Beat the retreat

The celebration is over, the euphoria over ‘Lotus greets Potus’ has died, the guest has left with his beast, children are back in school, the armed forces back on guard , performers back in their states and the ceremonial dresses have been stowed away . The administration is heaving a sigh of relief. Another Republic day parade is over without incident. After all its an important national event . It marks the day the constitution of India replaced the Raj’s Government of India Act of 1935 . The one day in the year when we celebrate our constitution and honour the rules which govern us. After which we’ll retreat to our former stance. For the rest of the year we’ll abuse and flout them or try to find ways around them

Beating Retreat ceremony
Beating Retreat ceremony


Lets admit it, we are a nation of law breakers. We break them constantly and with impunity. We skip traffic lights and ignore speed limits, we hate seat belts and detest helmets, we overload goods and overcrowd passengers , we drive as we please, stop when we want and turn when we have to….and we pay heavily for this…… sometimes with our lives.

We ignore guidelines and evade taxes, we cheat on duties and surcharges, we undervalue and oversell, we sweet talk our way through toll booths and check posts and trick our way through speed traps and pollution control, we hate to be frisked and searched, questioned and refused……and we pay heavily for this……sometimes with our lives

We pass exams without appearing , procure false degrees and documents, we get life insurance without checkups and driving licenses without driving ……..and we pay heavily for this……sometimes with our lives

We jump queues and skip procedure, we litter , spit, and urinate, deface and defecate….and we pay heavily for this….not with our lives….but we do pay .

It is not that we are bad people, we are just misguided. We see the privileges enjoyed by our elected leaders and want to join the club. For isn’t that what democracy is about, a government of the people ,by the people, for the people !! We love to be above law, to appear well connected , to do what others can’t. Such is our misplaced definition of ‘ respect’ that if a person breaks a rule for us we feel honored.

A couple of years ago when the American President visited England , he was asked to pay congestion charges whenever the beast entered central London. The paltry sum of 10 pounds was not to enrich the British economy , but it sent out a clear message. No one is above the law. Not the Queen of the Kingdom, not the Master of the Universe !

Cut to India, we live to please the high and mighty and feel it is our right to expect a similar treatment from those further down the socio- political ladder. And like spoilt children we persuade, demand, threaten and even arm twist to get these privileges. All this looks bleak but things can change

Consider this. Imagine the Prime Minister of India raising his arms, dutifully submitting himself for a frisk , imagine the pilot car stopping at a toll booth to pay toll for the Chief Minister’s motorcade , imagine a party heavy weight patiently waiting for his turn……..and imagine the effect it will have on the public psyche. It will no longer be cool to throw weight around, to bend rules, to break laws. If the Top Brass of the country could be made to obey the laws they purport, the common man will follow because the average Indian is easily shamed. Of course there will be logistical and practical difficulties but they are not unsurmountable.

I am an extraordinarily ordinary citizen but you Mr Prime Minister Sir, are in an enviable position. Not only do you rule the land, you rule the hearts of people. People look up to you with adulation and respect. They need you to guide and direct.
Lead us by example and we will gladly follow. Change has to start from the top !

(published in the Daily Post on 4/3/15 as ‘ Change trickles from the top’ )



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10 thoughts on “Beat the retreat

  1. Alok Mittal says:

    Again a very well written article. Equality before law or Nobody is above law is at the core of any democratic Republic. easier said than done, especially in a society which is feudalistic and hierarchical, still struggling to become more egalitarian. The highest court of the land is still deliberating who all can be termed as High Dignitaries and what privileges they should be entitled to. Compliance will improve once the VIP culture goes. Selective enforcement breeds more disrespect to law. Otherwise we humans are intrinsically order compliant and want to be led. Top layer should lead by example, they should voluntarily give up VIP privileges and then make sincere efforts to enforce law equally.

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thank you sir for your feedback and as usual I agree. Haven’t we borrowed heavily from the Britishers while framing our constitution, then how did we land on opposite ends of the spectrum? Once again, thanks for your constant encouragement. It means a lot to me

      1. Alok Mittal says:

        Britishers were rulers and not natives, deliberately created an elite class amongst Indians who ll feel privileged and happy to carry out their orders. They have a different set of rules(rule of law) in their own country. Their parliament is more than 500 years old. Democratic institutions are very strong.

  2. neera says:

    Well thought and well written Manju

  3. neera says:

    I could publish it too…..if you like ;)

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for the very generous offer Neera. This one might get published in the TOI. Keeping my fingers( and toes!) crossed

  4. aditya says:

    good language.

    But I totally disagree with content; why to pinpoint our society; All races, culture, societies are same .
    Please, do not ignore the hyper hypocrisy of POTUS..

  5. Manju Gupta says:

    So we disagree yet again Dr Aditya. I still stand my ground that the tendency to flout laws is more in India and other south asian countries because our leaders do the same. I’ll go a step further and say that even in India , it is more prevalent in northern sates. All races and cultures may be equal in the eyes of law but repeated studies have shown that some races are more prone to wayward behavior.
    I fully agree about the ‘hyper hypocrisy of POTUS” , but this writeup was not about the hypocrite that he is. He was mentioned in passing because I felt that the England incident was relevant to the topic
    I also agree , somewhat, that the language is good ( heh heh!)

  6. mitra says:

    Manju …..congratulations for wonderful thoughts and a well written article ….
    I agree totally …
    Even though great emphasis was laid on minutia. ..while our constitution was being framed ….Indians seemed to have forgotten why Laws are supposed to be there …..
    only to be broken …is only concept which seems to be all pervasive …
    High and mighty are above law …
    Who will make a genuine start …to be a real aam aadmi ….obey laws …get law breakers punished and thrive …

    A dream …but lets still dream some day it can be fulfilled…

    Till then you keep writing

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks mitra for visiting I’ll keep writing till you keep reading!

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