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By: Sushma Bhat

Why do we accept mediocrity as a nation?

Is it because we undervalue ourselves? Or is it that we have become so accustomed to the self-righteous and smug attitude of our babus and fellow citizens and are willing to overlook ‘minor’ deviations and irregularities. When faced with these very uncomfortable aberrations what do we do? With immense pride, we chant our Indian trademark slogan ‘Chalta hai’. Yes, ‘chalta hai’ which is now synonymous with any work or act of an inferior nature.

So what if the 3rd gate flyover hasn’t been completed within the promised deadline, so what if the newly paved roads and expensive pavers are dug up one month after being laid, so what if we don’t have water 24/7, so what if our prized cantonment area has no streetlights, so what if we double park in no parking areas, so what if we honk incessantly or jump traffic lights, so what, so what. We just mumble a quick chalta hai, shrug our shoulders and sidestep the boiling issue.

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Illustration: Akanksha Bhat

This nonchalant and laid-back attitude adds to our culture of shortcuts where no one is held accountable. You turn a blind eye to my misdeeds and I shall reciprocate tenfold is the beloved mantra. On the flip side, this very attitude has kept the peace, de-escalated and diffused tense confrontations, albeit in the short run.

The more we accommodate the more complacent we become. And therein lies the danger. Our shortcuts turn into negligence and our apathy into regression, disenchantment, and disillusionment which act as immense barriers that we feel we have to surmount just to be able to enjoy our due. The challenge is too much work and we fall back happily wallowing in mediocrity. ‘Chalta hai’ is the red-eyed villain that has captivated Indian society for decades leaving our country gasping.

Our city has been languishing under the Smart City misnomer for years. We don’t exert any kind of undue pressure on our demand for change. We are grateful for the small touch-ups that mark our everyday lives. We eagerly await a VIP visit to our city in the hopes that a streetlight may magically illuminate or a pothole-riddled road will turn unblemished. Unfortunately, the largest democracy in the world runs on the common man’s 21st century embedded ‘ chalta hai’.

We treat our greatest fallacy as our super power. Imagine the self-discipline that will need to be exerted to stop bribes, to turn off a public tap, to follow traffic discipline, to respect people’s time, to demand our due..the list is endless. What if we didn’t have the ‘ chalta hai’ to fall back upon? The day we take responsibility for our actions, do the job exactly as it was meant to be done, unrelentlessly question the inaction of others and demand accountability is when our collective narrative will change. Are we not worth the effort?

Shouldn’t we upend the lethargy that has taken hold , turn the hindrance of following rules into action oriented results and interchange the national consciousness from ‘chalta hai’ into ‘nahin chalega’?


  1. I fully endorse the views expressed by Ms Sushma Bhat. There’s an urgent need for all of us to change our attitude towards the govt apathy in meeting the basic needs of citizens. We need to keep raising our voices, demanding accountability from the elected representatives and the govt officials. We need to immediately shun ‘ Chalta Hai’ and demand ‘Zimmedari’.


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