QUEUES IN INDIA
Then you have "innocent" queue jumpers - you've been waiting patiently in line and are keeping a healthy distance of a couple of feet from the person in front. A well-dressed (or poorly dressed) chap floats along, pauses innocuously next to you, then smoothly sidles into the line ahead of you. If you protest, he looks surprised and asks, "Oh! are you in this queue?" So what if there are also several people standing behind you and damn sure it is a goddamn queue. Some, more self-righteous jumpers may even tell you to mind your own business. A few may even attack you for interfering with their Fundamental Rights. Why do we do this? Is the Govt. to blame? Or politicians? Or some foreign hand? Then I recall an incident from a railway station some years back. I had gone to drop off someone. There was a huge queue for the unreserved compartments. The crowd was acting insane - pushing, shoving, screaming - mindless about women, aged and infants. 2 young RPF constables were standing by helplessly. Suddenly a graying and experienced Hawaldar came and started reprimanding the constables. "Why can't you control the crowd and get a queue formed?" The constables told him they had tried to talk to the crowd but no one was listening to them. The old Hawaldar said, "Why have you been given a cane? Use it!" They did. And the rowdy human mass metamorphosed into a sober queue almost instantly. The women and old folks even applauded. In India, queues seem to flow from the handle of the cane or the barrel of the gun. This utter disrespect for a queue is perhaps sign of a much bigger malady in India - lack of discipline and self-restraint. It is also a manifestation of our inner selfishness - that I and my urgency or comfort is above that of others. Me first and the rest be damned. So how do we tackle this? Notices and signboards don't seem to make any difference. And it is not only the uneducated or poor who break queues. Look at any airport or multiplex queue. It's not just men either. Very often, even young and fit girls would stride up straight to the counter - ignoring the queue. I've noticed men sending some woman from their group to bypass the queue. I'm not against the idea of a separate line for women and the elderly or differently abled. But where there is a common queue - like in a cinema hall, this is unethical. I feel this tendency of queue jumping is one of the seeds of corruption - and many other socio-economic problems - in India. VIP culture is a culture of me-first. Rules are bent when people want preferential school admission, train reservation, petrol pump allotment, spectrum allocation, mineral rights. We all want to jump some rightful queue and for that we find ample number of those in power to oblige -of course at a transaction cost. But coming back to the problem of queues, what do we do? The only thing I have seen actually work is the cane, the chain, the rope or the barricade. This is a thorn in my side.