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.

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