DISAPPEARING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Are we becoming uncivilised?



 http://bagchiblog.blogspot.com/2012/12/are we becoming uncivilised.html

This year it has been an extended Diwali. The fireworks on the night of 28th – almost 15 days after Diwali – starting off after 10.00 PM, continued well into the night. I couldn’t fathom whether it was because of the Gur-parb, Guru Nanak’s birthday, or because of the Hindu holy day of Kartik Poornima (full noon of the Hindu month of Kartik) or the day on which the Hindu gods and goddesses wake up after months’ of slumber heralding the marriage season.

 Whatever the reason this year life was miserable for around a fortnight in our parts. On the night before Diwali somebody close-by decided to try his hand on singing some folksy devotional stuff on the loudspeaker. Clearly a raw hand at the business of singing and that too in front of a microphone, he ended up screaming into mike and that carried through to hit my ears and presumably those of others’ too. Though somewhat hearing-impaired, the loud and jarring music kept me awake during the better part of the night. Worse, he decided to take to the mike well past eleven at night and continued right through until early hours of the morning. Curiously, there is a police station close to where the singer had stationed himself but the policemen, if awake during that hour, were dead to whatever was happening around.

On three succeeding post-Diwali nights also fireworks kept everyone in the neighbourhood awake. The loud reports of crackers and “bombs” continued intermittently until the early hours. Surprisingly, those who are fond of pyrotechnics do not believe in pursuing their activities at a decent hour. Looking for maximum effect of their pursuit they relish the quietude of the advancing night when people normally prepare to retire for the day. The idea is to get the biggest bang for the bucks that they spend in acquiring the explosives so that all the sleepy imbeciles and ninnies are shaken out of their beds. Commencing their activities only after 11.00 PM they would go on until an indecent hour. 

Obviously, the economic slowdown has had no impact on people in the neighbourhood. Annually rising cost of fireworks is not a matter of concern for them at all. Mostly traders, money is never a problem for them. Indulgent as they are with their children, they shop for enormous numbers of crackers and, that too, of the kind that produces the maximum decibels. For them the laws or orders of the Supreme Court are of no consequence. They have no qualms in letting loose their children in the progressing night with sack-loads of loud crackers to torment others. 

 Unmindful, as they are, of the breach of the orders of the Supreme Court or the laws regarding the permissible limits of decibel levels of fireworks, it is futile to expect from them concern for others. They hardly ever think of others; what matters to them is their own pleasure. That their thoughtless activities avoidably cause air and noise pollution is something that never crosses their mind. They expect everyone, young and old, sick and suffering to enthusiastically get into the Diwali spirit and endure the torment that they revel in inflicting on others. As I lay awake through these nights I wondered whether we in this city have progressively become more uncivilized.

The supposedly long arm of the law never reaches anywhere near them as the same, inexplicably, remains cosily retracted and is never extended to prevent the commission of the activities that are  decidedly illegal and uncivil, if not anti-social.  The enforcers of the laws, along with the perpetrators of the uncivil acts, seemingly think that the laws are only for the statute books and should remain buried in them and never exhumed to be used to bring about order and civility in the society.

A somewhat similar attitude becomes evident as soon as one steps on to the city roads. It is like a vibrant and pulsating jungle with anarchic vehicular traffic, whether of two or four wheelers. Everyone seems to be in a big hurry to reach wherever they are headed for and in the process they don’t give two hoots for the traffic rules and the right-of-way of other commuters. Separate carriage ways for up-and-down traffic or the roundabouts have long ceased to have any meaning for them. The proliferating massive, predatory and overbearing SUVs and MUVs driven by half-educated and untrained chauffeurs muscle in by dint of sheer bulk and heft scattering the humble lesser species of vehicles affirming that it is still “might is right” on the city roads. Again, the guardians of the law are either absent or inept if they happen to be present,

 Rules and courtesies of the roads are matters that most either are ignorant about or do not bother about just as they do not care about parking their vehicles in ways that do not inconvenience others. There are markets in the city where it is difficult to shop as two wheelers clog the approaches leaving no space for shoppers even to squeeze through. So what if the shopkeepers lose business?

One wonders where this country is heading for. A couple of decades of economic reforms seems to have put a lot of money into the pockets of many who, unfortunately, are not equipped by education or training to handle their disposable incomes without becoming pests for others. Worse, with the progressively declining influence of the law-enforcers the situation is only likely to get worse. One tends to thank one’s stars that mercifully the economic growth has slowed down quite a bit. Had it continued in the same break-neck pace for another few years breeding many more millions of fresh upstarts small-town India would have become by now a living hell for the law-abiding, decent, sober and sedate as also the elderly.
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