Thoughts on today’s society…

Posted: December 17, 2015 in Chennai floods, Indian society

The recent Chennai floods, Facebook posts regarding the same and also those unrelated to it set in motion a chain of thoughts that have prompted me to write this article.

As Chennai reeled under a disaster of sorts, partially due to the unprecedented rainfall and mostly as a consequence of improper urban planning, the city witnessed unity and support from its residents. Countless volunteers worked hard to help those in distress and restore normalcy. At the same time, there were a number of posts criticizing the neglect shown by the national media and those that went on to hail the citizens for having risen to the occasion independently. It was heartening to see people put aside all differences particularly in the backdrop of debates regarding the rise in intolerance in the country. However, to claim that this happened only in Chennai, as some of them went on to say on social networking sites, may not be correct. In July 2005, Mumbai witnessed a torrential downpour creating a standstill situation in one of the busiest cities in the world. The media and the government certainly played their roles in Mumbai; however, the city also witnessed several acts of humanity just as in Chennai. Perhaps, these instances may have gone unreported due to the absence of social media at that time. I distinctly recollect reading in the children’s magazine ‘Tinkle’ about one such instance where stranded school children were taken to a house, given food, clothing and shelter till the water began to recede.

I am not making any attempt to compare what happened in these two cities. In fact, it is important to realize whatever may have been the disaster and whichever part of India had to face the brunt; the people have always displayed a sense of belonging to the society.

This makes me think: Why do we always wait for a disaster, a calamity or a situation of national threat for us to realize that we are a part of the society and that there are fellow beings around us? Let me substantiate this with a few instances from my experience both as a citizen and as a student. The Tamil Nadu government is known to woo voters through a list of freebies as a part of their election manifesto. These are meant for people who cannot afford to have them in their houses. However, it is common knowledge that a lot of well-to-do people have easily managed to sneak into the queues and get them and what’s more is that many have actually sold it to others and made money out of it. Another such instance happened in the aftermath of the recent floods in Chennai; the government of Tamil Nadu once again announced a sum of RS.5000 for all those affected during the floods. People whose houses did not see even a drop of water have applied for the aid. With the limited funds that the government has, many who were adversely affected are bound to miss out. Where is all the sense of belonging gone? We have just gone back to being the self-centered people that we have always been.

Another instance of our self-centered behavior can be seen in the absence of punctuality and a respect for others’ time. Be it the beginning of an inauguration function, a meeting or even a lecture in college, we end up being late more often than not. It is all right for us to be late because we feel ‘No one cares’. The truth, I feel, is that we are being disrespectful towards people around us by being late. We do not really care about the commitments of the person opposite to us and the harm that we could be causing by being late.

We all complain about corruption in the government, in the judiciary, in the administrative services etc. Most of us who do so are also in some position of power in our own local communities. We are well aware of the people around us and also about the malpractices in the system.  For instance, every college has its own Students’ Union (SU) and I have seen people from innumerable colleges discussing about the fraudulent activities in their respective SUs (I have  also been a part of the discussion many a times) or we ourselves are involved in such acts of corruption. But then we don’t do anything about it.  Why? I think it is because we have given up or we don’t care about the people around us as long as we are benefited or at least not harmed directly. In both cases, we have really lost a sense of the community to which we belong and whatever happens is no longer of concern to us. The general feeling is to stay clear and not get involved.

From getting marks to getting jobs, from a queue in a ration shop to an auditorium, from public administration to media, poaching and hunting to clearing forest lands, there is a lack of a sense of belonging to the community in our daily life. It is important that we set aside our personal goals and ambitions and also look at those around us from time to time. We should realize that in the process of fulfilling our needs, we cannot crush the needs of the people around us. I feel the best way to start would be to spare a thought for those around us whenever we are making an important decision. If there is a lingering feeling that it might harm those around us, then we need to rethink and find a better alternative. I am sure this small act can go a long way in shedding our casual attitude towards the people around us.

In fact, what better time than now with the New Year around the corner!!! I have decided that this will be my resolution for New Year 2016. I am sure that a positive step from each one of us can make our society indeed a better place for all of us.



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