This Diwali, this is what every Indian needs

Yes I lost my temper today. It was kind of seething and simmering for the last few weeks and today I erupted. I erupted with anger but mixed with it is frustration, with helplessness. A few weeks ago there was a fire in my house. I live on the ground floor of a high rise building. On the fateful night a Chinese lantern came flying down from one of the floors above and our terrace garden went up in flames. We would have too if some kind neighbor hadn’t warned us in a timely manner. When I went running upstairs to my son’s room I saw him sitting with his back to the balcony door with ear phones on blissfully listening to music and I could see the flames right at his door.

We were lucky we escaped. And lucky were the neighbors in the 16 floors above us because the fire would have only climbed up. Gotten into the electrical circuit, the gas pipeline the curtains etc.

No one owned up to this. I wanted to make a police complaint, but my husband who was traveling when the fire happened felt it would be unfair to pain all the other neighbors who were not at fault. Moreover such a major scare would have alerted anyone not to repeat the mistake. The building management issued notices and sent out warnings.

Yesterday while lighting dias on chhoti diwali we heard cracker bursts and then saw a flash of light again landing on the ground below from upstairs. This time my husband walked out to the lawn in front to observe and sure enough, neighbors on the fourth floor were tossing little bombs from their balcony.

This is the point I confess I shouted out to them to stop else I will call the cops. Yes it is not cultured to yell, I belong to a school of thought that your voice should never be heard in your neighbour’s house. Yet at 9 pm at night I was raising my voice in a park.

We then went up to the said neighbors house. Incidentally these are the same people who were the first ones to meet me on the day of the first fire looking up dazedly at the fire.

The man very peacefully – years of apathy towards all that’s going around us has taught most of us Indians a lot of outward calm especially when it’s our fault – we cause accidents on the road and then tell the person whose car we have totaled “koi nahee” – loosely translated as “never mind”

So this man without hesitation says, “no nothing was happening here there is a mistake.” My husband who I must say was remarkably composed says “I just saw it”

The man then goes in and gets a box in his hand and claims these are mild bombs that I bought for my son – the fact that there is a ban on sale of crackers does not make him flinch for a second to buy crackers for his son and the fact that it’s absolutely insane to burst crackers of any sort on a balcony did not deter him to give it to a 10 year old.

I lost my cool for this reason – this man who is a partner in a big global consulting firm does not hesitate to set an example for his 10 year old son to so casually break the law. Of course it’s easy to procure banned substances on the roads – all our leading media houses are constantly ” breaking news ” about this. But aren’t we, the professionals, the educated elite, the haves of the society, supposed to lead the way in some way to make this a better country.

Don’t we sit in our living rooms sip wine or a glass of single malt and criticize the government as we lament the condition of the society. And make big bank reserves to ensure our children just move overseas because you know – India isn’t worth living in any longer.

And here we are in a very symbolic way teaching our children – the rules are for someone else , all laws can be broken, banned substances can be procured , and safety o what is safety really! It’s fancy shit for people. We are a brave country.

As we lament the condition of the traffic but we take our toddler for joy rides on our laps as we drive our latest model car, seat belts we only wear when we may be caught by the cop and rear seat belts you know isn’t even mandatory in India so really stop being paranoid, we text while we drive, we also see the occasional video while we are driving – you know because all these rules are for these other people! We also toss down balls of fire because you know that only goes down and burns the house below.

Well Mr Partner in a global consulting firm – fire travels upward in case you forgot to study in school. And teaching your child to flout laws of the land, basic human courtesy and care also travels back to you. So do remember that next time you are able to “get away” that like karma and fire it all travels back to you .

As I sit back in bed remembering the horror of the day and the horror that hit me when I again saw a flash of light landing below I wonder what’s happening to me. What’s really making me so upset. Of course it’s the incident and the imminent danger my family and I face with this. But it’s also the reflection of our society that this whole episode has left me with. What are we really, as parents and educated members of the society, doing? We have so many expectations from these mysterious entities that are apparently not doing their jobs well enough to make India a better place – we have loud views on topics we know very little about, we are all so wise on Twitter, our lives so perfect on Facebook and our achievements so glorious on LinkedIn but really deep down we have to be ashamed of ourselves. Our children are not learning what we teach them they are learning what they see. And much like this high rise building the nation is built brick by brick and we are those bricks. If we just do what we are supposed to be doing the nation too will be built right.


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