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A Thousand Invasions Now

Omkar Goswami


I am pretty sure that all of us who reside in India are as annoyed as I am with the thousand invasions that we have to confront in our cities. These are pervasive, no-holds barred attacks on our personal spaces; there is neither let up nor any instrument of defence; and nothing can make any of these invaders see civility or reason. When you have read this, there is a 90 per cent chance that you will agree on three things. First, that what I have described below are invasions. Second, we don’t want any of it. And third, there is absolutely nothing that we can do. So, we have just about had it.

Invasion Number 1. I get between 20 to 30 messages per day on my mobile phone about:
• The world’s most attractive property deals in Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Manesar, Alwar, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune... the list is endless.
• The world’s most attractive one-, two-, three- or four-bedroom apartments and more.
• The world’s most efficient inverters, power back-up sources, and never-to-be-repeated inventions that reduce your power bills.
• The world’s cheapest and fastest loans for anything you wish, often against nothing except the lender’s pleasure of seeing your cute face.
• The world’s greatest travel and holiday deals — USA, UK, Switzerland, Dubai, Bangkok, Singapore, Amarnath, Char Dham, Vaishno Devi, Tirupati, all the same, Sir, with tip top service for families and children.
• The world’s best life insurance, health insurance, car insurance deals, followed up by unsolicited mobile calls from all, especially when one such insurance is about to fall due.
• The world’s best gyms, where at extraordinarily low prices you can increase biceps, widen shoulders, shrink waist and look like Master H. Roshan.
• The world’s best trade for your car; best shop for mobile phones; best door-to-door computer repair service; best credit cards.
• The world’s best DJ nights — the Lord knows why because I have never gone to a DJ night.
• The world’s best facility for bulk SMS-ing, so that you can do all of the above at the cheapest possible price.

Why do these happen to all of us? Because our mobile numbers have been sold to each such business. How have they been sold? It started with someone in Airtel or Vodaphone or Tata Teleservices either selling it to somebody else (which is always denied!), or by giving the list to one or more of the company’s direct sales agents (DSAs), who then started a chain-selling process. Why does it happen even though it is so awfully inefficient? Because mass-SMSing costs so little. Even one hit in 500 suffices to recoup costs. Who cares about targeted marketing at such low unit costs! Is there a solution? None, unless there can be a ban on such sales on grounds of invasion of privacy, with the ban being followed up by severe penalties. As you know, that is just wishful thinking.

At even 10 messages per day over 300 days, these are 3,000 invasions per year. Incidentally, as I writing the last few paragraphs, five such messages came on my mobile phone. In less than 30-odd minutes.

Invasion Number 2. The death of pavements. Twenty-five years ago, New Delhi had pavements. Today, there are virtually none. These have been encroached by illegally widened apartment blocks, occupied by cars, broken and never to be repaired by building contractors, telephone companies, the water board or the power supplier, taken up by vendors or, more recently, destroyed by all manner of makeshift construction activities allegedly on account of CWG 2010. Yes, you guessed it: Delhi’s latest public finance splurge called Commonwealth Games 2010. I am ashamed to see old men and women and young children being forced to walk on the roads and dodging atrociously rash drivers because they have been deprived of the basic urban right of walking on properly paved footpaths. It is true in every major metropolitan city. And nobody cares. Like the broad-billed platypus, pavements have become extinct.

Invasion Number 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Why must adult Indian males loudly discuss business details on mobile phones in the buses that transport them from the air terminals to the planes? Why must they carry on talking even as the plane taxis? Why must they have one excuse or the other to jump any queue that they see? Why must they have to ogle at any woman who passes them between the ages of 16 and 56? Why must they think that they are people of great consequences, without ever realising that they make appalling asses of themselves? Is it because their mummies made them believe that they were God’s own creatures? Or is it because they are like that only?

I could have written so much more...



Published: Business World, June 2010


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