Monday, June 27, 2011

A pipe dream??


It is a piece of thin muslin cloth, an old chunni, past its accessorizing days, being recycled in true blue Indian style to serve as the roti-cloth, curd-hanger, sprout-tier and now as this ingenious instrument which works where many a skilled plumber failed.

The whole story is something like this- a kitchen tap, wrongly installed  off-centre rather than in the center, due to lack of foresight was the bane of my domestic help’s life as it sprayed water unstintingly over her and all over the cooking slab. At intervals, different plumbers came, cursed the previous ‘ completely useless’ ones, had tea, tinkered around, pronounced the tap cured, swore on their dear, departed mothers that it’d stay that way for at least a year and left. For a few days, things would be hunky-dory, the spray would restrain itself to the sink, spare the slab and Krishna Bai’s sari. And then would start the sinister spluttering again and we’d be back to square one.

And then one day, KB’s daughter came, took one look at the offending tap, decided that she certainly didn’t want to be sprayed, took the afore-mentioned piece of cloth, tied it firmly at the tap’s mouth and that was that. The shrew was tamed, the spluttering stopped effectively and everybody was happy.

The simple yet eminently effective method- just a bit of the (un)common-sense and the will to check a problem -  got me thinking. The builder had made a mistake, we had accepted it as our fate mainly because it was not directly troubling us, we hardly ever needed to work at the sink with the faulty faucet as that is K Bai’s territory and things had remained the same for the past few years.

Isn’t that our general attitude in almost every sphere of our lives? Our famous ‘chalta hai na’ attitude at its worst? Be it the clogged drains- we press our perfumed hankies on our noses and move on; our use of polythene bags- everybody does it so we too join in, they are convenient after all and then when we find the outskirts of any town strewn with the colored bits of polythene, we wince and move on; whatever pangs of conscience we may suffer are effectively taken care of by forwarding impassioned SMSs by pressing ‘send all’ in almost the same breath as we forward the latest Santa – Banta jokes or ‘liking’ similar messages on Facebook and then, yes, we consider it a duty done and move on.

So fond of moaning ‘what to do, this is India, after all’ we have learnt too well to take things in our stride, be it ineffectual administration, babudom, more loopholes in every system than its fabric and of course, corruption.
Right, things have been bad, our systems not really the best in the world, we have made incorrect choices but who says things should continue like this?

Some of the ‘plumbers’ we chose could not spot the trouble nor stop the leakage of our resources till we got this ‘Lil’ ol’ man in topi’ , our own piece of cloth, which just might work where the mighty anti-corruption measures failed so spectacularly. He doesn’t know politics or even administration, what he knows is that he is no longer going to be taken for granted.

What prevents us from being little pieces of cloth and stop nonsense when we see it? Is it our ingrained ‘why bother? It isn’t affecting us directly!’ Or is it fear? How many of us, those who are vociferously supporting Anna on FB or cells or by attending candle-light vigils can and will desist passing on that surreptitious green-note to facilitate a pending file? Why must we wait for some BIG miracle to bail us out?  If we can be our own small but worthy miracles, Anna has won.

He can fight the bigger wars, we, the smaller battles….and please don’t tell me it’s a pipe dream.

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