The Bhagat Singh syndrome

A couple of days ago, on my way to work, I happened to spot a large crowd on the other side of the road. This usually in Hyderabad means that there has been an accident. There was another group watching from afar on my side of the road. So, I asked them what had happened. A couple of kids on their way to the school got hit (not seriously!!!!) by a car which then drove off. People were agitated, waiting for the ambulance and the police to arrive. Meanwhile, a guy riding a motor bike on the wrong side while talking on a mobile phone stopped by me and asked what the fuss was. So, I told him, someone who like him did not believe in obeying traffic rules had hit some kids. What happened next was very revealing of a particular quality of us Indians. The wrong side riding guy parked his bike right in the middle of the road and ran off to the other side of the road, red-hot in rage, uttering all sort of cuss words, probably to beat up whoever had hurt the kids. The irony of a traffic law breaker outraging about someone else not obeying traffic rules probably didn’t even strike him.

I see this kind of behavior from my fellow Indians very often. Probably even I indulge in it sometimes. I call this the Bhagat Singh syndrome. For the uninitiated, Bhagat Singh was a freedom fighter who sacrificed his life in pursuit of India’s independence from the British colonizers. He was only in his early 20’s when hanged to death by the British. For this supreme sacrifice, he is still celebrated in the country as a hero. To this day, while talking about politicians, you can hear people exclaim that there will no more be another Bhagat Singh who will sacrifice selflessly for the greater good. But if you challenge them, they’ll not want their own kid to be that self-sacrificing Bhagat Singh.

We all want the country to be free of corruption. So we want everyone else to stop giving or taking bribes. We’ll ourselves not stop. at the fist hint of inconvenience we reach for our wallets to bribe whoever we can to get out of the mess. We want the streets to be clean; so everyone else should stop littering around or spitting and peeing where they stand. We’ll ourselves not stop doing that. We want a smooth and safe experience while driving on streets; and that’ll happen when everyone else starts obeying traffic rules. we’ll ourselves not obey them. You get the drift. Just as we want Bhagat Singh to be born again but not in our house, we want everything to be right in India but not through our own contribution.

I really hope we get over this attitude very soon. Only then will we realize our true potential as a society and a nation.


While we are on the topic of public behaviour and traffic, there was another incident that happened just a couple of days after the above one. Again I was on my way to work. Usually that is a time of relatively thin traffic. So, I was surprised to find a bit of a congestion. But I could see a little ahead there was smooth movement. So someone/thing had created a bottleneck. This is what had happened. A construction vehicle had passed from there sometime before and in the process dropped off some gravel on the road. A couple of ladies riding a scooter had slipped on it and were injured. So, five or six men who got all concerned for the ladies’ safety parked their scooter in the middle of the road and went over to help them. Instead of just informing police and calling an ambulance and moving on, they were sticking around to ensure that the police and ambulance arrived. In the process, they had blocked off half of the road resulting in traffic congestion, more pollution and inconvenience to many more than they had helped.

What to say. Downside of good-samaritanism?

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