‘Bend D Rule’, reads the sticker on the front windscreen of a neighbour’s car. In fact, all his cars, old and new, big and small, flaunt the same motto. What a style statement! But isn’t taking pride in bending the rules and breaking the law an Indian syndrome? Not only do many of us blatantly flout the rules but have the audacity to boast about our utter disregard for the rules. “Rules are meant to be broken”, are proud proclamations we often hear, as if flouting the rules is an achievement to be flaunted and trophy to be displayed. No wonder many of our laws exist only on paper, followed more in breach than in practice.
Look at our conduct on the road. When the traffic police are not in sight, many care two hoots for the signal. Throwing caution to winds, people speedily cross over without waiting for the green signal. Our impatience of at the traffic lights tends to give the impression at Indians are the busiest people in the world with no time to stand and wait. At times, the driver of the vehicle behind goes on honking continuously as a disciplined citizen awaits his turn at the traffic lights.
Our disregard for rules is also reflected in the way we behave in an undisciplined manner in public places. For many of us standing in a queue is below dignity. The one who jumps the queue considers himself to be street smart. Flaunting connections, getting the work done out of turn is a matter of pride. Even in places of worship, we do not mind exploiting our V.I.P connections to get out of turn darshan.
Jostling and pushing while standing in a queue are quite common in India. We tend to stand very close to each other in a queue, shoulder to shoulder, literally climbing over others. While on his first visit to USA, my son was standing in a queue, as is a way of life in India; he inadvertently drew closer to the man standing ahead him. This infuriated the fellow, who shouted, “What is your problem, man?” “None, just a matter of habit”, muttered my son.
‘Old habits die hard’ but a beginning has to be made. Inculcating civic sense and a regard for the rules in our citizens can make us a proud nation. What is required is not the pseudo pride in bending the rules and subverting the system but a genuine pride in adhering to the rules.
Published in Hindustan Times April 26, 2011