In the developed West, if you are driving a car and you hear a siren of an ambulance or a police car, you simply pull up to the side to make way for it. The rule-book says you can’t just slow down but you have to stop; and people obey this rule so religiously that very rarely would anybody land in legal net for undermining what the book says. Similarly, if a yellow-coloured school bus is parked on the road edge picking up or dropping school children, one can’t overtake (pass) it; again the passing-by vehicles have to stop and wait until the parking lights of school bus go off. This is how it is – the law. If a person is following someone, say into a building or a store or elsewhere, the person ahead will wait and hold the door for the one who is to enter next and both will exchange gratitude for the gesture. This is ethics.
No wonder that the people there in these countries are developed, both materially as well as legally and ethically – psychologically. Simply put, they deserve the kind of life they have and enjoy, where everything is the way it is supposed to be. Any deviations in the general pattern are just aberrations and believe it, they are not as widespread as they seem to be; simply because every unruly acts get reported and make it to crime records to inflating it. And obviously higher crime records, besides other things, are certainly not an indicator of a healthy society. People there are conscious enough that they would not unnecessarily want to attract bad name for their society – and that too for the reasons they could easily avoid – like violation of traffic rules. They have mastered the ordinary individual and communal behavioral traits and mannerisms so perfectly that together their cumulative effect is so profound that it has become a valuable indicator of their advancement and development, both physical and socio-psychological.
Unlike everything that is there in these developed societies, whom our half-baked social teachers and preachers often accuse and blame for “social waywardness”, here in Kashmir – among the “God’s chosen people”, the popular aims seems to bump off the other to make room for the self. The chaos and confusion on roads and streets here, where both pedestrians as well as the big and small vehicles are seen jostling for space and inching ahead only at the cost of the other, are just a reflection of the general behaviour of the entire society and the people. Unmindful of how critical time could prove for an ailing person, here nobody makes room for the ambulances. Flashing beacon lights and loud sirens hardly have an impact on other people on the wheels and ambulances too have to fight it out for their right to move ahead. Police and other VIP cavalcades using sirens are an exception only because they are accompanied by gun- and baton-totting uniformed men who know how to push and shove ahead even if it means crushing those in the way.
Word ‘Wild’ has often been associated with the ‘West’ in popular mediatized culture, however, the streets in Kashmir are way too wild than anything West may have ever had. The only mantra is to poke into and occupy whatever space is available and it is done everywhere in wildest ways possible. Although laws and rules are in force here too, but nobody obeys them for the fear of getting foolishly stuck in this ‘survival race’ while the cunningly enterprising ones always move ahead. This is why breaking rules is a general culture and people are doing it with impunity and pride. Agencies vested with the responsibility of implementing laws and affect corrections of behavioral problems are themselves rooted in corruption and they too are out there to claim their pound of flesh and that is what they do all the time.
Those walking on foot too could be seen moving ahead on any busy or even not-so-busy streets shoving and pushing others to make room for themselves; and such scenes are fairly common at bus stations and inside buses, at banks, post-offices, outside ATM booths, at hospital counters, at private clinics – everywhere, and wherever there are more than one people. Nobody seems ready to even wait for the other, leave aside being generous and kind for ethical considerations. Capping this behavioural bankruptcy is that the political and religious leaders here extol people for being among the ‘chosen ones’ and common people too take pride in believing and behaving as if they are above every law – God’s, as well as man-made. How unfortunate!