Feudalism

I and Jaya were travelling by Uber the other day. When the trip started, the windows were down and AC was OFF. It was stifling hot. Jaya told the driver to put the AC on. Our journey was not for more than 20 minutes. The driver said that he cannot put the AC on as the fuel level in the car was very low. He in fact told us that he will take a diversion to fill up the petrol in the car. From where we started, trip to petrol station and back, with queue at the station, would have taken at least 25 minutes. I said please stop the car and cancel the trip we do not have spare 25 minutes for a 20 minute journey. He said he will continue and reluctantly put the AC on.

Later on the driver was cribbing all the time and I asked him why he had taken a trip though fuel was low? He had no answer. He also did not know the faster/shorter routes other than those shown by the GPS. When I started giving him the direction, he was unhappy and told me that he lived in the same area as I did and had a Rs.10/ million bungalow of his own. He also said that he was the “Barathe Patil” of that area, a title given in olden times to the local rulers. I told him that I did not understand the significance of this information. He felt that I was treating him poorly because he was a driver! But I only was looking to reach my destination in 20 minutes!

Now I understood his problem. Probably life was not treating him well moneywise, he had a property which must be in dispute; about 10/15 years back the same property was not even worth half a million Rupees. But in the minds of our friend he was still from the ruling class, though he may not get much time to rule, after driving an Uber taxi for the whole day. The titles from the olden days are now only for name sake and persons holding them have no real power in today’s modern society.

When a decision was taken in India to do away with Red Beacon on top of cars of VIP’s, the ruling class (Read politicians, govt employees)  was very unhappy because their so called importance was just taken away. That was the feeling in the mind of ruling class. Government thought that only a couple of people in India need this beacon along with ambulances, and fire-fighting trucks. A couple of months after this directive was published, I saw one vehicle with a beacon; I knew that the vehicle was being  used by middle level officer in the Government, known to me. I asked the driver why the beacon was not removed. He said their office had not received the directive, yet. Come on, the whole world including chief ministers are moving around without beacons but this guy with middle management title did not want to remove it. Loss of power? What power? Why did these people think that they got power just by putting a beacon on top of their cars? But these folks just wanted to cling to so-called power till the last moment.

What power does this beacon give? I was never intimidated by these cars and people using them but there must be a large number of people in the society who must be showing them respect because of the beacon. These guys were allowed to pass through toll booths without paying toll. They could park their vehicles in no parking zone, police would be afraid to touch them.

In olden days, we had various small states which were ruled by many small time kings. At the time of independence these kingdoms were dissolved and merged into India. In 1971, the 26th amendment to the Constitution of India withdrew official recognition of all official symbols of princely India, including titles and privileges, and abolished the remuneration of the princes by privy purses. As a result, even titular heads of the former princely states ceased to exist. Years after this was achieved, many of the so called Rajas call themselves by old titles and behave the same way. Many people also treat them with “respect”  mainly out of fear!

Why does this happen? These titles have got embedded into DNAs of Rajas and they cannot think otherwise. Some people, even today, put the title of Raje at the end of their name! For example Ashok Raje and then their surname! They are so much used to take advantage of their position that they now feel helpless without titles. In northern and eastern India feudal system of zamindari/ subhedari (Land owners & favored people who were gifted lands by the then kings) existed for a few centuries. These landlords behaved like Kings and could get away with murder, literally. They used wives of their laborers as sex tools. The whole family would just live on the mercy of these Subhedars/Zamindars. Changing their way of life, achieved  through land reforms,  from their DNA was like changing their blood group! But this change has taken place.

In olden respect was achieved by titles and in modern times by red beacon on the car! In life one needs to earn respect by own behavior, achievements (not monetary), and humility.  It is how you get along with all strata of people in the society, that is more important than your so called title of Ex Raje or MP or MLA. Those who have achieved in life earn their respect and they don’t keep people as if they own them! I know of an ex-Mayor of Pune. One day I was driving in a car somewhere and a person went on his bike in the opposite direction. The face looked familiar but I could not place him. Later on it suddenly struck me. He was Mr. Ankush Kakade whose Mayor ship term had ended only the previous day; on the next day he was going somewhere on his own bike, no showmanship. No tantrums! Probably in public life we need more Ankush Kakade’s! An idea struck me suddenly. In the beaconless cars Government must put photograph of Ankush Kakade to give everybody reminder to all modern day Rajas, that they should emulate Kakade and not some Ashok Raje! Return their official cars and homes when their term is over and not to cling to benefits offered by the position! My friends I will say that India is progressing when this is achieved.

Social behavior

I have always been thinking how a society forms, matures, and evolves. The basis for a good society is faith, empathy and accommodation. These points have nothing to do with the crime in a society. Because I feel that crime is an aberration to any society. When we say that a certain society is a good society, it is how the majority in the society behave or react to a situation.

