Thursday, July 14, 2011

“Chalta hai”: The fountainhead of indifference in India

As I was sleeping on the lower berth of the train, a voice rang out “Beta thoda side de dena jara”. As I opened my eyes and tried to adjust to the dizziness of my broken slumber, I saw the face of an uncleji with a huge grin of expectation stretched across it. “What the hell” I thought and gave him space enough to seat 2 folks.
To cut a long story short, that ‘little space’ soon turned into his entire family belongings (of all generations, I think!!) coming in my compartment and eventually almost my ouster from my own seat. In the night when it was the time to sleep once again, I told him to go somewhere else.
“Beta, adjust karlo. Ek raat ki hi toh baat hai. Itna toh chalta hai”, pat came back the reply. Eventually after a heated argument ‘the gentleman’ relented to move 3 of his family members so that I could sleep comfortably instead of a foetal position.

An endearing phrase showing our true spirit of resilience and generosity??
But after that encounter, the phrase “Chalta hai” kept on hammering in my mind.
Initially, I found it very endearing. This was truly a magical phrase. It was omnipresent and omnipotent. Anywhere, anytime and anyplace this “brahma-astra” could be used: From bribing a cop to cajoling a teacher for more marks to trying to placate your sweetheart. The person in front of you also felt the same way. In fact, if one did not accept the phrase, then it was regarded as rude, insensitive and even arrogant.
Maybe it is because we as Indians tend to think from heart and act on impulses than on our brains. We are always trying to accommodate others as much as possible.
At times it makes for wonderful, inspiring and truly heart-warming success stories. The ‘supposed’ ability of Mumbai and India to pick itself from repeated attacks; the ability of Sikhs being an integral part of India despite ‘Operation Bluestar’; the ability of Khans ruling the Bollywood and suspected Hindu terrorists like Sadhvi Pragya Thakur getting arrested. All of these were possible only due to the never-say-die spirit of India and an ability to move on.
BUT MORE THAN THIS THERE IS A SINISTER TOUCH TO IT.

Indifference, apathy and cowardice

It starts with a very basic truth of our lives. The time when we do something wrong and our mothers tell our fathers that ‘chalta hai. baccha hi toh hai’. Then we go to our schools and tell the same to our teachers. Outside schools, this takes the form of making fake driving licences to drive a bike in class 11 to bribing a cop for not wearing a helmet.
The more sinister of these is when we see a girl being eve-teased and everyone around looks around and pretends that such a thing is not happening. An injured person bleeds to death on a road after lying there for hours. A politician scams 1000s of crores and nothing happens except an enquiry committee which later on declares him innocent.
Where a minister like Jayaram is removed for doing good work in environment ministry. Where multiple power centres exist and the government does nothing.
Bomb blast and train accidents become a daily part of our lives and we “move on” and say “India mein aise hi chalta hai”.


Lost in a sea of (in)humanity

Q: But yeh sab kyun chalta hai??
A: Because of us and because of his huge population.

We are currently a growing nation: A growth which is uncontrolled and which results in a fight for the very scarce resources. Where being in the top 0.5% of the students in country is not good enough to fetch even an interview call from even a single IIM. Where 100% cutoffs have started to come up at graduation levels. Where a student from a poor background cannot get into an institute which will help him to earn a basic wage to support his family. Where we talk about opening new IIMs and IITs but forget to open schools at primary level of a village.
We as educated folks are scared. Very scared. Infact all of us in premier institutes are lucky and yet very scared.
Scared to
• To vote
• To go in for elections and politics
• To tread any unconventional paths.
• Scared of police, our boss, god, terrorists and everything that we can think of

Why are we scared?

Because we know for if we do anything wrong we will rushed over by millions of others who will gladly take our places. The lure of secure life with a comfortable job is too big to give up.
Because once we go down the bottom of the pyramid there is no climbing back up. We know that we are only as good as our last results. Where what we are doesn’t matter and what we did or do, does.
Because we know that there is no way that we can actually enter politics and make a career.
Because at the end of the day we are unwilling to step out of our comfort zones and take a step for the unknown.
Because we just don’t want to.

Shits happens, chalta hai.

Mumbai, Delhi and India are not resilient. They are indifferent. The “spirit of Mumbai” is long dead. They have accepted terror attacks as a part of one’s daily lives. If not reacting to terror is resilience then Africa and Iraq are much more resilient than us. The terrorists have killed this “spirit” and we watched on the side-lines as these ‘jihadis’ assassinated this spirit. After all “yeh sab toh chalta hai”. Resilience is a much nobler sentiment. We can’t lay claims to being resilient. We are used to being run over by everyone. We are indifferent and unless something happens to us, we will not do anything.
I am not proud of this, but the fact of the matter is that I too am a part of this “chalta hai” generation.
The best I can do is to express outrage on twitter, put up some messages on facebook, go on a few candle light marches and then move on. But I also know that these gestures are meaningless and will not do anything at all.

Everytime this will happen, I will feel impotent for a few days, pour my angst at all sundry places and then just shrug my shoulders and move on.
Chalta hai dude. Chalta hai.