The Indian Competition Mania

Today, I had been to a Government office to reapply for an identity card which was rejected due to processing error. There were many others like me who had come to apply for different identity cards or to update details in existing ones or to pay taxes or electricity bills. Every Indian knows how crowded these places are. With limited chairs available for the public, people were made to wait for orderly (thankfully, no unfair preferential) processing of their requests. Some seized the chairs that were emptied by the civilians called for service. Rest, young and old alike, stood patiently or restlessly and waited for their turn.

What caught my attention, was a young mother with two kids aged about 7 years and 3 years. To the mother’s delight, there were two empty chairs, next to each other, that were eagerly welcoming her and her boys. She took up one chair and made the children sit in the other one which was gleefully at the end of the line. The toddler playfully choked his elder brother by putting his hand into his mouth. The gradeschooler growled laughingly and ticked his sibling. There, they started the game of run and catch inside the small office. The mother furiously cried out their names and ordered them to sit. Reluctant, the boys returned to their chair and sat quietly for a couple of seconds. Again, one of them started some random game and they wandered around the place.

This time, quite to the disappointment of the mother, the vacant chair got occupied before she could get the kids seated. So, she decided to make them stand next to her while she anxiously ogled for another chair to become vacant. I could sense her joy when she spotted someone getting up. Over, she ordered the little guys to occupy the newly emptied seat. The vivacious children, preoccupied in their own juvenile world, couldn’t recognize the chair their mother was referring to. Clueless, they asked, “Where?!”. After a few futile attempts to show them where the chair is, on seeing this chair too being taken up by some fellow citizen, she scolded them frustratingly saying, “SEE! YOU LOST THIS AS WELL. NOW, WHERE WILL YOU SIT? THIS IS WHY I KEEP TELLING YOU TO SIT. AND YOU BOTH NEVER LISTEN.” and blah blah blah (Of course, all of us knows how mothers scold). I observed the children having a ‘There are no empty chairs? We cannot sit? Okay. Why should we care?‘ look on their face.

I wanted to ask the mother why she wanted them to feel sorry for losing the chair. Without any doubt, all they wanted was to play. It was obvious, for their age, that they wanted to explore places and that they hated to remain contained in a chair. They badly needed to spend their energy, unlike middle-aged and old population that needed rest. On the contrary, all the mother wanted was to grab a scarce resource which could be of more utility to a senior citizen.

Whenever we see something that is on demand, we automatically assume that we need it and we relentlessly strive to snatch it. I wonder if this is an Indian mentality or it is universal. Is it really necessary to compete for everything under the sky? Why do we have to selfishly seize scarce resources, especially when we are not in need? Isn’t it generous to give up even the necessary resources for the sake of people who would be benefited by it more than us?

The world would be a better place if we explain sitting children that there are more needy people and it is polite to offer the seats to them, instead of teaching standing children to occupy seats.

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