Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A few differences

Things are different outside India. If you look closely, I believe that nothing is the same as in India. Yes, we all know the usual clichés, we are a poor country, we have a population pressure, we have no value for human lives and so on and so forth. Listening to these statements is tiresome. They are all true and all lead to the differences. Then you have the eternal optimists who say that India has a growing middle class and a young population which will lead to world domination. Then you hear that the markets in the west are dead and the only growth is in India and China. Who has not heard all this? All this on `fundamental levels’ as our jargon ridden economists, industrialists and general wise guys tell us. These factors also show the differences.

On a more `granular’ – how I love that word – level, the difference could not be more stark. I am not an economist, sociologist or philosopher. I am just a lawyer with no work and time on his hands. Let me give you just 3 examples. This last visit to London brought these differences to the fore as far as I was concerned.

The first is valets. We have valets to park our cars all over. This could be a shop or a restaurant. And what kind of restaurant? A low end Indo-Chinese restaurant like 5 Spice, an absolute hole in the wall like Pappa Da Pancho to the high end Hakkasans of the world, all have valets to park our cars. They will happily take your keys while you saunter into the restaurant with not a care in the world. Every so called five star hotel will have a selection of valets to whisk your car away. The Mumbai Cricket Association Recreation Centre or MCA Club at Bandra Kurla Complex has a valet service. Are we lazy? Is parking a car in India more difficult than parking one on the UK where parking rules are enforced? Do we just think we are superior and unless we have somebody pandering to our every whim we are really losers? I cannot think of a single restaurant that I have been to in the UK that has a valet to park your car. Why is this the case? The Hakkasan at London does not have a valet but Mumbai does.

The second is the obsession to employ those who are not valets, as `security’. This is a joke. Malls have `security’, every hotel has `security’, banks have `security’, buildings have `security’ and the hallowed Bombay Gymkhana like every other club, has `security’. This is an exercise in hilarity or irritation, depending on what you mood is. `Security’ will be armed with a wand, the one that beeps if it senses metal. `Security’ may also have a mirror on a pole to look on the underside of a car, a torch or flashlight, occasionally a dog and if `security’ is some distance away from their handlers they will have a walkie talkie. Often `security’ is instructed to tell every person entering to write a whole series of details in a ledger. This is often of great delight to me. I enter all sorts of names, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Jimi Hendrix or, at times, a simple generic Deepak Shah or Ram Yadav. Doing this helps keep my temper in check as there is an huge element of cheap thrills. Really, what else is it? I am not going to even get into how idiotic `security’ is. In most cases `security’ is nothing but a disguised office peon and in the event `security’ is located outside the premises, they are parking wardens. My question is why? For God’s sake, why?

The third is the absence of a drama when genuine VIPs are travelling. One lunchtime while we were walking along Shaftesbury Avenue policemen on 2 motorcycles, in an obviously much practiced manoeuvre, stopped traffic at crossroad 1 to allow a very large car with a Land Rover following, to pass without being impeded at a crossroad. 2 more policemen had gone a little up the road to stop traffic at crossroad 2. The moment the small 2 car convoy passed the first set of policemen zoomed off to stop traffic a crossroad 3 and so on and so forth. The large car had Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall seated. No fuss, no sirens no policemen on `bandobast’ duty every 50 meters carrying `lathis’. The whole thing was over in seconds. On Wednesday 20th March 2013 Queen Elizabeth, her husband Prince Phillip and Kate Middleton were at Baker Street Tube Station as part of a celebration of 150 years of the Underground. These are important people by any standards. There was no fuss. When they left, the Queen of Kutch and I were walking along Baker Street when once again we saw the choreographed traffic stopping by motorcycle borne policemen. I pulled out my camera and saw the car with the 3 royals drive past. If you look at the photo please note the complete absence of and security. Please also see the man in jeans and shirt looking on. He had just stepped out after having a coffee at the shop at the corner and was shocked to see this. Once again no drama, no sirens no policemen on `bandobast’ duty every 50 meters carrying `lathis’. The whole thing was over in seconds.

Same question folks, why?   

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