Through the Views of Society!

Of late, I have been using public transport, the autorickshaw, quite frequently. After making sure that he has a working meter, is ready to go my way, does not look rude or surly and does not ask for extra over the meter, I get in. Once I do, I find a way to strike a conversation, which could be propelled by any occurrence on the way – a passing school bus, children overburdened with heavy satchels, pot-holed roads, bad traffic or offensive policemen. And the insight I have gained  from these people are eye openers for those of us not on the distaff side of fortune and circumstance of birth.

The day I read the news about the son of an autorickshaw driver topping the EAMCET exam, I brought up the topic with my ‘vaahan’. I also expounded on the strong support system the boy was lucky enough to have had – his own commitment and innate intelligence, sacrificing and encouraging parents, an equally supportive school and college who condoned delays in payment of fees, imparted some free tuition and ultimately a scholarship to study further. “Yes,” agreed the man, adding, “we should all be so lucky. My child’s school will hound student and parent to pay the fees on time, additional tuitions cost a bomb which we are still willing to shell out, but teachers need to be equally committed to teach, shouldn’t they?”

This brought to mind the incident of an indigent parent who was sending her son to an ‘English medium school’ where the boy was struggling to cope with a language which was neither spoken at home nor in the locality where he lived. I offered to have the boy spend an hour or so with me twice a week to hone his language skills. He could bring  along a friend or two if shyness drew him back and I would charge a small fee because I have seen that  freebies are not  valued for their worth. The boy showed no interest  in taking up my offer and eventually the fifteen year-old quit school and is idle at home without any prospect for a job in the future other than menial or manual. Right there ended my dream of another APJ Abdul Kalam emerging from under my wing, his full potential nursed to fruition under my guidance!

Two other incidents relating to the police showed me how difficult it is for the common man to rise above corruption and bribery in the everyday world. The ubiquitous checking of valid papers by the traffic police appears to be nothing but a convenient way of skimming the unwary. Not only does it leave a hole in one’s pocket but also a conviction that trying to be a one-man crusader against graft only leads to grief.

Passing one such scene I remarked, rather sanctimoniously as it turned out, that to pay a bribe is as bad as to take one. If one is at fault one should insist on a chalan rather than have your hard earned lucre line your tormentor’s pocket.

“That doesn’t help at all Madam,” said the driver patiently. “The cop wants his cut, so if you argue with him, even if your papers are in perfect order, he will file a chalan citing some other reason, under some other section, such as verbal abuse or resisting the police”. I had absolutely no answer to this fact of life. India must be one of the few countries where the police are known more for harassing than for helping the common man.

I learnt recently of an incident involving my son who lives in Bangalore in a small apartment on the second floor. Apparently the party by the ground floor tenants had turned rather riotous and somebody had complained to the police. After putting an end to the festivities there, a couple of constables went up to the other floors, occupied by bachelors, for no other reason than to extract money. My boy shelled out the bribe; he didn’t realise that the cops had no right to enter a house without a search warrant, but youngsters do not wish to invite further harassment under other circumstances at some future date.

I wonder sometimes whether as parents we are really equipping our children to live in today’s world. I have tried to teach my sons the values that we hold so important and am proud of the way they have turned out. But I have no answer when, as questioning and often angry young adults, they say that they don’t see these values being practised where and when it matters.

What would you have said or done?


19 responses »

  1. deepika says:

    Depicting hard fact of our life. Our life is so much entangled with corruption that now its difficult to breath freely.

    • vimala madon says:

      it’s sad isn’t it, that so many of us feel that this grave ill afflicting our society is so deeprooted that it has taken over our lives. We HAVE to do something, if only to make our country safe for our children.

  2. Geetashree Chatterjee says:

    I agree with you Vimalaji wholeheartedly! In the long run, these values pay. And I take pride in believing that they are universal in nature however outmoded they seem in the face of sporadic rebuttals!

  3. Indrani Talukdar says:

    You are right Vimala. Indians have such a bad track record as far as corruption is concerned; and now the CWG scandal. But do you see Kalmadi and gang cowering in shame?
    A wonderful write-up as always.

    • vimala madon says:

      Thanks, vimala and Indrani for your appreciation. It is so depressing to feel so helpless and so frustrated and so angry. It also makes me angry when I hear someone remark that corruption is second nature to us; I think that now it has become ‘first nature’ – it’s gone right into and under our skin.

