Friday, August 26, 2011

The arrogance of abundance..

The area where I live, has to be the most wooded area in Mumbai, (if you leave out the Sanjay Gandhi National Park to the north part of the city, which is a reserved area). No one owns houses here, because they belong to those we work for, and are rented out to us for the duration of our working life. To the delight of many folks who visit us, there is a noticeable drop in temperature, as you turn into the gate at the entrance, a straight road with majestic trees on both sides, sometimes bursting forth in orange blooms in the summer.

My late parents would visit us, and my father would often sit in an armchair, with the newspaper and his cup of milk, in the balcony, looking over a thick canopy of trees as far as you could see, shake his head and say ," I hope you guys realize what a wonderful thing you enjoy; and value this ....".

Maybe he knew how things would be.

This is the road that leads to our building. The photograph has been taken at the height of summer, when the foliage isn't so dense , but still affords immense shade to those walking to work.

The monsoon, makes these trees lush green . Some of these trees go back to the days that predate our Institute, and are more than a hundred years old. Some of these are taller than our building which is 6 floors high.

The last few years has seen the advent of cutting crews, presumably to organize tree cutting, that starts with offending branches. Chain saws appear. Trucks appear. And by and by, one sees a vehicle loaded with logs making its way out, officially.

Two days ago, the branch shown (encircled ) and its neighbors, were pulled down with an almighty noise. Mind you , the tree borders a huge school ground (huge by Mumbai standards) , and is at the periphery, not bending on to this road.

As the rain started in earnest by the evening, I saw two guys, with phones, umbrellas and worried looks, standing on the pavement eyeing the fallen wood, and telling someone on the phone, that something was yet to reach there, and they would wait till it came. (Don't ask how I heard. I was out for the regular walk with a friend, saw all this destruction, then noticed these guys, and deliberately slowed my speed. I have seen this happen once too often. )

The next morning, huge tree stumps, cut , were deposited in our building compound. For something cut, that was 6 stories tall, it was clear that other large quantities of wood were cut up and transported away by the aforementioned chaps in the aforementioned trucks. This isn't the first time such events have happened.

Cut to an event a month ago. There is some
construction happening at the end of the road in the first photo.

Plumbing requirements necessitated the digging up of an area across the road . Once the job was done, there was haphazard filling up of gaps, and a few deep oblong holes, right in the middle of the sidewalk. I was returning from a daily walk in the evening, when I noticed two youths, with some cautionary flags in their hands, just leaving them there on the ground and vamoosing away on a two wheeler.

When I walked into the construction site to insist on some safeguards being put around the hole, and the flags used properly along with some decent barrier ropes and stuff, everyone shook their heads, looked at me like I was trespassing and wasting their time and said someone else was looking after this. So.

This road is frequented by school children , lots of old grandparent types out for walks, as well as folks rushing to the gates to catch public transport. Monsoon evenings being dull and dark, there was a good chance someone would have fallen into this thing.

There was no supervision by staff, no performance of responsible work, attention to safety , signs saying "Danger" or anything. Because no one was getting anything out of this. No deals, no nothing. A major pipe had to be connected to the construction site plumbing, that was done, and the rest was immaterial.

Experience indicated that something would happen if a complaint was made to a totally different entity like Security. Which I did, describing terrible scenarios about little children and old people, and two wheelers falling into the thing. Twenty four hours later when I went the same way, the thing was surrounded by some stakes on which some "danger" ribbon was wound; I just hoped some kid on a tricycle didn't manage to pass by there.

And it now occurred to me that we are simply blinded by the concept of abundance.

Abundance of power, abundance of money, abundance of lies. Abundance of resources.

There is a sense of ownership, and complete ignorance of the fact that we are trustees of these resources and not blind consumers.

And so there is an arrogance of abundance. Which is why we wallow in corruption. Which is why something is happening today in new Delhi, which has never happened earlier.

There has been an abundance of money and power, and the emulation of powerful types, at lower levels is complete.

It doesn't matter if the ordinary folks fall into a troubled ditch, so long as those that manage things, get their dues. Wood is precious in a city starved of trees. Powerless people , who stupidly follow rules are disposable.

And this has led to an arrogance. That manifests itself, in the smirk I get when I ask about putting some protection around the ditch, in the casualness with which tree stumps are thrown in our compound, all the useful stuff having been carted away for revenue earning, and also in the way, some folks in New Delhi, , possibly steeped in the syrup of corruption themselves, drag some other people into it, simply because they talk about it.

The arrogance of abundance. We never learn. Those that try , are shouted down.

Sometimes there are things around us trying to say something .

And sometimes it is ancient Greek philosophers , who had a habit of getting things right.

Which is probably why, centuries and millennia later, what they said, still appears to hold.

Like this guy , Epicurus (Greek philosopher, BC 341-270) who said , "Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little."


  1. They cut trees on the road to our house. And with no purpose at all. Trees that stood for years offering shade and shelter to people. But there was no one to complain to! I can understand your anguish.

  2. The arrogance of abundance. We never learn. Those that try , are shouted down. - SO TRUE .

  3. I must say its difficult to believe thats Mumbai you are talking about in the earlier photos...but they cut the trees...why why!!

    Actually I stay right next to the khadis (marshlands) n people here are spoiling it by throwing wastage (loads of plastic bags) and this rate, I dont think the marshland will survive long...See what happened to the marshlands near In orbit mall at the entire Mindspace complex stands on a huge dumping ground :(

  4. "Arrogance of abundance" such a wonderful way to put it! I too live in one of those areas in Mumbai where we have lots of trees and comparative privacy and an abundance of nature... and regularly see it being misused and unappreciated! as it is, these areas are few and far between and dwindling by the day! its not going to be long before all this goes too.... and no one seems to be bothered!

  5. One tends to take things for granted. Like we thought water would last forever in Jamshedpur and would laugh at our folk in Chennai who saved water after rinsing clothes and use it in the toilet. Today there are pockets in the city where the residents of of high rises begin the day quarreling for water. The overhead tank only gets half filled and at least 5 flats in a particular wing have to share it. Ground water is depleted and people are only just beginning to realize that water too will not last for ever. The future world war may be fought over natural resources.

  6. The arrogance of abundance is certainly running rampant in the US and the result is truly frightening. Sad, but excellent post as always.


  7. Such an apt way to put it- 'arrogance of abundance'! So true, so true!

    We will wake up only when it is too late....

  8. I live in Texas and it has been a very hot and dry summer. We need rain badly. My complaint is with the company that is drilling for natural gas in my city. There was a report on our news the other night about how the gas drillers are taking a alarming amount of water from our river to use for "fraking", breaking the rocks way deep to let the natural gas out. The water they use will not come back into the natural cycle of rain, but will be hundreds of feet below ground.

    Foolish people are not all in India, we have our share of greedy fools here.

  9. Your words were felt deep in this One Woman's heart...
    You are excellent with your words..

  10. It is scary how abundance of things is turning people into monsters.I see it happening everywhere.

  11. That arrogance continues till it turns out to be a shortfall !

    In the name of development, we are shooting ourselves in our foot.

    very thought provoking post !

  12. Anna Hazare's power of influence gives me the confidence that now on each one of us will deal with anything arrogant in whatever form.