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My Country, My Rules

By Ratna Manucha
Namaste. Sat sri akal. Nomoshkar. Aad ab. Vanakkam. Khamma Gani. Kem Chho. Khurumjari. Allow me to introduce myself. I am your average Indian. I could be Sundar from the hills of Uttarakhand or Sundari from the plains of Tamil Nadu. You get the drift?
You know, I honestly love my country with all its smells, overflowing litter on the roads, the potholes, the traffic snarls caused by drivers who disregard traffic rules, the crazy honking, the flying missives from car windows that hit the drivers of two wheelers smack in the face…ad infinitum.
In fact, just the other day, I encountered some good Samaritans distributing indigenous soft drinks in plastic glasses. I was so touched. Of course I stopped my car in the middle of the road to accept it, heedless of the honking horns of irate drivers behind me. I finished my drink and tossed it out of the car window, just like the rest of the people were doing. The road was littered with crushed plastic glasses. One more won’t make much difference. The black tar road looked as if a hurricane had hit it.
Fikar nahin. Yahan sab chalta hai.
But sometimes all this gets to me and then I decide to take a trip to a foreign land. It is such a lovely feeling to saunter lazily on the sidewalks, which are actually meant for walking, unlike in our country where the sidewalks are used for squatting hawkers selling their wares. In fact the other day I noticed that in the newly laid out sidewalks in our city,  hawkers had already made themselves comfortable. Among them was a man with a parrot who foretold the future. Interesting. Makes me want to go and squat beside him one day, on that spanking new sidewalk and ask him to tell my future.
But do you know something that’s really strange? People in foreign lands actually throw litter in the dustbins. In fact, they actually walk to the dustbins, check the bins for bio degradable or non-bio degradable labels and then carefully throw in the litter. I honestly did not know that we had to walk to the dustbin. For as long as I can remember, my friends and I have been aiming our litter at the dustbin, shouting excitedly if it goes in, but if it falls outside…well, better luck next time! In fact most of the times I don’t even look for a dustbin. I just fling the wrappers anywhere. In fact, that reminds me, most of our films show the protagonist and other characters doing just that – flinging wrappers etc. carelessly out of car windows, over their shoulders, on the roads, inside rooms…in fact, just about anywhere.
Think about it…have you ever seen an actor or actress look for a waste paper basket or a dustbin in a scene, ever? Just the thought makes me snigger!
Talking of littering, once after a visit to a neighbouring country, we were returning home on board the Shatabdi Express. I finished eating a chocolate and looked around for some place to throw the wrapper.
‘Arrey, we are home now,’ one of my friends remarked. ‘ No need to be on our best behavior. Throw it here on the floor’.
So I did just that. It was such a relief, I can’t tell you.
I get the same feeling when I am on an international flight on Air India. I don’t need to behave. After all this is my home turf and this is how we behave. I don’t need to wear a mask, I don’t need to sit in my seat – I am free to roam up and down the aisle, staring rudely at my co – passengers and I definitely do not need to be polite to the air hostesses. After all they are being paid to do my bidding! And orders are meant to be disobeyed!
But woe betide if I have to travel by a foreign airline. You know, I get into such a tizzy and I find myself turning into someone whom I don’t recognise. There is a complete turnaround and I am on my best behavior. I follow instructions to the ‘t’. And horrors! I even say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You!’ I can’t recognize this strange person that I turn into!
This continues till I am on foreign soil. But then I am back on my home turf and I breathe a sigh of relief when I see the familiar sights of the overflowing dustbins and smell the toxic fumes of rotting and burning garbage on the roads. I can now go back to being my obnoxious self again. Whew!
What did you just say? Double standards? Who, me? Never!
(Ratna Manucha is an author and educationist)