By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
Life has become very complex – full of contradictions. It has become so complicated that one cannot see his way through the maze. It is like going round and round the mulberry bush. We are living in the 21st Century and the world has become very much advanced. India has acquired success by leaps and bounds and now our country is proud to claim the status of a fast developing tion. This glossy picture is attractive – but there is much discontent and frustration behind the gloss. Whatever is seen is not always true and we have to accept the fact that “all that glitters is not gold”. The people are facing an uphill task in their struggle for existence.
There are hundreds of problems, which we are facing every day. Inflation, corruption, water – logging, adulteration and various kinds of other crimes have choked the populace. The tax – payers have been denied even the basic amenities, which they rightfully deserve. One shower of rain is enough to submerge the whole city and turn it into a kind of Pseudo River. In the rainy season the residents suffer a lot. The commuters have to wade across waist – deep water to reach various destitions. On the top of that terrorism and counter – terrorism have crippled the society. I think that in comparison to the present situation in this progressive age, the days in the past were much more peaceful and hassle – free. At least there were no unprovoked violence nor were there corruption, adulteration, crimes or inflation, which have become common place in this era. Possibly people were comparatively happy and that is what we have inferred from some rrations in the ancient texts.
We are always facing problems, both major and minor. Apparently the administration is least concerned about the problems of the citizens. Due to the defective draige system, Guwahati faces incessant artificial foods throughout the rainy season. The drains are always full to the brim with all sorts of rubbish, which block the tural flow of water, but nothing is ever done to clear them. Now we are always getting information that many dengue deaths have occurred in the city and elsewhere in the state. We have been advised to take certain measures to get rid of the dreaded disease dengue. Yet nothing has been done by the concerned departments to make the city mosquito-free.
For any small action, which you rightfully deserve, you have to pay through your nose to get it done. These paid officials have to be paid bribe for doing their duty, for which they get a salary. I remember an incident vividly. It happened many years back, when I was working in some institute. For some urgent matter I wrote a letter to the concerned department. But it brought no response. I wrote a reminder – but it also went the same way. I wonder what they do with the letters in these offices – possibly they throw them in the dust bin. Anyway, filly I decided that it was time for persol onslaught. Taking leave from my office I arrived in that particular office precisely at 10 A.M. and to my dismay I found that there was nobody in the place except a sleepy peon, who was sitting on a bench dozing. I woke him up and asked when the officials would arrive. He gave me a cold look and said that they would arrive after some time. His look told me that it was silly of me to expect officials to arrive at 10 A.M. which he seemed to consider as god – forsaken hour.
I had nothing else to do except to wait for the concerned official I was going to meet. To get rid of my boredom, I decided to take a few rounds in the garden. There were some limp faded flowers in the drooping plants and there were weeds all over. Walking was no doubt excellent for my physical health, but mentally it did not do any good. I was getting more and more annoyed. After some time life seemed to emerge – and some employees did arrive. Taking my courage in both hands I entered the building and found the officials in loud conversation regarding various topics, not connected with their profession. I asked somebody about the whereabouts of the person I was going to meet. He pointed to a corner and I went there only to find a bag on the table and an umbrella at the back of the chair. But there was none at the table. For a few minutes I wondered if these officials added invisibility to their other accomplishments. But no – I was wrong. He did arrive eventually – and sat down on his chair.
He gave me a chilling look and asked about my business. I was getting a bit nervous, through if you think about the matter you would possibly wonder why I was getting so apprehensive. After all, it was my right as a citizen to confront any official, if he ignored my urgent communication. Anyway, hesitantly I broached the subject and told him about my letters. There was no earthly reason for my hesitation, but such was the power of those stern eyes of the man that I could not help getting nervous. I felt kind of guilty, through I was blameless. The official was not at all pleased with my explation for going to meet him. He told me querulously that he had to deal with hundreds of files every day. So I could not expect him to attend to my letter, as if my letter was something negligible. In spite of my hesitation I was firm and I requested him to ask his peon to find my file. After some time I was informed that my file could not be found and the concerned gentleman asked me to come another day. But I was not going to oblige him, as I could not possibly waste another day in my wild – goose chase. So I decided to embark on some dishonest course of action which I myself had always condemned. I always say that giving bribe is as bad as taking bribe. But sometimes circumstance compels you to do the wrong thing. I had no other altertive. In spite of my anger, I tried to bring the most ingratiating smile to my face and offered him some handsome reward for his help to me. Money changed hands and my purse became lighter. But I had my reward. The frown in the official’s face vanished and he was all smiles. The missing file reappeared in a jiffy and there was prefect bonhomie. I returned in a happy mood. My little bit of dishonesty did bring me the happy result. But don’t misunderstand me. It was done under compulsion and today I realize that it was very wrong of me . Dishonesty can never be approved under any circumstance and I feel guilty when I think of my past immoral action. But since then I have never done it. Now I hear that corruption is increasing by leaps and bounds and it has gwed the very fabric of Indian society. Unless its cancerous growth is restricted firmly the country will never be prosperous and people will remain unhappy.
Then there is adulteration – None can avail any food which can be termed as pure. Rice is mixed with tiny stones, sugar is mixed with glass particles, mustard oil is apparently mixed with burnt Mobil. Pure food has become a kind of fib and even baby food is adulterated. Even life – saving saline bottle may contain nothing but plain water. We know that milk is very beneficial to children, sick and old people. While I was in London I saw huge posters stuck in the underground tube stations where it was written “Drink a pint a milk a day”. But how can we get pure milk in our city? Life –saving capsules may contain nothing but chalk powder.
I have direct experience of the quality of milk we are buying every day. I fact, in the battle of wits my milkman always wins hands down and I come the loser. He is never at a loss for words. Words flutter from his mouth like confetti, but their meanings, if any elude me. With his eloquence he can take away the hind legs off a donkey.
I have had scores of milkmen through the years till now – not at a time of course. But I seem to be rather unlucky in my choice of milk men. I have been changing them as I change my perfume – in the hope of better bargain and better quality. Just like the change in the perfume, the changes of the milkmen have not produced any better result. They always remain the same. That is why the latest one has been with me for more than a year. I don’t intend to make any changes, as this procedure has been found to be singularly ineffective in improving the quality of milk. Each one supplies the same watery variety of milk with promises galore. And I am always in the same position as ever. Hence this last milkman has come to stay for better or worse.
Except for a few stern warnings (which he never heeds) thrown at him occasiolly, I continue to take his watery milk at Rs. 20 a litre. That is the bone of contention between him, and myself – as he thinks that I pay too little, while I believe that I pay much more than he deserves. And so the cold war continues. He is always grumbling that I should pay him at least Rs. 25 a litre as according to him the milk which he supplies me is “special”, whatever that might mean.
He is an engaging lad with a merry twinkle in his eyes and cheerful chatter. Apparently there is nothing he does not know about cows. He advances contrary arguments – mostly in favour of the quality of his milk – with sublime disregard to logic. His logic is his own and he does not care a whit for what others say. In fact, he can turn black into white with his smooth talk. His cow also seems to give an endless flow of milk. He can easily supply any quantity of milk you demand without batting an eye. After all, there is plenty of water all around the city to increase the quantity of milk – isn’t there?