Sunday, October 24, 2010

47. Etiquette. My foot!

Tough to spell during the language class at school, etiquette remains tough to emulate in real life too. Sample it at a metro station or a passport office, long queue breaks down as soon as the doors get flung open. Stretch yourself a bit to see the commotion at the nearby grocery shop, at a parent-teacher meeting in a school or even on the road. Whatever be the location, to most Indians etiquette remains as French as its origin.

Whether it is insecurity of being left out or impatience for lagging behind, the notion of etiquette is consistently disparaged. Do Indians consider etiquette to be an unnecessary restriction of freedom of personal expression or do they consider it a philosophy to be espoused only by the children? Without fail, lessons in etiquette get forced down upon children by all parents while they themselves hold the right to vilify it.

If you thought the economic boom will turn things around then you may be grossly mistaken. Etiquette has indeed taken a serious beating on the growth curve: enforcing civic sense at public places has become even more daunting. Compare it with the extraordinary display of etiquette by 33 brave men who were trapped inside the mines in Chile for nearly three months recently. When the day of their evacuation came, each one volunteered to be the last to be pulled out.

If the unfortunate incident were to happen in India, a near stampede could not have been ruled out! Elsewhere in the developed world, good manners followed economic growth and not otherwise.

Monday, October 11, 2010

46. Reduced to a number

One's birth is number and so is one's departure; innerwear has a number and so has outerwear; neither is a shoe without a number nor is a sandal; phone without number doesn't ring and neither does a mobile; success counts on number as failure rues lack of it; date is a number and so is a year.

For legendary Dev Anand age is just a number and for svelte Sobha De a senior citizen status a numerical call for celebration. But could there be life without numbers?

What if life gets a number - a twelve-digit Unique Identification Number (UID)* - aimed to promote inclusive growth by plugging leakages in public distribution of resources? None of what any number could be - rational or irrational, real or complex, surreal or hyperreal, and imaginary or perfect, UID is an attempt to digitise every citizen even if at the cost of an assault on personal freedom.

What if USA, UK, Australia, China and Germany have given up on such number for it being intrusive and bullying, ineffective and expensive? What if Hitler used an identity (yellow star) to exterminate jews? What if a numbered identity proves an assault on individual freedom in the world's largest democracy?

Dreadful history of `enforcing identity' is being made to repeat itself!