I had an interesting experience this morning. Without knowing the real cause of the fire, I, along with few brave men, spent the better part of my morning putting out a fire on the Baner hill.
Why? For one because the fire really took off after the first few minutes and grew rapidly. Secondly, and more importantly, because I CARE – about the hill opposite my house. I think the hill makes living in my house a pleasant experience – beautiful to watch at sunrise and sunset. The Covid-19 lockdown brought an unprecedented number of ‘regular’ people who use the hill to get fit – climbing early morning through late evening. And some notorious people who drink and leave the trash on the hill.
But I digress, I went down to help put out the fire with security and maintenance people in my building and few neighbors.
To my surprise, apart from the security guards and maintenance folks, only two other ‘residents’ got down and worked hands-on to put out the fire. Amazing! A whole bunch of other people who were busy messaging on WhatsApp but not getting down to help.
Why did this happen? What’s the underlying reason for this behavior? Maybe it is – ‘somebody will come and put the fire out’ or maybe we, Indians and Pune-kars, have gone NUMB – to the point where we speak out bravely but don’t bother doing something about the problem. Maybe it was a small fire that would’ve ‘fixed itself’ and I’m getting reactive now. But I will sleep better thinking that I did something about it and contributed in some small way to fix a potentially big scare.
My other concern is that of government bodies such as the fire department and police. I respect them and believe they are there to help the public. But even after a whole hour had gone by since calling the fire department, there was no sign of them. The people from the forest department eventually did show up in a few hours. Why did this happen?
Two cops showed up at the end of putting out the fire. When I politely asked do they know why the fire brigade didn’t show up, he just snapped back saying ‘that’s another department… why are you asking me’. Maybe he was having a bad day but why can’t we speak politely with each other? Is it really that hard that it has to be ‘US vs THEM’ mindset? Well, I am happy they showed up and saw the problem in person.
Now comes the scary part. I’m already considered as a person who is hard on India-related things by my family, but is it really bad to have higher expectations from your country, the government, and its people? What happens when something bad happens to MY family or people I care about? Who comes to the rescue then? Do the cops ACT in my best interests (and in time)? What if it is too late and someone close to me loses their life (for whatever reason including negligence by people or authorities or ‘chalta hai’ attitude of bystanders). Is this mindset, this Pune, this India – the best location to live a long and safe life? Thus, the title of this post.
I don’t say I’ve been a model citizen and I’m well aware of the challenges of managing such a large society (1.3+ billion people), the diversity (100+ languages and cultures/traditions), and hand-to-mouth issues of the majority. This is not a rant or trying to blame certain people. Rather this is an inquiry into why such behavior is observed and sincerely request everyone to Reflect – individually and collectively as a society to know who we are, where we want to be, and how we want to live.