The most bizarre thing happened to me this morning.
My workplace is a 10 minute walk from home but I took the car. As I exited the neighbourhood onto the straigth stretch to work, an Police car whizzed by only just about missing me. It wasnt a patrol vehicle but one of those transport vehicles reserved for officers. Ahead it ran two red lights, narrowly missing a scooterist with a little girl riding pillion and a few cars until I chased it down to the main intersection, where the car had stopped only because of traffic. I rolled down my window and asked the driver why was he driving like a madman and how could he so easily jump lights thus imperiling the lives of people and that too in a Police car. The driver muttered something and waived me off saying that it was none of my business and i had no right to demand an answer from him. Strange I thought. Ofcourse, it was my business since at first, he had narrowly missed my car and I wasnt just going to sit there as he displayed his murderous driving ability on the road. I just gave him a dirty look.
The senior officer sitting in the front seat next to the driver, suddenly put his head out of the window, pointed his finger at me and barked in Hindi, "Listen, you fool- just get on with it. Who are you? You're driving your car aren't you? So just stick to that and piss off." All this with his finger in my face. This really got me going. I'd spoken to these assholes very politely, not wanting to get into a confrontation and this insolent fool on a power trip was getting aggressive for no reason. Thankfully the light turned green, and it was time to move on but I wanted to have the last word and shouted across "You're sitting in a Police car, have some shame." He glared back, "You shameless asshole!"
This longish anecdote isnt about me or the fucking IPS officer and his poodle, the driver, but a sketch of where we stand as individuals and society, if that really means anything that is. We've become islands. No one can talk to anyone unless you're complimenting or applauding them. Criticism has become unfathomable because we've become so intolerant and after all who are you to comment on them, even if their actions are inimical to society. Citizenship has come to mean and limited to acquiring a passport, a drivers license or other documents- so you can "legally" pillage the state at will while the latter tries its level best to mete out worse treatment to you. We've become one of the two evils, which one is lesser- you decide.
Indian media and we can't get enough of the rise of India. You read the Economic Times, and it's as if we're living in a utopian state. India this and India that. It's fantastic and makes me really proud. The country is chugging along like a well oiled machine. 9.3% growth in the last quarter, agricultural, service and manufacturing sectors booming but moral sector plummeting. Who cares? Does it even matter. I guess not, since the growth rate doesnt take into account thuggery, shallowness and impunity. And by the looks of it, we're happy with it. We're happy being islands, increasingly wealthy islands, distancing ourselves from our own responsibilites as citizens- raising our voices when the matter has the potential to affects us personally but prefunctarily condoning wrongdoing because it might not affect us right then or simply because of the traditional Indian passivity- So many people break rules, how many people will you call out? or You aren't perfect so what right do you have to tell the other? Unfortunately, we've become so inured to the failings of a creaky system, imposed from the top and perpetuated by our own inaction.
Sure, in view of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010, surely the infrastructure will be spruced up- new stadia, roads, hotels, cleaner and greener city and all the works because we are surely great at hospitality but will our own character change? Or, will we just keep ambling around like zombies? Will the garbage keep lying around creating a stink and becoming a health hazard, or are we going to act and get the municipality to do what they should be doing in the first place.
The police officer is a cop yes, but he is also you and me.