Why are we frothing at the mouth over Ganguly's exclusion from an entertainment event ( can't really call the IPL a sporting event!). If it's only about the money.... honey, he's got tons of it. If it's about performance, well.... his track record speaks for itself. Even so, Ganguly's 'Dadagiri' days aren't over.... so his fans can dry their tears and let the IPL tamasha begin.
This appeared on sunday. Ironically, the very next day there was a horrific elevator crash at a building site in Mumbai - an avoidable accident in which six people were killed when the makeshift lift plunged 21 floors. Ketan Shah, a director of 'Success Builders' ( irony!) was arrested. There are thousands of lifts that are not safe in this city. And only 16 government appointed lift supervisors to inspect them. What do you expect??
Manmohanji…. Zara Lift Kara De…?
I was stuck in an elevator last week. Believe me, it wasn’t the best way to bring in the new year or start a brand new decade. While I was fuming away in the gleaming aluminium box, an untrained, uneducated elevator attendant struggled with the emergency panel and shouted into a phone. Clearly, nobody had a clue as to what to do next. I was beginning to panic as the attendant started punching buttons and switches at random in a crazy hit-and-miss game. He even tried to pry open the heavy doors manually , ignoring my protests. There was one other person in the elevator who seemed calm and collected as he offered his own suggestions. I demanded a bit too aggressively, “ Are you an engineer?” The guy had a musical instrument with him, so it was a loaded question. Nope, he admitted, as he shook his head and smiled reassuringly. That smile was a good move - I found myself smiling , too. By now the elevator man had finished punching all the buttons and turning various switches on and off. He’d also attempted a few kicks and shoves to browbeat the obstinate door into opening. Nada! We were still stuck! Then, as if by magic the elevator started to move… but the panel didn’t indicate a thing. Were we headed up or down? Top most floor or the basement? Zilch. My co-trapee ( Ha! I like that word), remained impassive even as I started to hyper ventilate. Perhaps music would help? I half- expected him to remove the guitar from its case and start strumming. Abruptly,the elevator stopped by itself. We could have reached heaven, for all I knew. The doors were still shut. And the attendant was muttering it wasn’t his fault – the elevator was old and badly maintained. It had been acting up…. but did anybody listen to him? A few minutes later the doors were forced open by an irate supervisor. We were indeed on the top floor and the supervisor was very cross. Why? Just! He yelled at the cowering attendant, while the musician continued to watch the hysterical proceedings stoically. By this point I was agitatedly asking stupid questions like, “ What if the elevator had crashed all the way to the pit from the 25th floor?” The musician patiently explained that was an unlikely scenario since modern elevators came equipped with breaks on every floor, plus several checks and balances in order to prevent such mishaps. In my head I was saying nastily, “ Yeah. Right. You aren’t even an engineer … you should know!” Wicked of me. Very wicked.
Later, once I had recovered sufficiently, ‘The Stalled Elevator’ somehow made me think of India.It became an appropriate symbol, an apt metaphor.India is a stalled elevator at the moment – stuck in a tight spot. Stuck between floors. No immediate solutions in sight. No emergency services to pull it out of the mess and get it going efficiently. Too many ‘experts’ offering uninformed advice. Too many hitches and glitches preventing the country from making it to the top floor smoothly. Too many inefficient ‘supervisors’ goofing up and blaming poor attendants. Nobody willing to take the rap, own up, assume responsibility. The India Elevator can come crashing down if we don’t wake up and take charge. Too many of us are like the mild mannered, well meaning musician who patiently waited for a ‘solution’. The rest of us remain fatalistic, hoping for a miracle that is not happening. If the building society in which the elevator malfunctioned, had had a better leader, perhaps this unfortunate incident would not have taken place. The lifts would have operated safely and been regularly serviced. There would have been a tabled report to that effect shared transparently with society members ( who, after all, are the real stake holders). Residents would have shown more confidence during emergencies knowing that procedures were being scrupulously followed. With more accountability in place, charges of negligence or corruption would not have surfaced periodically. Had those elevator attendants been paid better, trained better and treated better, the quality of service would have been better . Had the supervisors been thoroughly screened and appointed on the basis of the right qualifications and not for being second cousins of the contractor’s uncle, the approach to issues concerning building maintenence would have been more rigorous. And had residents themselves been more pro-active , the quality of life in this complex would have been significantly superior. By sacking the elevator attendant, cutting his meager salary, punishing or penalizing the supervisor, nothing will be achieved. The real culprits reside elsewhere. The onus of running the place honestly and competently rests with them. So long as they sleep easy in their ivory towers, untouched by the frustrated lives of those who have elected them in the first place, nothing will change. The elevator will keep getting stuck between floors. And someday, a few lives may be lost on account of its dilapidated condition. Till such a tipping point is reached, we will continue to grit our teeth, grin and bear it.
As I write this, there are helicopters buzzing over Mumbai. The prime minister is visiting. The city is on high alert ( there are hardly any days when it isn’t). Manmohan Singh will get the usual air- brushed view of Mumbai and fly off believing ‘aaal eeez well.’ Guess what, Prime minister? I have news for you. This ‘elevator’ we call India, needs to be junked and replaced. We’ve run out of both - resources and excuses. What we desperately need is not just a brand new elevator but a brand new leader to run the show.
To quote Led Zeppelin : They talk of days for which they sit and wait… when all will be revealed.”