Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Queues, alum, herds and peanuts: Games we play and rules we break!


The BMTC bus lurches to the right, missing the road divider by an inch. It crosses over to the wrong side of the road; the traffic on this side should be coming towards our end. Instead the bus continues to move ahead on the stretch, as it is now completely empty. It zooms forward as the traffic on the left side is at a complete standstill. The bus driver looks at the left side of the road with glee. The cars, bikes, and other vehicles stand motionless, bumper to bumper. He has beaten them all and has come to the front of the road blockade. The road is blocked as there is a railway crossing and a train is to pass by any moment now. After a while a train chugs along and the barriers lift and the vehicles start moving on either end of the road.

The bus I am sitting in had crossed all others thanks to the driver’s ingenuity! Ingenuity? Ok, then should I say he was smart! Smart? Or did he break the rules as all others followed the rules and were stuck. This bus driver at the nick of time took a turn and shifted to the right side through a gap in the road divider meant for pedestrians. So I agree he made the others look like fools stuck in the traffic. So, was he wrong in bypassing the rules of waiting in the queue, or was his move or initiative legitimate? He played, he dared and he won - story over! Who are we to judge him, for he had the smarts and could get the better of the system! Or was there scope for system to improve? Wider roads perhaps, however that is another story! When the railway gates opened he caused a block for a little while on the right side of the road and had to listen to a few expletives too! He could have avoided this by skillfully maneuvering to the left at the point the gates open before the others started moving but that was again not amenable to those stuck for so long on the left!

As I continued to sit through the melee suddenly a thought occurred to me on what would happen if we were to extrapolate the above story. The debate that came to my mind to be frank was the innovation vs corruption debate in a society dominated by capitalistic tendencies. Ingenuity or breaking the rules and going ahead is alternately called innovation. Breaking the logjam! A capitalistic society demands such ingenuity, however does this somehow lead to corruption or disregard for the rules and hence the need for regulation? If everyone were to get equal opportunity would that not be a socialistic society? I know it is always a hybrid and a black and white view is never possible/is not the reality either. Your views are welcome on this! What would your opinion be? Was he right? And what implications would this have on society if everyone were to behave like the ingenious / errant driver? Things would be better or worse? Each one fends for himself and survival of the most intelligent, imaginative, manipulative, smart or the fittest (contextually). Or is it the case of those who follow the rules get peanuts, the corrupt get ahead and make millions through illegal means. Is that trend right for an apathetic society that can go either ways depending on the predominant mindset? So do movements such as ‘India Against Corruption’ etc lead to a slowing down of growth and innovation, a blockade of liberalization and a return to the inspector raj of yore? Or will a spotless person like Anna Hazare act like alum gathering mass support and turn things for the better? The spectrum is broad and I know there are shades of grey ... Yes, yes!

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