ByÂ Gourav Kumar:
There’s a certain weirdness involved in being an Indian. The actions of various people around the country do not conform to rationality of being a responsible citizen. While we often blame various entities for the bad state of affairs in the country, we do not allocate the tiniest share of the blame to ourselves. But a careful analysis might very well reveal that we, the common people, are as much at fault as anyone else. Let us see how.
I live in Kolkata. Bus rides are cheap here. A 4km. ride costs just Rs. 4. So I often travel by bus. Many people do. There are a lot of buses on the roads of Kolkata at any given time. Needless to say there are very stringent rules as far as bus stops are concerned, only, there isn’t. Buses stop anywhere, at will. They stop to take passengers, they stop to let passengers get down, and they stop to buy Paan masala if the driver feels like it! For the passengers, this is inconvenient. If you are actually standing at the bus stop, chances are, the bus will leave before you actually reach it. Most of the times these bus stops are dirty or you have footpath dwellers living under the shade. I’m sure by now most of the readers would have started cursing the bus drivers and the civic authorities in their mind.
Now picture this. People, especially men, often don’t wait for the bus to stop completely before getting down. Most people wave at buses to stop them in the middle of the road. Many never even try to stand at the designated spot for bus stops. Those who do are spit-happy gutkha chewing people or smokers. People ask the driver to stop the bus right in front of their houses and scream if it stops 10 meters away. They run after the bus and get up on a running bus. Closing the door (in the few buses that have them) feels like a huge hassle.
While we, the people, are always ready to find faults with the system, civic authorities or government, we never stop to think of what we might be doing wrong. We go with the assumption that we, as the general public, are always right and are being constantly wronged. We completely reject the possibility that the dysfunctional system might be our own fault, even partially. We all complain about cleanliness on our streets, but never think twice while dirtying it. People spit on the footpath, in the middle of the road, wherever convenient. Spot a slightly desolate corner and there are people relieving themselves. We follow the commonly accepted philosophy of, “Everyone’s doing it, and I’m not the only one to be blamed.”
There is violation everywhere, in every corner. Every moment some law, no matter how trivial, is being broken by the common people. And let’s not even talk about violation of moral ethics. The problem is deep rooted in our society. There is no easy solution to it. But this definitely presents food for thought. Why is this happening, why is is there so much violation? In trying to understand this, I chanced about on an interesting parallel.
Imagine 2 kids playing together, a four year old and a two year old, let’s say 2 boys. At some point of time, you are bound to find the four year old hitting the two-year-old. You go and tell him not to do that. But the moment you tell him, he hits the younger kid again. He isn’t really hurting the other kid, but you know it is wrong and want to stop him. So you make an angry face, try to frighten the kid. But the kid knows. This time he not only hits the 2 year old again, he smiles while doing this. You make an even more stern face; he hits and shows a bigger smile. Every time this cycle repeats, you find that the four year old is enjoying himself even more. Now, this is not some evil monstrosity in the kid that’s making him do it. It’s the joy of defiance.
There is a strange joy in defying rules, defying the moral codes. This is not something we develop as we grow older; this is something we are born with. Or perhaps, develop very early as a toddler. Defying the rules or defying someone older to us gives us a sense of power. In doing so, we tell the world that we are in control, that no one can dictate to us how we live or what we do. We feel a sense of pride in defying the rules.
But think again, is that what you really want? Being in control is good, being able to get down from a running bus is even better. But what if an oncoming biker fails to notice and hits you? You are not only responsible for your own injuries, but also for the grave injuries that the biker may suffer. In this act of satisfying your ego, you just put an innocent life in danger.
However, what stumps me, is that people are not even concerned about their own safety. While getting down from a running bus, there is high probability of getting hurt, but they still do it. While crossing the street at the green signal, they face high risk of getting hit by a speeding car, but they are not concerned. People are ready to put their own safety aside if it satisfies their ego.
So just for once, keep your ego aside and think clearly. Rules are not meant to be broken, they are meant to be followed. There is no pride in being a nuisance to society. No one is going to respect you more for it.
Why does someone need to tell you to wear your seat belt while driving? If no one ever told you that stealing is wrong, would you enter anyone’s house and pick up whatever you wanted? If trespassing was not a crime, would you sleep on a strangers couch? Then why can’t you keep the garbage in your house and wait for the pickup to arrive? Why can’t you close your tap when you are not using the water? Why can’t four people take a taxi instead of riding on one motorcycle? Why can’t you stop leaving romantic messages on monuments of historical importance?
As the kids grow older, they understand that it is not right to hit someone. So we don’t find 20 year olds slapping each other for no reason. But we fail to learn our lesson from this. We fail to see the faults with our thinking. We just choose to go with the flow. Everyone is talking on the phone while driving, why not me? But if you get hit by a truck tomorrow, would those people share your pain?
It is time we woke up to a broader thinking. There is something fundamentally wrong with the way we perceive right and wrong. We need to think in terms of “we” and not “I”. Once we do that, we will see that there is really no joy in defiance. Defying ethics and violating rules might make your tasks easier, but it causes displeasure to others. And you are bound to pay for it in the long run. The outbreak of Dengue in Kolkata is just one example where public apathy is more to be blamed than civic inaction.
Before we blame others, we need to correct ourselves. Before we abuse the government for its corrupt practices, we need to see how clean we are ourselves. If each of us became more sensible, in a few years, we would no longer feel the need to mend the ways of the others. Let us not let violation become the only rule.