When we travel to any place we are first exposed to roads, traffic, and public behaviour of that place. It is roads, traffic, public behaviour on roads that defines the first impression of the society, it can be orderly or disorderly. In Pune where I live, the city is supposed to be one of the better cities in India, people are generally of helping nature and soft. But what happens to them on the roads?  I am not talking of road rage! Road rage is a different matter altogether. Road rage is triggered by an event, howsoever small. Yesterday evening we were driving on a crowded road and traffic was slower than usual. Suddenly I found that some people on bikes going ahead driving on footpaths! It was not a case of random nut but there were many who were driving on footpath. Why do people do this? If they are in a hurry why not start a little early so as to reach on time.

Motorcycle guy standing at right angle to the traffic direction.

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As a society are we not trained to follow rules? Is it in our education? Is it in our culture? Or is it in our DNA? I feel that it is combination of all the aspects. I sense that the wrong elements in our DNA become more active when we are in our own city or country! Or is it related to implementation of laws? But will there be a specific law saying that people are NOT allowed to drive their bikes on footpath? Some are written rules and some are unwritten rules. I also feel that 150 years of British Rule has distinctly changed our DNA partially. The civil disobedience movement, during freedom struggle has got imbibed in our minds. As society we feel that rules made by the Govt are to be broken!

In a vast and not so rich a country like India there are issues. Availability of toilets at home and in public places has been a big problem. Current government is encouraging people by giving financial aid, making laws so that people who do not have toilets at home, though they can afford it, cannot fight an election! But how is this changing the situation? Some changes are seen but one still reads stories of people using their fields for their ablutions even though they have toilets at home! Why? Because it is manly to do so! I see on Mumbai Pune expressway people will relieve themselves in open just 30 meters ahead of public urinals! What is it? Is it brain fed? Is it I don’t care attitude? I get a feeling that DNA issues get to the top of the list.

Helmet less people

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Road traffic is one area where it is almost impossible to understand behavior of people in Pune. There is a Supreme Court ruling that wearing helmets is mandatory while driving two wheelers. But we don’t wear helmets. The argument is it’s our head, how is Government concerned? Statistics show that 99% of the deaths in two wheeler accidents are of those, who were not wearing helmets. Supreme Courts be damned!

Last week there was an incident at Pune airport. A young guy went to meet his lady friend who was transiting through Pune airport. If you buy a viewing gallery ticket at any airport, you will not be allowed to enter transit area. This gentleman wanted to meet this friend so what did he do. He had travelled a few days before to Delhi. He modified the same ticket to make it look like a valid ticket. Using the modified ticket, he entered the airport but was later caught with the modified ticket by security. Looks like brain fed is the latest norm.

Caution  board on Mumbai Pune Expressway

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Its sad to see such boards on expressway! On roads having medians, anywhere in the world, you are supposed to drive on the correct side of the road but in our great city of Pune people will drive in the reverse direction upto the distance of one kilometer to avoid a detour of a couple of kilometers. So much for the fuel conservation. Mind you these are people from all strata of the society.

Women’s rally

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On Women’s day bike rally on 8th March, an official event, there were so many ladies taking part it was amazing. This was an official event but organizers forgot to tell the ladies that they should wear helmet if they want to take part in the rally. In their eagerness to get dressed up, they put on various fancy head gears but very few put on helmets. What was the signal sent to younger generation? Fortunately these days all bike companies when they advertise their bikes,  make sure that the person driving the bike is wearing a helmet!

Coming back to my query, why we behave this way as a society? One thing is for sure that the implementation of our laws is lax and on top of that there are corrupt policemen. Strong implementation shows the results all over the world! Dr Chauhan, a staunch Khalistan movement backer, used to live in London in 80’s. When Indian Government requested the British Govt to stop Dr. Chauhan from making inflammatory statements, he was just called to office and was told that if he does not behave, he will be simply deported. From that day Dr. Chauhan’s mouth was shut! Our brethren behave differently when they land at Singapore! Why? The reason is strong implementation of laws. In general world over maybe 10% want to break the rule but in our case this % goes to 40/50%. With our large population handling law breakers is also not easy because of sheer volume.

Uber self-drive vehicle

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Uber’s Sweeny, in charge of driver less cars project was asked, where will Uber introduce such vehicles? He said, “US and Europe are typical example of organized traffic so we will first try there”. When asked about some larger countries in Asia, he just smiled!

Any solutions? Suggestion, anyone? I feel that unless there is a mass drive started, to involve anybody and everybody, it will be very difficult to change! Politically, we see that the whole nation is getting driven towards development, away from cast, creed politics. Do we need a national leader to take us towards modern developed organized society, so that Uber’s of this world would not give a smile, when asked if they would come to India for trials of driverless cars?