Thursday, 9 October, 2008

Jaago re!

I remember learning a chapter named “Unity in diversity” during my school days. I guess it was an introductory chapter of a history textbook. One specific paragraph of the lesson was about the qualities that we Indians possess which are distinct and unique. One of the qualities mentioned was “Tolerance”.

I was too immature to understand the meaning of word ‘tolerance’, so I asked my dad what it really meant. My father explained the meaning with beautiful examples. I remember him saying that we Indians can tolerate almost anything with a smile on our face! That is so true, even today. Perhaps that was one of the reasons why we allowed so many foreign powers to rule us. Apart from the British, other powers who ruled India or a part of it include Portuguese, Dutch, French, Danish and even Japanese.

Has this quality of a typical Indian (read common man) changed? Not at all… We got rid of the foreign powers 61 years back just to be tortured by host of local powers- which are rather worse than their foreign counterparts. These include the greedy politicians, the corrupt bureaucrats, the crazy terrorists, the blindfolded law, the dishonest police, the entire system… Every single person who has power, and uses it in the wrong way, rules over the common man.(Am I sounding like the old kamal hasan in hindustani?)

Yesterday I had parked my bike on the roadside, beside a number of cars. I wanted to post a courier and I was back within 5 minutes. The bike was towed by the traffic cell in this short duration. I went to the place where they keep all the towed vehicles. There, I saw several people pleading to the officer in charge. I told him that I had parked my bike beside several cars and there was no “No Parking” signboard. He informed that it was some ambulance parking space and it was marked in yellow on the road. I didn’t remember seeing any yellow line on the road. I had studied the place after I realized that my bike was towed. I told him confidently that there was no yellow line on the road. This was the second time my bike was towed. I remember, I was too submissive the first time this happened and it was my mistake then. But this time, It wasn't my mistake and I was ready to take on the traffic officer. I asked him to prove that I was wrong and told him that traveling by bike had become costlier than using a cab. He realized that I was prepared to nag for a long time. He took me away from the crowd and informed me that the official charge for parking at a wrong place were Rs. 200. I knew that as I had paid it last time. He asked me if I want to pay that. I refused. He then asked me to pay 100 bucks as labor charges. He shouted to the watchman,”Labor charge gheun sod yala” (Take the labor charges and leave this guy) and left the place in the towing van to find some more bakras. I was tired of arguing and I knew it was useless. So I gave the watchman 100 bucks and got my bike. Yes, hundred bucks without a receipt- 100 bucks which will go in the officer's pocket. Come to think of it, it hardly makes any difference. Even if you pay the government, they aren’t going to use it in a better way.

I really felt bad that I gave up and paid 100 bucks for no reason at all. But I didn’t have any other option. If I would have persisted, I would have ended up paying double the amount or perhaps more than that. He could have troubled me by asking for the documents of the bike like the RC book, the insurance, the PUC etc and I didn’t have some of them. I was sure he would have discovered some reason to fine me. So I guess took the best possible way.

As I drove back, I realized that this is a common story in the life of a common man in India and 99.99% people would do exactly what I did. They are habituated to paying bribes and they no more feel the pinch. Their blood doesn’t boil anymore. They have lost the faith in the government and the system. All they can do is switch governments after every 5 years only to realize that every government is the same. They are helpless. Wait… Are they really helpless or they are just so tolerant?
As I drove back, I reached the same parking slot… I could see a very light yellow line and guess my bike was outside that line. As I was wondering, I saw the towing van come and tow some more bikes from the same spot.


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