The contrast of ‘breaking’ news in India with what is deemed important elsewhere in the world is stark. Irrelevant repeats bore the mind when one turns on the television in this country. The images of politicians jockeying for power — pushing personal agendas that have nothing to do with the needs and demands of Indians and indulging in perverse politicking that makes a mockery of Indian democracy — have made this once emergent regional power into a joke. Nothing changes despite the endless ‘defences’ put forth by the political minions serving this government. An inept and lazy response from the State on all critical issues continues to choke this energetic nation. The mood is downbeat, and the television screens reinforce this truth.
Elsewhere in the world, where economies and societal pressures are equally dismal, the leaders engage and connect with citizens despite shrill criticism and anger hurled at the former by the latter. India comes across as some bizarre, medieval kingdom where major and minor potentates, clueless and without commitment to bring radical change and growth, rule and exploit the patience of their subjects. We seem to have lost the momentum of the past decade and the government is in supreme denial. Small realities become dramatic symbols of the careless and archaic mindset of the State. Indians returning from abroad are made to stand in slow-moving queues to have their passports stamped to show their ‘arrival’. This ridiculous ‘arrival procedure’ has been discarded by almost all countries across the world, but India continues to be bureaucratic, with cumbersome, unnecessary rules.
Mean and extortionist customs officials look to innocent people to satisfy their perverse pleasure of flaunting their ‘clout’. Good people are made to feel like criminals. Those who break every rule, however stupid the regulations may be, smuggle everything they want and ‘arrange’ their illegal ‘walk’ through the green channels. They are met by customs officials and escorted out with salaams and ‘quiet’ remuneration. Everyone knows this happens but no one in a position of power attempts to make life ‘happy’ for the honest. The contempt for Indians and visitors is sickening and kills the mazaa of coming ‘home’. This ‘stamp’ of corruption slaps one in the face.
Then, as one drives out of the exits, the chaos and lurking danger at every corner of the national capital, as one example, is the strongest symbol of the pervasive anarchy consuming India. Indians and visitors alike become victims of faulty governance. Nothing in India is user-friendly or welcoming. Unkempt and dirty public spaces spread infection and illness. Pimps, touts and beggars pinch and push for money. Men ogle and taunt. The great legacies of India are demeaned by the complete lack of graciousness and civility that filters down from the top of the pile. The blame has to be placed at the door of those who make the law, then break their own laws with relish. The elected representatives and their bureaucrats have set these terrible and unacceptable standards that have shamed India.
If the government cannot find solutions to the many fundamental crises that plague us, maybe it should begin by addressing other, smaller problems, to rectify the many wrongs that make ordinary life unlivable for honest Indians. Someone in the government has to change the course if India is to renew its soul, which has been mutilated by bad, insular governance. The anarchy is palpable, and is bound to herald horrific social disorder. The neglect has become chronic and insufferable. On returning from abroad, this degradation and decay, the arrogance of the babu and the failure of governance overwhelms one.