Monday, June 30, 2008

Evolution and Insult of Rules नियमांचा फज्जा

In the year AD 66 a guy called Gaius Petronius said, "What power has law where only money rules?"

He couldn't have said it better today.

Rules. Those noble things that made life simple and sometimes , tolerable.

Earlier these worked. Now, I'm sorry to say, it appears, that they don't.

In our primary school, Class II, we learned the Rules of Crossing the road .
It went : "Look right, look left, when you cross the street; use your eyes, then your ears, and then you use your feet."

( Denizens of advanced countries addicted to driving on the right may design a suitably altered version for themselves).

(Mrs Desouza (my class teacher of 50 years ago who taught us this ditty) , if you are reading this, remember me as one of those, who stood with palms out and open, as you moved around with ruler(raised sideways) , punishing those who messed up subtraction-with-carry sums).

At that time, this rule worked like a charm. We believed everything our teacher told us. We follow somethings even today, unconsciously. So did the traffic on the road.

An effort at doing that
recently, outside on the road, nearly lead me to an accident and traffic jam .

I looked right; only to have a policeman blow a whistle, and wildly gesticulate asking me to move back from the path of a bulldozer trying to make a right turn , from the opposite side of the road,almost on me. An agitated leap back, almost caused my collision with the fashionable exterior part of the bonnet of an unusually upmarket car with highly evolved occupants , who proceeded to give proletarian-me , disdainful looks.

I looked left; and got a whiff, then a blast , of diesel , as all the traffic had stalled at the turning, and I barely escaped being part of the pile up. Seeing stopped traffic on the road makes me very happy these days. I CAN CROSS SAFELY !

I used my eyes (after rubbing the diesel particles out), used my ears ( no dangerous accelerating engine noises, no police whistles, no one-shouting "Oye, dikhta nahi kya ") and was about to use my feet, when a motorcycle whizzed past, with the pillion rider, shouting at me saying"Watch, watch", and the driver did one of his angular 40 degree bends to the side in typical filmy style. He barely avoided crushing my extended right ankle. One of my friends was not so lucky. In a similar situation, the occupant of a rickshaw shouted in a similar manner, but in addition pushed her back (supposedly for her own benefit) , from inside the rickshaw, with the result that she fell to the ground, as the vehicle disappeared into the traffic.

Sorry Mrs Desouza. Rules today are designed , so we can all break them.

Smoking in public vehicles is banned . (notice how I hesitate to even mention public "places"). A request to a middle aged chap in my bus, (who alternated between "enjoying" his mobile phone and cigarette, and caused nauseated uneasy reactions in some of us), to put his cigarette "out" , brought forth questions about who owned the bus, and did my father figure in that ?

Ladies seats in the same buses, are another cause of Rule trauma. The Bus authorities, in their wisdom , and out of great concern for Mumbai's embattled, public-transport-using women, reserved certain seats in the bus for women. This rule has been disobeyed so many times, leading to arguments , finger pointing at the painted rules, and adamant males, that one day, has simply been etched into my memory. I got into a bus, and kind of squeezed ahead to the aforementioned seats, to find two guys standing next to them, leaving those seats vacant, for stumbling folks like me. I emerged out of my utterly speechless state, to give them my thanks. Really felt like nominating them for some awards.

(But I didnt know the RULES for nominating them).

Nowadays, I suspect there is another reason for making rules. Every rule and regulation has an equal and opposite reaction. I don't think even Newton realized how widely prevalent his 3rd law would be. Every new rule spawns a set of experts who specialize in bypassing them . Mumbai has an industrious lot that designs systems to bypass rules , for a price.

Buying of tickets, reserving bus,train and other seats , admission to colleges, getting identity cards, applications to various posts in government institutions, buying grains at subsidized rates, obtaining ration cards, getting unentitled medical care; the list is endless.

They don't spare people even in death. Crematoriums charge a fixed amount as per municipal rules. Details of the cremation are forwarded to the municipal ward office, for further processing, leading to the issuance of a death certificate.

A certain electric crematorium has evolved a "tip" culture where people pay them substantially more than the designated charges. Those that stick to the municipal rules, thinking, that decency and respect will prevail in the last journey of a tired life, will be left making innumerable trips to the ward offices for the certificate, as the relevant information doesn't move from the crematorium, without the "green" tip.

(In this case, a visit by the daughter of the deceased , and some loud questioning by her , in a place where women are not naturally seen, seemed to do the needful, and the information was forwarded to the ward office , more out of a sense of getting rid of her and the ensuing embarassment in front of the "paying" people, than any remorse on their side).

They want to convert Mumbai into Shanghai. Maybe even Singapore or New York. But in the euphoria of brick-and mortar progress, and unnatural huge attention to money matters, we are certainly destroying peoples good sense and minds.

It's a sign of the times. There is degeneration. The impressive Asiatic Library Town Hall building in Mumbai, today is direly in need of maintenance, if the original structure and wealth of books and knowledge, are to be saved .In all the statue obsession and individual avarice, funds seem experience obstructions. Aldous Huxley, who would certainly know what he was talking about, once described the Asiatic Library town hall building as the only gentleman amidst cads and bounders.....

Will a real gentleman ever stand up amidst the rule breaking cads and bounders of Mumbai ?

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting reading, I guess rules are rules and in India they are meant to be broken as they don't give a damn.

    I remember I was crossing the road near the High Court to get some documents xeroxed so I dutifully looked at the oncoming traffic and found that there was none and as I was about to cross I got hit by a cyclist on the wrong side of the road and I guess he has no brakes too. I looked silly though...couldn't even cross the road.

    But crossing roads in India is like playing Russian Roulette, I remember once I had to cross the main road and get to a building which I hate, I had my secretary who is from Hyderabad, she actually held my hand in helping me cross the road out of instint and I was really embrassed.

    If you travel on the roads, you can see that none of the rules are followed and I wonder what the traffic cops are doing about it because half the time I see them chasing motorcyclist or trying to get a car to stop and they just speed off happily.