By Leela Ramaswamy
Here where I am today, this garden city in California is a far cry from the garden city of Bengaluru.
On every aspect, one notices sharp contrasts. One cannot help yearning for what home had once been and ruing what prevails today. For one, the gardens here are flourishing with magnificent flowers of all hues. They are carefully tended to and no attempts are made to rob them of their grandeur. The hedges, whether public or private, are dotted with colorful scented blooms that fill the air with a tantalizing fragrance. Their lovely but fragile lives are not cut short by careless or marauding hands, as often happens in India.
Parcels come by post and are left at the door. They almost always reach the right hands and do not disappear as they do back home. Segregation of trash is strictly adhered to at every level. Separate bins are provided for kitchen waste, paper and plastic. The truck that comes to clear this maintains segregation too, so that all of it is disposed of and recycled in the best way possible.
To the lovers of books, the public libraries are enticing places. They hold books on every conceivable subject. A comfortable silence prevails and one can borrow as many books as one wants. The service is friendly and prompt.
To a Bengalurean, subjected to and used to chaotic traffic, the movement of cars is a dream come true. Roads stretch majestically and cleanly into the distance. There are no potholes and glitches of any kind, anywhere. What is more, rules are strictly adhered to. Pedestrians are given right of way everywhere and at all times. Signals are obeyed even where no other vehicle is to be seen. Honking is not heard, except in extreme cases. The discipline is exceptional.
One cannot help wondering what the enabling factors behind this achievement are. It is tempting to say that the USA is a rich country, brimming with resources along with a relatively low population contributing to this state of affairs. However, it is curious to see that my compatriots here welcome and follow the rules faithfully. What is more, the same discipline can be seen in many poorer countries as well. This shows that the individual’s personal preference for discipline exists but is not sufficient to establish it.
It seems to me that the secret of success lies in the robust law and order system. No one escapes with impunity any breakage of law. The authorities act promptly and effectively to fine and punish law-breakers. Telling lies is strongly frowned upon. All this results in a healthy civic sense, making life for the ordinary citizen easier and more fulfilling.
What we need is a responsible and clean administration, one that is intolerant to corruption, manipulation and selfish aggrandizement. One can only echo Tagore’s hope: ‘Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.’
By Leela Ramaswamy