  4. vimala ramu says:

    Yes, corruption makes you angry, frustrated, helpless, ashamed. But looks like nothing seems to stem its growth in our country. Nice blog,Vimala.

  5. Shernaz says:

    Sadly, Vimala, corruption has come to stay and no matter how hard we try to fight it at some point we have to become party to it in small ways or life comes to a standstill. I have had my work stalled endlessly for not wanting to give in to corruption. It took several years and a lot of running about before I could get the municipal corporation to finally rectify my property tax. I might have ended up paying much less and got the work done faster if I had thrown a few hundred rupees around. At least here I have the satisfaction of knowing it was all done without giving in to corruption. But time isn’t a luxury always.

    • vimala madon says:

      Shernaz, let us not lose hope even tho I despair when I read of scams and corruption day in and day out. I used to pride myself on the fact that I never paid donations for admission into schools even tho my sons studied in 6 schools, and that I didn’t shell out any largesse at the time of transfer of property in my name, or even to the customs when my luggage came from abroad on transfer of residence. But maybe I was just lucky as many of my friends say. Yet I don’t think I will surrender to someone greed at my expense. I agree with you that resisting takes a lot of time, even money to move your resistance forward, but if we don’t make that effort to complain, to put in writing our queries and ask for reasons for their demands, how will the change come in. I know for sure that the written word in these matters is more powerful than the oral.

  6. Beyniaz says:

    Great blog, Vimala. Reality bites!

  7. Dear Vimala, your write-up depicts reality well. Yes, values are dying and sometimes we feel that we are fighting an unending war with corruption knowing fully well that we might end up losing in the end. What hurts is when our children become indifferent to such things and values only seem some vague thoughts of their parents, not something to be followed!

    • vimala madon says:

      My sons and I have unending debates on this issue. While they know I am going the right way about pressing on them the values of a just and true society (as far as such a dream can be possible given the current scenario) they also say that I am too idealistic and life’s not going to change in a hurry.

  8. Sneha says:

    Yes, being an youngster, I’d say that I would fight back. Really! However, most Indian cops change the attitude especially when they see a woman. Sometimes their piercing eyes makes you feel like slapping them then and there.
    Of course, for every force of power, there is a equal force of resistance. So, that, I think says it all about my opinion on the issue.

    • vimala madon says:

      Way to go Sneha! If every one of us did our little bit instead of bemoaning about those who don’t we can make a slow but sure change in society.

      • Sneha says:

        I know… It may sound idealistic but I believe in the power of one. Of course, this theory does not promise you happiness and success at all, but somewhere it works 🙂 Thanks for your reply.

  9. Sonal Shree says:

    I remember entering into argument with a traffic police in Chandigarh when he fined me Rs. 300 for a lame reason which was not valid. I was not at fault and yet I was trapped.

    I got angry and said I would not part with the money and if he continued to pester me unnecessarily then i would call up my DIG uncle and report this.
    (I do not have any DIG uncle)

    He relented and let me go without any fine.But how many times can one afford to get away if one is running short of time or patience and energy?

    Greed and corruption have become ingrained in our system which is really unfortunate. More unfortunate is the fact that there isn’t much that can be done by common man unless s/he has some ‘source’.

    Increasing awareness and confidence is the key.

    • vimala madon says:

      I have had similar experiences. It was my driver’s fault for going the wrong way in a one-way road, yet I am ashamed to say that I mentioned we were ‘army’ (my dad and my brothers were) and the cop who was asking for ‘teen char sau’ quickly backed away. He should have insisted on chalaning me and I would have had to pay up.

  10. Geetashree Chatterjee says:

    Hmmmmm! It really pinches when the values which we feel and think are ageless, wither away in the face of unabashed corruption and undaunted moral degeneration. Often it makes me think whether we are wrong in upholding values and principles which are long effete and obsolete. May be it is we who have to revisit our morals and values now considering the way every day these are battered and bruised by a non-compromising and unyielding society gradually society !

    • vimala madon says:

      Yes Geetasgree, but I still think that as parents we have to do what we have to do, and that is, to continue to try and instil in them the values which will make them better persons and give them a dignity they will otherwise never have.

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