What Indians are good at

The other day I told you about my passport woes and the impossible task of getting an online appointment to apply for a passport. 5 days ago I read that the Passport Office in Vizag was having an “open day” – anybody could walk in and apply without needing an appointment. The Vizag office serves a few other districts like Godavari, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam. This morning I opened the paper and couldn’t stop laughing – they had Royally screwed themselves.

Chaos at Passport Office – Vizag The Hindu newspaper

Whether it was stupidity or naivety  the guys at the Passport Office got it seriously wrong. The report says that they expected 2000 people to show up when in fact thousands more did. People came from faraway places and camped outside the building overnight to secure their spot in line. When the gates opened, the crowd surged in to the passport office and the officials were apparently “jittery”. They called in the Police for back up. Our great Indian police tactic of “lathi charging” which translates to beating the crap out of anyone in a crowd with a wooden stick (police issue I’m sure), caused many injuries to innocent people who were just trying to secure what was promised  to them. It is reported that many women fell to the ground and were crushed in the stampede and  a young girl sustained a head injury from a police baton. It is to be expected that in India no investigation in to police conduct will take place. The newspaper rightly reports that “The desperation of the applicants is…an indication of the failure of the online booking system.” . 

The desperation of the people that caused the stampede and the inability of the police to maintain calm shows that despite thousands of years of civilization, this is all that we have show for it. Our best years are way behind us, in the age of the Harrappa and Indus Valley Civilization.

Be it waste disposal, transport infrastructure, urban planning, or an online booking system everything in India breaks down because there are too many people in this country and just not enough public services to go around. We are at least 15 years behind in everything we do. To that add a dose of stupidity and laziness and you’ve got a heady mix of inefficiency. But no one in the public domain talks about the burden of population on our infrastructure and public services. In India if 100 people die in a flood or earthquake that’s nothing to be alarmed about. You need thousands to die before it’s noteworthy. Our infrastructure will always be playing catch up as long as no one comes up with a way to  put the brakes on our population that is hurtling out of control.

When a group of Indians get together we are good for only 4 things – voting, rioting, bribing and reproducing. We might have produced Aryabhatta and C.V Raman but when it comes to the Indian masses we excel at these 4 things. We even excel at making our philistine deportment sound better than what it is: voting is democracy and not the gheraoing of villagers by political party sponsored buses to vote for the party or else; rioting is demonstrating and exercising ones civil liberties; bribing is merely oiling the machinery and incidentally for it to work in your favour; and reproducing is our god given right and the more people there are  indebted there to my party the more votes I get.

In the end I do feel bad for the thousands who spent hard earned money to travel all the way to Vizag only to be let down and literally trampled by the system. This week this same Passport Office will be gaily celebrating Diwali and handing out sweets to each other hoping that the big bangs of toxic Sulphur laden fire crackers will drown out the memory of the bollocking they nearly got from the public. Whoever brought the idea of an “open-day” to the Monday morning meeting should not be getting a Diwali bonus this year but I guarantee he/she/they will face no repercussions for their ill-conceived “plan”. Meanwhile the higher powers who control the system will continue on as usual. Despite the rioting and trampling and lathi charging, the bureaucratic behemoth always goes back to the way it was. The status quo is sacrosanct.

In – di- ya Zindabad!


About nonsense girl

Galley slave, qualitative researcher working in development, married my best friend, writing about my life, my family, my dog, TV, Indian culture, astronomy and my garden. www.nonsensegirl.wordpress.com
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8 Responses to What Indians are good at

  1. Alka Ganesh says:

    I know all about gatecrashers of queues. My righteous indignation usually goads me to gently (!) say, “this is a queue, did you not notice?”; the response could be “oh sorry” but often, yes, yes, please go on”, while the offender carries on edging himself ahead. I have an explanation for our bad queing behaviour; there is no guarantee that what you want will be available when it gets to be your turn; so free for all. You will notice that people are now well behaved at airline check in counters, and in most flights at landing, the average indian flyer does keep sitting”till the aircraft comes to a complete standstill”. Though one must say that this is a recent phenomenon, and because of the hardline approach of the airline stewards over the years. On the other hand, mobile phones continue to be used even after the announcement to go on to the “power off mode” has been clearly made, unless the offender is actually ticked off personally. I hope that by 2050 or so, there will be a critical mass of educated Indians with enough exposure to wealth to feel comfortable with waiting for one’s turn. Meanwhile we cringe at the behaviour of our compatriots and the clunkiness of our bureaucratic machinery.

  2. Susan Norman says:

    Most of my experiences during my frequent trips to Vizag have been very positive ones.However, your post brought back memories from a few years ago when I went to the passport office with my husband for him to renew his passport. Needless to say, it is not one of my best memories. I will not write too much, except to say that I was a bit overwhelmed by the large crowd going from the street up to the office, with no order in sight. The ‘highlight’ of my visit was when a young man VERY forcefully shoved me from behind with two hands, I suppose because I was not moving quickly enough for him,(though with the crowd there was no humanly way to move quickly.) It was not a ‘bump’, but a hard, intentional push. I would have fallen, except for the massive number of people around me who cushioned my fall. Of course, being an overly- sensitive 60 year old White American, I took it personally, and began to cry. I have since learned to adapt to the way waiting in line seems to work here…I have also toughened up a bit and learned not to take things of this sort to heart. But I doubt that I will ever visit the passport office again.

    • gkorula says:

      I am so sorry for your terrible experience. I’m sure if it happened now, you’ve lived here long enough to know what to do – push the guy back! That’s Indian justice. The way I deal with people jumping lines in India is to make a big scene about how barbaric they are being and then personally start to police the line. If this took place a few yrs back it must have been at the old passport office – things have improved since (except for yesterday’s incident). White American or not, it’s terrible the way you were treated. My mother, also in her 60s had a similar experience in a crowded bus and she took it very personally too. YOung Indian men who try to act smart in public are actually cowards – take the fight to them and they will run. Again, your experience made me feel really bad.

      • Susan Norman says:

        Aww, thank you. I have many more wonderful experiences than bad and I am over it but at the time I really just felt like a fool for bursting into tears. My husband was in front of me, and when he found out he wanted me to point out the guy, but I was not able. There were just so many people. And yes, it was at the old passport office. (I have now learned to open my mouth if someone cuts in front of me in a line. I have become much more assertive in my old age!)

  3. G. Ganesh says:

    Gosh. You are in a foul mood. I dread to think what will happen when I go to renew my passport in 2019. Hopefully we would have advanced at least in this place by leap years.

  4. ashreyamom says:

    oh ok.. that was the reason for traffic near NAD area is it.. saw big line there in the morning,heard something was shown on TV news, now got to know the reason.. its truly a stupid idea.. even if they had announce a month long open day also it would be so crowded only.. blame it the non functioning of online process.. 😦

    • gkorula says:

      totally agree – there are just too many people wanting a passport for even a month long open day to work. Sadly i currently offer no solutions

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