Sunday, September 7, 2008

cut the carp already

The superstar quipped in his blockbuster Basha, ‘A Japanese will die if he cannot work. An American will die if he cannot -’, I forget what – ‘An Indian will die if he cannot talk.’ Sweeping generalizations aside, here in India, it is a thin line between a talker and critic, for we are a nation of armchair experts, of people who have an opinion about everything from the n-deal to the traffic congestion at pondy bazaar, and are only too eager to enlighten anyone with half a functional ear. They can (and do) wax eloquent on all and sundry issues with such panache it’d be impressive - if it weren’t for that pompous dismissal of the entire system. Chronic whiners are a dime a dozen, and finding one dysfunctional tap in a train can set them off into reciting Top 12 Reasons Why The Govt Is Hopeless. Replace Govt with Railways, Media, Auto-drivers, PFA people, pretty much any form of organized effort, and then some – and you have a decent picture of the specimens.

While it is entirely understandable that people are less than happy about a good many things beyond their control(and not even the most regular contact with the irritant can dampen the quibbling spirit), all the harping and carping, with no suggestions for improvement, can sometimes get maddening. These are the people who can list flaws and faults in a trice but balk at the prospect of putting their money where their mouth is, and actually doing (or trying to do) something more than passive criticism.

I’m not against complaining about the things that are, and the powers that be, and everything in between. Hell, no. This blog, this very post, is proof I’m not. What gets my case is how often we hear people saying- and I paraphrase - ‘Those idiots don’t know how to do their work; if only I’d been in their position the contrast would be so glaring’, when in fact they have no intentions of being in anyone’s position but their own. ‘The one thing the Electricity Board has to do is give us power’, they lament, ‘and that they don’t do properly. What has become of efficiency?’ Extending that logic, what if we were to say ‘The one thing man has to do is live, and that he doesn’t do properly. Tch tch’? Balderdash!

Complain all you want, but woe betide you if that’s all you will do! Join a club; vote; write to the editor; contribute for a cause – and not a one-time Bihar Flood Relief Fund either; teach someone to read and write; sign up for a clean-up drive sometime; tell a few kids that people come before gods; try using plastic bags less; conserve water, power, paper; and get others to join you. At the very least, do nothing positive but say nothing negative. Not all the time. Even most of the time is quite putting off, come to think of it. Few things are worse than being a noisy empty vessel.