Thursday, July 13, 2006

Resilience, Immunity and Kindness in Mumbai


Some bloggers asked why I am not angry at the administration's failure over the city's serial train blasts. Why not take the Government on, first, for not seeing this coming and second, for not being in a position to help its citizens who were in dire need of medical and other assitance ?

I agree I should express my anger. I intend to do that and put my thoughts down on two other points on as well. Sure, the authorities (police, fire) should have resopnded and in large or larger numbers. But as I have argued in the past, we are a shining example of utter mismanagement of governance. Does it make sense attacking it again ? Maybe. But the sources of mismanagement must be addressed first.

The second and the larger issue is that we don't have enough hands devoted to protecting us. That is a fundamental problem. There are not enough cops, whether within the railway system or out of it. There are not enough traffic cops and there are not enough ambulances or people to man all of that. Sure, the cops have a way of dissapearing when something happens. Or rushing to guard Sonia Gandhi and Lalu Prasad Yadav as they make their uninvited visits. But its only part mismanagement. The fact is that there are not enough of them.

A State of Bankruptcy

Any solution should keep this in mind. So, I would sit down with the (bankrupt) Maharashtra state's balance sheet and ask how much are we spending on law and order and where can we cut and prune if we want to do something about it. I should request someone more numerically inclined like Bombay Addict to carry out this exercise but

I have the answer instinctively. Seventy (70 %) per cent or more of the state's budget goes to pay salaries of employees. Not on any form of development work. Of these thousands of employees I can safely wager that we can cut back 20 to 25% and not feel a thing. Instead, we could focus on recruiting more law enforcement hands. And also give them the right facilities, from modern arms and ammunition to working conditions. I would now focus my anger there.

Which brings me to the much discussed points about resilience and kindness. I think we tend to mix them and sometimes confuse one for the other. Here is my take. Suppose you are driving on the road and something (like an accident) happens in front of you. Someone is injured. Or its a bigger accident with lots of injured. Usually (not necessarily) you get out the car and see what's happened. Or if you are walking by, you will run towards the scene. Chances are you will help and take the person/s to hospital.

No Help Coming

Why do you do that ? For the simple reason that you instinctively know there is no trauma care in India. Don't expect blue and white helicopters to materalise out of the sky to airlift the wounded. Or for that matter, expect to hear sirens in the distance within four minutes of the bomb blast or the accident. Because someone dialled a 100. Try and see if someone even picks up.

Even if an amublance set out in your direction, chances are its stuck in a traffic jam - every time I see one stuck I shudder. Recognise we don't have dedicated emergency lanes on our highways, leave alone roads. But guess what, we all know that, even the urchin on the street knows that. So, you take matters into your hands. And see where you can help out. Because that's the only way you can save the poor sod. And that poor sod might you or me one day.

And that's why we are kind. Because there are those of us who feel for our fellow human beings, citizens (and thank god for that) and want to help in some way. Because we know there is no other way that help will be delivered. So, whether its that instinctive response to run to a site of an accident when you hear that sound of metal hitting metal or whether its to stand on a road in the middle of the night with bottles of water, biscuits and tea, it all stems from the knowledge that someone out there needs help and you are quite possibly the only person or set of persons to do that.

Resilience Or No Choice ?

Now the resilience. Why are we resilient ? As many others have said before me, because we have no choice. Both my friends who were in trains (the other first class compartments) that were targeted by the serial bombers are back on them today. Why, because they have to go to work. Yes, there were some who stayed back home the day after. Particularly the younger lot whose worried parents prevailed upon them. But what do you do two days later ? Sit at home. And for how long ?

And what are your options if you can't look at a Western Railway local again ? Will you buy a car and fill petrol at Rs 52 a litre or whatever it is and drive 60 km both ways from Malad or Borivali (north Mumbai) to your place of work in south Mumbai ? Or will you now travel by bus ? Would you spend two and a half hours doing that each way ? And what makes you think buses are safer ? We've had bombs being set off in buses as well. So, what does it boil down to. You have to get onto the train and get to work. At some point. Because you are a bread winner for the family or maybe you are alone.

Most people I know (including me) work for a living. And have no choice about it. Though many of us like doing what we do as well. So there is an added attraction. Most of us don't have a legacy to fall back on either. Turns out even those who have a legacy want to work and prove themselves. That's the kind of infectious energy this city has.

And Finally, The Spirit Word

So that's resilience. Its a combination of a lack of choice and the need to be doing something with our lives. That's not necessarily the same as kindness and the spirit of helping each other. Maybe the two connect, maybe they don't. The resilience makes us seem immune as well. Guess we are, by inference. Because if I were not immune, I would be sitting at home. If I am immune, I am back at work. That makes me resilient and immune as well. I don't see something wrong in that..

9 comments:

Dusty on 11:43 pm said...

So well said.

M said...

http://www.deeshaa.org/2006/07/13/the-right-response/

Ads on 10:08 am said...

No, Resilence and Immunity are not bad but required. And so is the wish, will and drive to help. What is wrong, however, is to fuse the two, call it 'spirit' and gloss over the hard hitting facts. Can we do anything about it?? Perhaps not a great deal as you have rightly pointed out. But are we by and large aware of the larger issue here?? An issue of safety, an issue of total and collosal disregard for lives of people that create the economy of this country. Are we - especially those not driectly connected with this or any other tragedy - concenrned?? hurt?? and if nothing else aware????

PS said...

GE, I love you blog, but you sound really helpless here. It strikes a melancholic note, sure, of empathetic but paralyzed, impotent citizens resigning to scramble for their daily bread.

Sure, we need the humane spirit amongst us to carry us through vile acts of this sort, but if we strike these notes for every bomb blast, for every rail roko and every monsoon washout, I believe we are missing the real issue. We are not addressing the underbelly of our system that's decompsing this country inside out. We need to fight, but like others have commented, it's an unseen enemy - both terrorists and the goons who make up our governance systems. Citizens need targets to fight against - both issues and the people who instigate them. That's what the media should be doing, and we need to it soon before our voices are clamped swiftly by the new draconian media bill. Time is running out.

Anonymous said...

"Chitra believes Mumbai has turned into a heartless city. "No one bothers about the dead. All they care about is money. In two days, people are back to work. The dead have been forgotten. On Tuesday, it was my brother. Next time, it will be someone else." "
http://in.rediff.com/news/2006/jul/12firdaus1.htm

Anonymous said...

I'm just wondering - can a city ask its government to hold a referendum ? I dearly would like to see one where we can bid goodbye to Datta Dalvi and bring in Deepak Parekh as City CM , Joachim Arputham and Chandrashekar Prabhu as Urban Devt. Ministers , Tasneem Mehta for Heritage Protection, Bittu Sehgal for Environment and....I could go on...oh what a renewal it will be for our city !

Chandra said...

Makes sense, my friend.
Good work.

Bombay Addict on 12:23 pm said...

GE - nice post. I think we need to put this "spirit of Mumbai" in perspective.

Btw (and to anon comment above on referendum) - do have a look at the Vote Mumbai campaign . Some hope for change perhaps ?

Bombay Addict on 2:07 pm said...

And sorry for this late response, but I will try and have a look at Maharashtra's balance sheet...but will have to put in some fight to get it in the first place. I think the BMC's bs could make a good start ? Thanks.

 

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