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17 Apr 2010

My Vote Counts

I cried for new shoes until I saw a man without a pair. Somebody said something on those lines, many many years ago. I read that in a book, as a child, and it stuck in my head ever since. As if I was not inhibited enough, the sentence rang in my head whenever I wanted something. I asked my parents for less, for I was not sure they could afford it and I told myself that if I could live without it, it was probably not something I should cry for. 

Today, my husband gave away an expensive pair of shoes, which he had worn only a couple of times, to the labourers who tarred the streets in front of our apartment. The boys work in the hot sun, hands and feet blackened with the grime and tar they handle. Yet, they obliged the whims of every house-owner on the street and toiled to spread the tar neatly wherever they were requested to re-work. The charity was well-deserved.

Last night, I went to a friend's wedding with a couple of girlfriends. I love my outings with these girlfriends. A motley crowd we are, we have so much fun. Lots of laughter, complaining about bad traffic and the state of affairs in the state formed part of our conversation. One of the things we discussed was the decreasing quality of work everywhere. Flyovers being constructed for years on end, the Metro rail project repeatedly in the news for wrong reasons (constructions come crashing down on people & cars on the streets, poor quality work, stopped work, endless years of work, etc) and the recent failure of the cryogenic engine in ISRO's latest GSLV launch. So many instances of shoddy work. 

Admittedly, the cryogenic engine construction that took 15 years is complex work. It cannot have been easy to create something indigenous to put in space and expect it to go right the first time. As the ISRO spokesman said, the US and Japan failed in their debut attempts too. That does not undermine the fact that 330 crore rupees were spent on this project that took minutes to fail. With technology getting better everyday and science making progress like nobody's business, why do flyovers and other road constructions fail every other week?

While we were feeling sorry about the state of affairs, I woke up this morning to a ray of hope. Loud noise right outside my house drew us to our balconies. We found government labourers toiling away in the hot sun. Anything that is 'government office' straight away implies callous attitudes of workers and indifference to the quality of work. It was a pleasant surprise to see the level of attention the labourers worked with. The process involved a big machine pouring gravel mixed with tar and other ingredients on the road, a bunch of workers manually pouring the gravel in areas that were missed, another few guys spreading out the tar evenly, another big machine levelling the roads with a heavy drum that rolled over the tarred road. I found the labourers paying so much attention to detail that it surprised me! They looked for irregularities on the roads and poured gravel repeatedly, they ensured that the gravel was lined neatly on the road and off the stoned pavements, they manually flattened the gravel while the machine did it's job, they kept going back and forth until it looked fine. 

While the residents looked on, occasionally directing the labourers  to level here, pour some gravel there, the watchman's wife grabbed a broom and started sweeping the excess off the pavements back to the road. It was a collective effort of workers who were not worried about whether they enjoyed their work or not. They were not worried about the heat or hard work. If they were, they did not show it or let that stop them from doing things right. 

They were tipped for their extra efforts, of course. Some of our neighbours and we gave away shoes that we no longer wore but were still in good condition. It was heartening to watch the so-called government employees do a neat job and to see that there were people who appreciated such efforts. The world is a nice place, there are nice people. So, why do we let the bad-asses rule? Why do we 'adjust' ourselves to the ill-effects from the illegal acts of the wrong-doers? 

I have a colleague who prefers to take "shortcuts" and get everything done using wrong methods. He has a callous attitude and his excuse is "This is India, this is how we work". How untrue! Why do we let such people get away with what they do? All it took for me to shut him up last time was to say, "I am an Indian too and I don't work your way". Such a pity that the bad are so confident and take lead while the nicer ones choose to remain inconspicuous. 

To all those people who whine about the government but refuse to vote, to all those people who refuse to vote claiming that this is not their home-state (so why do you expect the state you are currently in, to cater to your needs?), to all those people who think their vote does not count, I want to ask: "How would you know whether your vote counts, if you never voted?". What gives them the right to expect anything from the government if they never made a choice? This year, I did not vote for a party that I usually do because I was put off by one of my neighbours who has a bad attitude (especially towards my dog) and he belonged to that party. I voted for someone else. He won. Now, we have roads where I live. I'd like to think my vote counted. 

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