Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sometimes, we just care less ...

Today was one of those many special days when traffic control went awrily wrong. After boarding a BMTC (state transport) bus at 8.35 am, I reached my office, 11 km away, at 10.15 am. There were bee lines of two and four wheelers, buses packed with school children, office people, all and sundry - stuck on a patch of road, for what seemed like eternity.

In a span of 5 minutes, I would have seen about 100-150 cars of varied sizes, moving at snail's pace on the opposite lane, their windows veneered with sun-protective film, neatly and completely raised. Most of these vehicles had a solitary person at the wheel. The driver, swaddled in the inner air-conditioned sphere of his/her vehicle, wore a big frown on face. Broadly summing up, this was the sight. Only empty Tata Indica taxis formed an exception as cab drivers do not have the privilege to drive with AC on unless requested by customers.

The scene left a sense of revulsion in me. It was only 8.30 am and the city in question is Bangalore, widely known in India for its pleasant climate round the year. The date is 08 Dec 2010 and December mornings are little cold. I had only one question, out of sheer antipathy - "Why are these people using AC at this hour in the morning, at this time of the year and in this city?" The post does not bud from a single day's observation; records from memory signify it as a trend, seen under the most pleasant timings of the day and weather conditions.

I have invited the wrath of many while attempting to discuss the right/wrong aspects of such behavior. There were three major, highly preposterous reasons in defence of such an act and they are listed below -

1) If the windows are left open, it would spoil a person's hair do/make up. Given one spares time to comb his/her hair before alighting or entering the office premises, has a mirror in the car and dashboard that can house some basic cosmetics, this did not seem a serious excuse, barring the case when a person needs to attend a social function, he/she has to be prim and proper.

2) There is so much pollution outside. When this is cited as the reason, I get stunned at the brazen effrontery. The pollution, definitely, will not cause death due to asphyxiation/suffocation. In an attempt to shield oneself from pollution outside by turning on the AC, a person is only adding a noteworthy amount of heat to the immediate and external precincts of the vehicle. This heat component only becomes a huge overdose with each one of the hundred vehicles aping the same action. This excuse can only be dismissed as a display of pure and uberous selfishness.
3) It is a question of affordability. I have the money and luxury to buy a vehicle, turn on the AC 24*7 and drive. Not to bother my vehicle will offer me lesser mileage with AC turned on. This act distinguishes me from the lower middle class/poor class. "If I can afford luxury, why should I refrain from it?" With this excuse, comes a smile of contempt hinting at how I must get ahead in life and soon ape him/her.
I am not entirely and blatantly against the use of air conditioners and I am not imposing sweeping bans. Most of us sit in office in air conditioned premises for a greater part of the day. If we visited a restaurant/mall/theatre/supermarket, there again, we spend appreciable time in air conditioned interiors. Using airconditioner in cars, more than affordability, poses a vital question of avoidability whenever possible. For instance, the windows of a vehicle must be raised, AC/blower turned on when it rains lest water should enter the vehicle. There may be many such simple cases where excuses are necessary and valid.
However, the bottomline is - live and let live. It is not just about your luxury and convenience in the inner limits of the vehicle every time. It is about many who are standing in the vicinity of your vehicle and its exhaust. In toto, it is about the summation of such small avoidable actions which can help heal the ongoing damage to this world. It is about the regurgitations that, not we, but our future generations, your children and my children will have to face for our loose definition of luxury.
The question always is - How does my action alone help? I will be the only fool, lowering my windows, inhaling plenty of smoke and soot, I gain nothing out of it. Just try out once, make it a habit, others will follow suit definitely, some time or the other. At least, you can rest assured that you have done the simplest thing from your side to preserve this earth as is for your children and grand children.
The next time you look at the sky and wonder - "By golly, why this sudden change in climate here, this place has never been like this?" do not forget to ponder what you can do to minimise the extent of surprise. You and I alone cannot stop the damage but may be with our sensible, timely and quintessential actions, we can mitigate the catastrophic effects or postpone the day of judgement.
Before turning an year old, our children will know atleast two alphabets of English language, without our assistance - A C. The requirement is to draw the line between what is essential and what is pompous, define it in a way that benefits you and more importantly, your neighbours. It is our duty to pass the lesson of judicous use to future generations and refrain from providing avenues to splurge just because one can afford.
All said and done, it may be cool to shrug one's shoulders and throw a carefully trained accent but if all this leaves a cooler planet to stay on in the future is the most intriguing question.