Sunday, January 04, 2009

Nip this in the bud.

On the platform of Chennai Central Station, where I had gone today to receive someone, I witnessed a disturbing sight.

The same train was scheduled to return to Bangalore. Some passengers who were planning to board the unreserved compartment actually formed an orderly queue prior to the arrival of the train.

This queue in the middle of the platform and with seemingly nothing in front to queue up for aroused a lot of curiosity. Passers-by started asking what the queue was meant for. “To board the unreserved compartment as soon as the train arrives” was the stock reply. Reluctantly, a few others joined the queue. While, others like me who were mere observers couldn’t believe what was happening and kept watching the queue in silent amazement.

What kind of madness is gripping this country? Do we want to lose our core competences? When it comes to rushing into railway compartments, 100 people at a time, 100 metres before the engine finally comes to rest, few people in the world can match our speed, nimble-footedness and our elbow movement. Why abandon these unique skills that we have painstakingly developed and finely honed over generations and decades? Do we have to give up values that are quintessentially Indian and stoop to the level of standing in queues to get into a railway compartment?

I am disappointed, even dismayed. Bad enough that terrorists are trying to tear the fabric of this country, but must we inflict damage on ourselves?

One reason for this virus of orderliness to creep in is that some of our writers go abroad and get brain-washed. For example, in this post, Taru Bahl laments:

While (in London), I had the good fortune of boarding the tube at about the same time (6.30 pm). I was quite surprised to see that the swarming crowds getting off the many elevators at most stations was far more than what we would have BUT there was a difference. They wait for people to get off the tube before letting those who are waiting on the platform to board. There is no chaos, no anxiety and absolutely no question of toenails ripping off. They wait to install older people or those on crutches and wheel chairs first. It is an unspoken thing. The crowds part. Someone helps them on and the rest climb in without making a song and dance about anything. And no one misses the train.

I asked Mark, my Indian friend's English husband and quite an Indophile, as to why we could not do such a simple thing back home in India. Was it a question of just being indisciplined, callous or unmindful of rules? He said, "Taru if you can stomach the truth, fact is it is not in your DNA. It is a cultural thing and will perhaps take a century or so to change!"

That’s the point. Queuelessness is in our DNA and is our birthright. Why tinker with it and try some funny mutations? We may be creating a Frankenstein or a Jurassic Park.

I hope that this Taru Bahl has been quarantined and de-doctrinated


Anonymous said...

Maybe what the young man who recollects an incident at the railway station is happening.


Anonymous said...

Dear Raj,

I do not remember the book -- but RKN, somewhere also complains about the queue-ing habit; I guess you would find a kindred spirit in his writings!


Prashanth said...

Maybe its DNT..but maybe its because we always have been brought up where demand far far exceeds supply.

Compare to tube, yes, we are disorderly. But thats because, there are never enough seats / trains for everyone. If the railways had lots of trains between main stations, such things can never happen since you are ok to miss one train and hop onto the next (in the tube, I think its one every 10 or 15 mins). Instead, here you miss and its done.