Friday, February 22, 2008

Agression in the Air

A few weeks ago Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor, Tejinder Khanna made a faux pas when he admitted in public what most people living in North India at least would admit to in private, though not perhaps in public that adherence to the Law in the Northern Parts of the country is quite a bit tardy. This is what Tejinder Khanna said “

“In this region, the situation is such that commonly it is a matter of pride to violate the law. The behavior pattern in south India is such that the people naturally stay within the limits of the law,” he said, addressing a function to launch Delhi police’s traffic patrol scheme. He remarked that there is much better compliance of law in south India and that too without any external pressure. “It is a specialty of north and west India that the people feel a sense of honor and pride in violating law and boasting that no action has been taken against them,” Khanna said.

Was Tejinder Khannna too way off the mark ? Breaking or not breaking the law and how many do or do not is a matter for the statisticians to data crunch and tell us what the powers that be want to hear but those who live in India would know of a certain aggression in the air, every time one leaves the house. This aggression need not always translate into crime but often does and the newspapers – especially the city sections reflect it in several ways – be it in the tracking of the number of people killed in blue line buses running over people in their hurry to get their faster or the squabbles with by the scruffily bus conductor as whether the fare to a particular point costs Rs.7 worth of a bus ticket or a Rs.10 one.

Certain kinds of aggression can be liberating in that they set you free to pursue the goals of Citius, Altius, Fortius." "Swifter, Higher, Stronger which are of course the motto of the Olympic movement but can be used else where to pursue any noble goal in life. But the bottom pinching , high speeding, vulgar speech driven aggression visible in North India and even more so in Delhi where I live and read some of these things in the morning paper, experience a few in the course of the day, and then come back to watch some more in the news channels on television is no customized meritocracy to move society to upward levels. this leering, domineering aggression is all about getting ahead not by raising the bar for myself but by lowering the bar in general by brutally crushing self esteem, and then crossing over the lowered bar in a crude wild west fashion. It is easy to cross the finish line by lowering the bar and then crippling the opposition, so that there is no legitimate opposition left in the race but there is little pride of achievement in such a victory, only the shallow gloat of the winner of the rigged race.

So deeply embedded is aggression, that it has been appropriated by the State even, and often no symbol of authority is so disgusting than the sound of the police lathi banging menacingly on the street, bazaar or the railway platform as the constable signals his presence and authority by dashing his stick on the ground as he moves clearing space for himself. The lathi of the police man is not even a semblance of safety and security as much a tool of undisguised aggression and dominance.

There is no point in issuing cosmetic statements to ruffle feathers and talk of misquotes when aggression, quarrels and violence with open contempt and disdain for the law is so openly visible. Any one who even expresses a desire to do things the right way( try accosting a Delhi auto rickshaw driver to go where you wish and at the rates prescribed…..) is immediately turned into an object of ridicule and snigger…. No irrespective of whether the Lieutenant Governor said things which are politically incorrect or not, the import of his statement can not be just swept away like dust under the carpet. Aggression very much lies in the air. You have to just step outside the threshold of our houses to sniff and inhale it….. Not a far distance

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