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Saturday, January 11, 2003

One trip out of India, and we end up having so much material to write about on our return. I am not referring to the wonderful sights or technological innovations one sees abroad or the curtsey and efficiency with which even a third world country’s immigration and customs officials function. I am referring to the simple things which are overlooked because of lack of planning or attention to detail or plain insensitivity.

Let me recount a simple incident in Mumbai airport on my return from abroad, which was both irritating and amusing but ends up making all us Indians look pretty foolish. Apparently only recently a bus has been arranged by the National Airports Authority for transporting passengers directly to the domestic terminal. The bus takes a short cut within the airport complex, instead of the circuitous passage through Mumbai streets earlier. Of course, there was neither an announcement, nor a notice indicating such a facility! We are supposed to discover it ourselves. A co-passenger who traveled recently told us of this facility, and so we went to the coach after clearing immigration and customs. We were guided to a coach that is to transfer us from the international to the domestic departure. We did not realize that there were passengers who had connecting flights with Indian Airlines as well as Jet Airways. But all baggage was loaded together. Five minutes into the bus ride, the driver announced that we were approaching the Jet Airways terminal. As the Jet Airways passengers were getting ready to disembark, the driver announced that even the Indian Airlines passengers should disembark to make sure their own baggage is reloaded properly. Apparently it did not occur to the officials that they could have loaded the baggage of Indian Airlines passengers in a separate compartment. Some of us burst out laughing but did not get too angry because we had ample time to catch the Indian Airlines flight, thanks to the arrival of international flights in Mumbai at an unearthly hour. All the ‘housewives’ amidst us immediately exclaimed – such a simple solution; why all this confusion! (On some other occasion I shall talk bout the immense common sense exhibited by housewives but has become dormant in our so called ‘experts’ and ‘professionals’). If only we thought through issues, paid less importance to facades and appearances and more attention to detail, if only we put things on paper before implementation – we wouldn’t end up with flyovers hanging in mid-air and lanes leading to nowhere.

It so happens that many of the problems, big and small, ‘plaguing’ our country are all amenable to simple and practical solutions – we just have to show the will. A friend of mine always keeps telling me the problem is that between the big things we cannot do and the little things we will not do, the danger is we end up doing nothing. Where the whole world revels in finding solutions to any problem, we seem to relish identifying a problem in every solution. And now having identified this make-believe problem, we would have a perfectly legitimate excuse for not attempting to do anything about it. Many of the problems of our country don’t require new solutions which are yet to be discovered. The answers are all out there, having been successfully tested and tried-out elsewhere, and all we have to do is to replicate with suitable adaptation and institution-building. A little attention to detail and putting to good use our common sense can make life so much simpler and smoother for all.


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