Sunday, February 25, 2018
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Why do we look before and after and pine for what is not ? It depends on how we care to look back and then look at the present. In most cases we tend to love the past because the contrast provided by the present is often so glaringly painful that one just cannot  bear it. Change is a part of the game.

It is a part of the evolution of man and mankind. Grudgingly we accept the change till it is concretized into an essential and indispensible reality.Let us go back, say by fifty years. Allahabad was a quiet city. Its Civil Lines area was adjudged the best to be found anywhere in the world. Greenery greeted you whichever side you went. The  roads were broad, well kept. The traffic was under control. If some of you remember one saw  tankers moving slowing on the road with showers attached. They would go on sprinkling water on the roads, especially in summer, to reduce the impact of heat on the one hand and to settle the dust that would be flying about on a windy evening on the other.
That was luxurious living for all. The streets lights were dim but they were always on – in time. One never saw them on in day time and off at night as we often see these days. And there was no question of prolonged power failure. I often heard people say that the contract of the Government with Martin Burns company – that was running the local power station, generating DC power in the Power house compound –was  that if power failure at any stretch of time would last for 24 hours their contract would end or they would have to pay heavy penalty for it. Doesn’t that sound fantastic ? Today, not for just 24 hours but several 24 hours in a row you find power missing and no one is bothered. I have mentioned several times earlier – and do so again – that when there was a pole fault and we rang up the power house, within 10 minutes their jeep would be hovering round the place and setting right the fault without expecting or accepting any tipsAnd that was the era when so many electricity gadgets had not come up. The Power House then had offered a unique facility – an additional meter – sub-meter- which was meant to record only the power units consumed by gadgets  like Frigidaire or Air Conditioners. Since the power consumption by these was very high, these units were recorded separately. And for these concessional rates were charged which were lower than fan and light rates.. This may sound paradoxical in the context of the present situation where high consumption cancels concessions. In some households, the old ones, those duplicate meters, are still around.
The past in this context was lovelier. This is because efficiency and honesty could be found in abundance. In those days no one was rewarded for doing his duty. Today that is not so in most cases. If a constable catches a thief he is rewarded. Why ? He has just done his duty. In the past the majority did their duty. But all were not rewarded. Today the bitter reality is that most of the people do not perform their duty. This is not to suggest that corruption was not there. It was there but not to such an extent as is witnessed today – when nothing moves without suvidha shulk, not even the coffin carrying the mortal remains of a man which, as shown in film ‘Saransh’ were not released by the airport authorities unless the weeping father bribed the officials. I recall the days when Sucheta Kripalani was UP’s Chief Minister and her husband Acharya J.B.Kripalani used to say in public, ‘Hamari sarkar aap ki sarkar hain’.  That was in the 1960s too. Mrs Sucheta  Kripalani had then made a suggestion: ‘Make corruption (payment of ‘suvidha shulk’ in today’s parlance) a cost item in your budget’ . I recall a leading criminal lawyer saying, ‘I keep a couple of thousand rupees separate-  for  entertainment purpose’’. If we too keep some funds for ‘khatirdari’ of  vulnerable sections of bureaucracy we might not feel the pinch of parting with Suvidha Shulk. Should that be done?
Now if you ask someone whether he would like to go back to an era when rules were obeyed, when bribery did not work, then  those among the present lot ( especially those who have tons and tons of black money earned  for instance through selling synthetic stuff as genuine), they will say, ‘No – never, never, never…’  Even we, who might be still trying to applaud the virtues of the past, would not like to go back to the bullock cart age, give up our coolers, fans and ACs and allow ourselves to be scorched by heat and  tortured by mosquitoes. Compromises and adjustments have to be made between the old and the new on the one hand and the new and the old on the other. One usually talks of reconciliation  and  tolerance .  But for that  we must develop a broad vision, be accommodative  and realize that past and present are like our two eyes, both of which are essential. If one was not there, the historian would not be there. If the other was not there, the politician would not be there, so to speak. It is rigidity that becomes a stumbling block. Flexibility at the right moment could enable us to enjoy the wonders of both the worlds—old and new. What we have to ensure is that we choose the right moment for that. Shouldn’t  we take the plunge right now and start  looking for that right moment ?Or will be keep on looking before and after and pining for what is not?


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