Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Q for queues

From the terrace suite of Hyatt Hotel, during my recent stay in Delhi, I had been watching a sizeable number of people queue up before a gate across the road every working day from 7 am onwards, patiently waiting for the gates to be swung open. On being asked, my concierge told me that it was the passport office.
This reminded me of the long queues that we get to see during school admissions. Many people often take positions the previous night fearing that the admission forms, to be given the next day at 10 am, would soon run out of supply. The result, endless serpentine queues.
An average Indian spends a substantial portion of his life standing in queues. Queues have almost become a tradition with millions of Indians cutting across the length and breadth of the country line up each day to get access to potable water. Some of them have to walk miles and then stand in the queues and wait for their turn. Pots and vessels, marking their position in the queues, are a common sight in India.
Many foreigners in India and abroad have shared their observations with me on this. They feel that standing in queues is not at all an average Indian's cup of tea.
But I don't think this is true.
Whether it is getting access to the bare necessities of life or seeking divine blessings, an ordinary man’s life in India is a story of standing in the queues. Wherever he goes – to procure water for daily needs, ration shops, jobs, hospitals, for voting, seeking darshan of the holy deities in the temples, while boarding the general compartment of a train and even at the burial ground there is a queue for cremating the deceased.
So I find it hard to fully believe the foreigners' contention that Indians are notorious for jumping queues.
But many foreigners travel widely across the globe and have much experience of various types of life and culture. Also, we often hear of hapless victims dying in stampedes while jostling in the queues. Thus we cannot wish away their observations altogether.
The Mumbai terror attacks have changed the lives of hotel visitors forever. Gone are the days when one could simply walk in and out of hotels without much ado. Even in the Star hotels one has to go through the process of security check. This is time consuming and often involves standing in a queue.
Although very irritating, queues have become a part and parcel of our everyday life and most of the Indians or the aam junta have learnt to cope with it. It is only the educated and sophisticated Indians who grumble and curse when they have to stand in order and wait for their turn at any public place.
I feel that the well-healed Indians, who represent India abroad, are the indisciplined lot. The masses or aam admi is actually more disciplined than his privileged counterpart. I wonder if it is the fear of queues among those erudite citizens, who debate the Indo-US nuclear deal and talk politics from the confines of their drawing rooms, that keep them away from going out to vote.
The Indian queue is indeed a fascinating subject for sociological analysis.
ess bee

1 comment:

  1. So true! The comman man goes trough a lot. I am happy a person of your stature pays so much attention to it.
    I am an avid follower of your blog. Keep posting!

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