The newly elected Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi started a Swachh Bharat Abhiyanor Campaign Clean India to make India clean just like some of the European countries. But there is small impediment, we Indians do not know how to stand in a queue, respect public property or follow basic civic rules. Mahatma Gandhi was one of the early proponents of clean living but how do we change the very DNA of a people who have a very high tolerance towards civil disobedience.
Gandhi had used civilian disobedience as means to cause problems for the British, but we, living in free India, have totally misunderstood the true meaning of it. Instead of becoming an open and secular society we now have open garbage, open sewage and the endless fields used as toilet. Gandhi was always particular towards hygiene, personal and public. We do not seem to care for either! For us India is open for us to throw garbage anywhere we feel fit. Ask any westerner and they first thing they will mention will be the dirt, garbage and open sewers of our cities.
Many an examples can be given about of Indians littering and not having the patience to stand in a queue, drive a car on a lane without scaring the hell out of others and have the decency to care about public property.
But this article is not about Swachh Bharat and the genuine attempt to clean our nation, instead it is to take a holistic view on the mindset and habits that we have cultivated over the years.
If only the one good quality we could have learned from the British, it would be the art of standing in a queue. Most people who died in Titanic were British. Poor souls decided to stand in queue and wait for their turn to get into the life boat, but died as rampaging Americans broke the line. In India, each year lot of people die at religious sites due to poor crowd management and people jumping queue in order to complete their pilgrimage and finish their spiritual journey. Well, a lot of people do finish their journey to be near god but by dying. Sadly most of the dead are woman, children and the elderly.
The moment a bus or a train will arrive for some reason our brain suddenly stops functioning and the single goal will be who gets to enter into the bus first and get a seat for themselves. And the irony is no one would object and if someone does it is that person who is ridiculed.
It is an absolute madness but we seem to relish not driving in lane.It seems overtaking in the road is the ultimate pleasure of Indian drivers. Even if the public is given a four lane road or highway, we have this natural urge to still overtake. If you have missed a turn, it is ok we will just back the car or a truck and then rectify the error. We can do U turns any were we like, even on highways. We also particularly enjoy overtaking from the left if no space on the right, but please do not mistake them for drivers from America. It seems it is in our DNA.
India has one of the world’s worst track records when it comes to fatalities from vehicular accidents. We also need to include innocent cyclistsand pedestrians. Thousands die each year over the dangerous roads of Indian cities and highways. Even if there is traffic and cars are moving slowly you will find drivers honking their horns.
Basic civic sense
Ask almost anyone using the public buses, metro or local trains as why they are lettering, the answer will be tere Baap ka Kya jatahai, literal meaning, “is your father losing any money over it”, but for better understanding for westerners it means, “Do not lose sleep over it” just let it go. The walls of public building are washed daily by people passing urine over it. The term paint the town red has been totally misunderstood by us. Everywhere we can find walls of our buildings and stairway painted red with the spitting of beetle juice and one has to be careful if you are walking beside a bus or waiting at a signal because someone might spit from the window of the bus and really make your day. The very thought of using a public toilet can send chill down the spine of people. The entire exercise can sometimes became an ordeal. God forbid if you have to use public lavatory, you better be carrying a gas mask because the smell is so powerful, it feels your nostrils has been hit by freight train. We also enjoy leaving behind garbage at public parks and think the garbage bin is a decorative piece of work left there to adorn the park. How anyone can blame us for picking our leftovers, but then if we do that, what will the dogs eat? Our heart is big filled with compassion.
But surprisingly when we travel abroad, suddenly we develop a profound sense of civility and civic duty. We stand in queue, follow traffic rules and do not desecrate public property. Does that mean we are very respectful of other countries customs and rules and regulation? Or we have absolutely no self respect for ourselves. Do we believe in the theory when in Rome do as roman do? So is that the reason why we behave differently in India and abroad. Do Indians suffer from Multiple personality syndrome? Maybe it is true. If the Irish are impervious to psychoanalysis as per Sigmund Freud, then it is quite possible that we Indians also suffer from Multiple personality disorder, because we are absolutely two persons when we are living in India with no civic sense and suddenly we travel to Europe or America, we become this civilized beings.
Mahatma Gandhi asked people of this country to start “Civil Disobedience” to overthrow the British, but that was specific to certain laws which were draconian in nature and never did he ask the people to destroy or damage public property. But somehow we have managed to take that to next level. Civil disobedience is now ingrained in our minds. Obeying basic laws have become a burden on our souls. If we are caught jumping the signal, just pay the cop and when someone gets money offered to them on a daily basis, sooner or later they will give up and just take it. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of a clean India could very well remain a dream.
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