Valson Thampu

It is not a bad thing, now and then, to descend from the heights and to reckon day-to-day realities. We live, after all, on the ground, not among pink clouds or astral bodies. We need to do this all the more today, as everything is being done to render citizens deaf and blind to their predicament. We have become so impressionable that we readily forget our pains and perils mesmerized by political sleights of hand like the fragmentation of Jammu and Kashmir and surgical strike across the border. As an unemployed youth in Mumbai said, while being interviewed by a TV channel, “national security first; everything next.” He looked poor and jaded; altogether unaware that, safety is the obsession of the elite; and hunger, the bane of the common man. It should concern him, and the rest of us, that India is 102nd as per the global hunger index, far below Pakistan (no.88) and inferior even to Rwanda.

Where do we stand now? What, indeed, is our individual predicament? This question is answered best, not with references to media fares and political pontifications, but on the basis of personal experiences. But, alas, there is no forum for it; nor are there groups or parties open to it. Instead, speaking of such realities is already anti-national, thanks to the ‘bandwagon effect’ of high-voltage nationalism. But here are some hard facts-

I surrendered my BSNL connection. The reason? Well, here it is. This landline, with Wi-Fi connection, was set up in 2016, when I re-located to Trivandrum, post retirement from St Stephen’s College, Delhi. In the last three years, the number of whole weeks during which this connection worked can be counted on my fingers. I made innumerable complaints to the custom care all along. But the problem remained chronic. Every month a bill for nearly Rs. 800 was received without fail; but nobody bothered that the line was down for most of the time.

Now compare. My first land line connection was obtained in 1978 in Delhi. I used this facility till 2008. It worked well for most of the time. The tariffs, in comparison, were affordable. I was not a harassed customer.

I had to run between two BSNL offices in Trivandrum to get rid of my present facility. All I have gained from this BSNL misadventure is chronic irritation, financial loss and, in the process of disconnection, a fair bit of exasperation. Am I a happy child of development?

I bought my first fridge in 1978; a lowly Godrej. It gave me trouble-free service for 24 years. I changed it only when its storage capacity became insufficient to meet our needs.

Am I, do you think, a gainer from the on-going carnival of development?

Just recently I filed a police complaint. Here’s its context. A female voice, presumably speaking on behalf of a water purifier company, contacted me a couple of days ago, inquiring if my Aquaguard needed servicing. I welcomed it, as it was due.

The next day, two young fellows landed up in my house. I did not check their identity cards, which I should have done. They opened up the machine, which was working normally. Found out that the candle needed to be washed, which they did under the tap. Then they re-installed the machine on the wall. It didn’t work. They told me that a part has gone bad. They would return the next day with the spare. That was on the 12th of October. Till now they did not. During this period, I made innumerable calls to them. No one would take my calls. I am left with no option but to buy a new machine.

I have decided not to. Instead, I have sought the help of the police. Hope they take my complaint seriously. I suspect a pattern in this. It is quite likely that a new sales-promotion strategy is in the offing. Get into your house. Ruin your gadgets. Disappear. Force you to buy new ones. Ensure that the Market remains robust. If we, as customers and citizens, remain naïve and unresisting, this could become an epidemic and thousands will get taken for a ride.

Before ‘development’ came to transform our lives into spells of ecstasy, shops and showrooms that sold such goods used to provide aftersales service. Now they are not accountable to you. You have to chase ghostly characters in the cyber space. Each visit from these virtual creatures costs you Rs. 500. Your feeling of helplessness increases by the day.

The government, spends more of poor tax payers’ money, to have these sharpers extradited. Who doesn’t know how messy and expensive extradition is? It is a lot easier, and inexpensive, to prevent them from fleeing. But that won’t be development, you see? It will send an unwelcome signal to corporate field marshals. It is more acceptable to play the costly charade, after horses have gone quite past the stables.

Nothing should be done to upset the apple cart of development. After all, billionaires in India are mushrooming by the month, thanks to development. A frivolous fellow like G.K. Chesterton might say that all this is nothing but a conspiracy to covert citizens’ money into the private wealth of crony corporates. So, what? Big fish eating small fishes is, after all, malsyaniti (law of the sea). It is unnatural and anti-national, hence, to crib and complain about it; especially when the bandwagon resounds in the streets with explosive euphoria and crackling national pride.

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