A 78 year-old woman I know recently made a trip to a Government department. The department had sent her housing society a letter. It was in Marathi, but in Marathi so high-flown that even native speakers in the building could not understand and showed no interest in trying to understand. So they gave it to her, a native Tamil speaker, to decipher.
Upshot of asking various people for help was this understanding of the letter: the department wanted the 40 year-old society to explain why it had taken longer than two years, 40 years ago, to erect the building. Now nearly all the original members of the society have passed on. None of the younger, current members of the society were willing to go figure out what this was all about. So it was left to this woman and another, about 65 and herself a Marathi-speaker, to make the trip.
Perhaps you can tell that while having it recounted to me, I was already incensed by this point in the story. The letter, the language, the society folks, a crazy demand for 40 year-old details ... But there was more to come.
When the two women found their way to the office, they met someone I can only describe, from descriptions provided to me, as an oaf. He showed no interest in trying to seat either of the women, so they stood while he sat in his seat and spoke. He insisted in speaking in Marathi. The 65 year-old understood him, of course. But he could tell that the 78 year-old only understood little bits. That was no concern of his. He told them they would have to write a letter to the department, and it would have to be in Marathi as well. Then he said they'd have to wait to sign something, and turned to some other work. They stood there for 20 minutes, until somebody else in the room suggested they could go to the waiting room next door and sit there.
They sat there for one-and-a-half hours. Eventually the 78 year-old suggested to the 65 year-old that she go tell the oaf that she (78) was feeling faint and unwell, and needed to get home. On hearing this, he told them to sign in a book that had been lying there all along, and they were free to leave.
They could have signed it 90 minutes earlier. Make that 110 minutes earlier.
We've all heard stories like this. What produces this kind of crassness? If this is the result of years of insisting on jobs for sons of the soil, of protecting local culture, what culture is served by making two grandmothers stand and wait endlessly?
And I also wonder: what will ever put an end to behaviour as crude and nauseating as this? A Lokpal Bill? Something else? What?