The Good Old Days

by Ashish

I’m nothing if not an incurable optimist. There reposes in my heart an undying faith in the goodness that resides in all of humanity, and I believe that good will ultimately triumph over evil. Everything, in short, will turn out just fine in the end, and that’s how it will always be. Unless Ishant gets to bowl the penultimate over, of course, but even the gods can’t help in this particular case. Some things are beyond the pale of miracles, even.

Still, like I said, everything will eventually be fine, and the world is a wonderful place to live in. We will survive bumbling politicians, we will survive Sachin’s retirement, we will survive Miley Cyrus, and other, lesser threats to humanity. I believe. I really do.

Except, nowadays, even my undying faith has begun to waver. Doubt, that serpent in the garden of sanguinity, has begun to slither its way into my consciousness. For try as I do to shake myself of that resigned feeling, I fail. The Pune Municipal Corporation, I have increasingly begun to fear, will probably never realize that the world has moved on from the 19th century.

The evidence is incontrovertible and mounting.

For example, consider the Two Sprig Method. Around the world, whenever repairs have to be carried out on roads, a modern apparatus that looks roughly rectangular in shape is kept in front of the repair site. This rectangular contraption is liberally festooned with bright flashing lights that alert oncoming traffic to the fact that a small diversion is necessitated. That’s how things work in most parts of the urbanized world in the 21st century.

The environmentally conscious PMC, on the other hand, disdainfully rejects such modern paraphernalia and restricts itself to the aforementioned Two Sprig Method. Dedicated employees of the Corporation simply pluck a couple of branches from an obliging shrub in the neighbourhood, and plonk it in, say, the disconcertingly large ditch that has formed itself in the middle of the road.

Let’s ignore for a moment the question of how that ditch formed in the first place. Let’s pretend that it was not formed because of dolts in the Road Laying Department of the Corporation, and let’s further pretend that it was pure happenstance. Let’s also ignore the fact that it will probably not get repaired before the 4th full moon of the year 2017. We simply wish to reason, in the abstract, about the possible motives behind the application of the Two Sprig Method.

Mother Nature, although rather good at her job, has not reached a stage wherein she is able to make sprigs glow brightly in the dark, particularly when plonked in the middle of a ditch. Neither do leaves of any shrub spell “DANGER! Use Diversion!” The sprigs are visible during the day, at best, but so is the ditch.

At night, one catches a glimpse of the sprigs only when one is literally on them, which, even the mandarins of the wondrously intellectual Corporation will admit, is at least a couple of nano-seconds too late.

So why do they do it?

The only rational explanation that I have been able to come up with is that they still believe, the poor dears, that we live in the 19th century. Therefore, they must reason to themselves, rectangular shapes that are festooned with adequately bright lights cannot exist. And if they cannot exist, these hounds on the scent of rationality triumphantly perceive, they cannot be used. Ergo, the sprigs.

There exists a rather large ditch, very similar to the ditch I have described above, on a road that I use rather frequently these days. With its usual alacrity, the Corporation adorned the ditch with the sprigs within days of becoming aware of the problem. Over the past couple of weeks, they have doubtless been brainstorming for days on end about the best way to fill up the ditch. While we, the slightly inconvenienced users of that road wait with bated breath for their masterful solution, we can’t help but notice that the sprigs have taken root in the ditch, and are looking distinctly larger now than they were a couple of weeks ago. At this rate, we can’t help but fear, removing the sprigs may actually require the permission of the Tree Cutting Department of the Corporation.

Then again, that may in itself be the solution. The sprigs are, after all, contributing towards my city being a little greener. What brilliance, and how ecologically suitable a solution this has turned out to be.

Silly old me.