does not describe it adequately. Autowallahs and the taxiwallahs are culprits. But what does educated lady & the gentlemen do? Horn in your bike and car are for emergencies but not to clear the way ahead for you while you are driving while attending the important concall on your mobile phone. Do we respect the rule that honking near schools and especially hospitals is a strict no? We believe that the helmet is not to protect your head but to escape the traffic cop & a challan!
What about double/wrong parking? Once in Mumbai I found a top end car double-parked outside a store in a tony neighborhood. I asked the driver to move the car to which he replied, “madam is in the shop. She will get upset if she does not find me outside when she steps out of the shop!” Will that lady do that in Europe or America? Apna system hai, chale ga.
Following instructions. One of the suggestions in Elphinstone tragedy was that loudspeakers could have been used to guide people. Good point. But, do we listen? On the same evening of the tragedy was driving back home and there was heavy rain in Hyderabad. Switched on the radio to get traffic updates. One channel had people call in. As usual many just screamed at all the officials and the taxes (more on that later) that we pay. At one junction, water had swelled on a road under bridge. Everyone was stopping to have a look at it and some drivers were trying to drive that way. Two traffic policemen were begging with folded hands not to use that way and drive few meters ahead to take another route as it was safer. 5 out of 10 refused to listen and the other 5 stopped their vehicles to have a look at the gushing water leading to traffic pile up. We don’t listen to doctors and indulge in self-medication. After all, the traffic policeman is a lowly educated, possibly corrupt and definitely incompetent guy. How can I, the intelligent, educated person listen to him? System is stupid, I’m smart.
Fair price and Taxes. Systems work well in Singapore, Europe & America. Yes they do. But they come at a price. If someone expects to travel from Churchgate to Malad at Rs.7-10, he/she needs to get their logic calibrated. Let’s pay a fair price for utilities and then demand better quality. When we drive down of cost of living not by better planning but by paying low we pay with our lives. Same thing with our taxes. Let’s avoid the temptation to save a few bucks by not asking for a bill or paying off in cash. Who bothers? Yeh system hi aisa hai!
Cleanliness. Whenever it rains our roads are flooded because our drains are choked. Who chokes them? We. When you travel in Mumbai local trains, you notice many munching snacks bought on the platform. Once polishing off, where do they throw the plastic pouch? Into the nala that’s flowing under or beside the train. I used to request those passengers to detest them from littering. Some said sorry, many said none of your business. One man told me that he is doing it deliberately! Why? Because he is against Modi and wants the Swach Bharat program to fail! Cleanliness toh system ka kaam hai.
It takes two hands to make a clap. System works similarly. You need to do your part (or even more) to ensure it works. We should stop believing that it is govt’s job to clean-up or set things right. We need to ensure that system works to improve things not just to maintain the status-quo.
System is like the nature. It will bear with our shenanigans up to a point. After that, it hits back by giving up. We end up failing ourselves by failing the system.