Why do something today when you can do it day after tomorrow? That strategy has stood us in stead for decades, whether it be Five Year Plans, time schedules for using caste-based reservations for the uplift of weaker sections of society, or the completion of projects like the Commonwealth Games in time. While there are natural deadlines for some things, the rest can — and have been — remarkably stretched in time. The 'last minute' syndrome somehow dovetails into prayers on the line of, “Oh god, please let this work out on time.” The problem is that it's not the divine that's at fault but human laziness.
No one's really to blame for anything. If there's one name that comes up, you can be sure as the day is not night that it's not you. If that was really the case, it stands to logic that cock-ups and disasters never happened. Whether it's the Bhopal gas tragedy, communal riots, corruption scandals or sheer failure of managing a project, no one stands up to be counted. Then there's the old bogey of the 'foreign hand' to help out whenever India is in trouble. The problem can't always be outsourced. And when heads have muddled things up, heads should roll.
It's really corruption, but then, when you hear the word 'corruption', you let out a yawn. Everyone does it and it's the oil that keeps the wheels turning. Strange as it may sound in the 'chalta hai' scheme of things, it's not. The fact that being honest — no matter what field of life one is talking about — has become a 'radical' gesture, speaks volumes of how we have sanctioned and even sanctified corruption. Never mind business and government. Start the clean-up in school admissions, gas cylinder depots, film ticket purchases... the list goes on and on and on...
We have problems? Not really. Exaggerations. Conspiracies. Media hype. Everything but the possibility that there may actually be some things that we need to fix. Instead of raging about how someone pointed out that we Indians may have actually different standards of public hygiene standards than many countries, why don't we just walk about and see whether our roads are indeed garbage-free and our habits truly 'civilised'. Why not also see if we can do something about making the embarrassing bits disappear — without practising an easy self-hypnosis to assure ourselves that they don't exist.
We know everything, thank you very much. The fact of the matter is, sometimes, we don't. If there's an issue such as the Nuclear Liability Bill or the Ayodhya verdict — things that are hardly to be considered in black and white — we find it so easy to just plonk our support without going into details. In the day-to-day scale too, how many of us are willing to accept that we simply don't know the way to a place and it's better to ask for directions? To know what one doesn't know is the first step of an informed society.
If you can fix a plug for Rs 10, why spend Rs 100 to buy a new one? Cutting corners has been ingrained in us like a life-long virus. The fact that quality matters still eludes the most of us. Whether one decides to mug up 'pass notes' before an exam or undertake a 'quick fix' — a particular international sporting event that starts in Delhi today comes to mind — this mentality lies at the core of that now much-lampooned phenomenon called 'jugaad'. Between a good thing and a shoddy thing, the cheap thing isn't the answer.
To see the silver lining in a dark cloud is one thing. To see a white cloud in a black one is quite another. In the booming sounds being made of India as a 'world power', 'superpower', 'global power' and our cities hosting 'world-class' events, 'world-class' institutions and 'world-class' what not, we end up forgetting that we're still a long way from fulfilling the basic parameters of a country that can take care of its own people. The elusive 'trickle down' effect is only one symbol of our over-optimism that runs on a parallel track to the other one that carries our doomsday brigade. The truth, as always, is somewhere in between.