Sunday, June 10, 2012

WHEN LAW LESSNESS COMES KNOCKING AT YOUR DOOR

Life has not been the same for us since the 7th of June. 
A large vegetable shop has established itself bang opposite our house! Now wait, don't you say “Life must be easier now.. you can put your kadai on the stove and run across to buy the veggies you may need for your curry” ! Please listen to my entire story...

The first hint of chaos was visible at 6.00 AM when we woke up to mantras being blasted on a PA system – the shop was being formally inaugurated. Then there were some shouts as a few workers from the shop tried to climb over our compound wall to pluck some mango leaves from the tree in our compound.

When I got back from work, I found that I could not get into my house – there were a line of cars parked outside our house, resting very conveniently under the shade of the mango tree I had mentioned earlier!! I had almost anticipated this- I asked the lady who was sitting on the passenger seat in one of the cars to move it away  from our gate. She told me that her husband was inside the shop buying vegetables. “ It will not take much time. Only five or ten minutes more” she said smiling ingratiatingly. I glared at her and asked her to go inside and get her husband out NOW!!! She looked at me sullenly and asked why I was having a problem considering that I was not driving into my house or driving out of it.  I had after all come in an auto can could easily walk in. That really got me!!  I warned her that if she did not go in to call her husband I would deflate her tires ( and she had more than four on her person alone!!). So she scuttled across the road and got him out while I stayed at the gate making sure that the car was moved out.
But triumph is short lived as this incident continues to happen. Many times it happens when we are indoors or when we are out of the house – we are unable to stop this parking menace that has been brought about by the shop. We do  not have a personal watchman unlike our neighbors who are residents of apartments –so we cannot take any preventive steps other than putting up a “ NO PARKING IN FRONT OF THE GATE”  board which as we all know, in India means nothing!!!
Then ,this morning as I was leaving for my walk, I nearly fell over something outside the gate – it was the Corporation dustbin which had been rolled right out to the front of our gate and was piled with vegetable waste from the shop. In fact the waste had been heaped so high that the bin had broken at the bottom strewing rubbish all around!! I had a good mind of wheeling the offending thing to the shop and emptying it there .. !

I have been speaking to my neighbors asking them whether we can jointly write out a petition to the corporation or the traffic police complaining about this problem. Strangely people seem hesitant about it! In fact when I asked them if they would sign a complaint letter they were very vague about their agreement!
So, here I am fighting a lone battle against a problem that no one seems to be interested in addressing.

Actually, I am surprised as to how the authorities could allow a huge commercial establishment such as this to crop up in what is a residential neighborhood. There is a corporation designated commercial space near our house where there  are number of shops. So how did this monstrosity find its way to what should have been a residence?

The city of Chennai is very peculiar in the sense that there are no designated market spaces  unlike Delhi, Mumbai or even Bhubaneshwar. We see shops just about anywhere in this town.. Very soon I guess they would oust us out of our houses

While the shop is only one example, there is an older one of a political party office that is two doors away. Fortunately for us it is a “ dead”   party so there is no menace from that end. However, every now and then the dead rise from their stupor –during the birth / death anniversary of the founder and the place is filled with cars and SUVs bearing party flags with  speeches being made by thug-ish looking guys in white veshtis and shirts. Where there is a crowd like this, there is bound to be feeding and we have tons of used disposable plates strewn around that infamous garbage dump outside our house…

This open flouting of zoning regulations is increasingly becoming the norm. Our dear CM wanted to turn a beautiful library into a hospital… just because it was built by her predecessor! This building is located in an area which has a number of educational institutions – now tell me how would a hospital fit there? Of course, hospitals, apparently can be made out of everything – the Legislative Assembly building constructed by the previous government at a huge cost is now being turned into a children’s hospital!!!!! I don’t know the state of implementation of these orders but I guess there is some public interest litigation that has been filed.

Unfortunately, individuals like me cannot take recourse to public interest law because the civic consciousness in this neighborhood just does not exist- every body is afraid of clashing with “ rowdies” – yes sure these guys obviously have political clout to have got past the planning regulations so easily.  It is also quite possible that they are thugs – because the nexus between politics and crime is very strong in our country..

I had once watched a ghost movie where an exorcist tells the family that lives in a haunted house’ Do not be afraid because ghosts feed on your fear” . I think it holds true for these political types who use our fears to build on their powers. Like spine less creatures we also vote them into power and then they continue with supporting lawlessness, flouting rules their own governments made!!!

Meanwhile, I request some of our neighbors in the street to boycott this shop so that we could put  social pressure on it to close down. Do they listen to me? They nod sagely and say “Yes Yes”  And then they look at me sheepishly while crossing the road with vegetable laden bags.. Now tell me who is having the last laugh?  







  








22 comments:

Christopher said...

Having a house in a commercial area has its disadvantages. I have similar problems with people thoughtlessly parking right in front of our gate. What bugs me is that most of these people appear to be well educated and yet, the level of indifference is appalling. I am slightly more fortunate in that the commercial establishments dispose their garbage directly to the garbage vans that collect them every morning. Rules and laws will not make a difference. Behaviour change has to come from within.

Meera Sundararajan said...

Christopher -totally with you about the behavior change bit. However I wish to make a slight correction here - ours is NOT a commercial area-that is the crux of the issue! It is a residential area where there are gross zoning violations happening!

KParthasarathi said...

This is widely prevalent in the city and the violations take place with impunity with enforcement agencies quite often turning a blind eye.I am witness to a man occupying the entire platform with his big mountain of water melons and his customers throwing the remnants on the platform and the road after eating the juicy part.
Lawlessness thrives where enforcement is weak for whatever reasons.Being a separate house you do not have the advantage of numbers of an apartment complex.Do not take law into your hands but keep complaining at the right places and at right levels.

anilkurup said...

What is the recourse?leave Chennai, leave the country?
Running away will keep us running!
The pliable neighourhood denizens are meek and weak at heart and their civic sense is zero.

Lack of civic sense is endemic to Indians, be it in Chennai or Thpuram. The culture we have is to clean our frontal portico and throw the trash on the road outside.
Filing complaint may be of no help as in all likelihood the shop may be owned by a local politician- a goon.

Perhaps file a public interest litigation and also be sure to face the backlash. That in any case must not deter you.

Irfanuddin said...

yes, we Indian lag behind significantly when it comes to "Civic Sense".....and unless some sense prevail among most of us nothing can be done....

Moreover going against them on individual basis doesn't pay much most of the time.....

Vaish said...

Buy a car or two wheeler, and use your parking space. Or put a fense around that area..Don't know if they are easy options. It is such a big nuisance to see parked cars right in front of your house.

Jack said...

Meera,

Of course, the shopkeeper is having last laugh. Best of luck on your LONE battle.

Take care

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Vaish we have two cars both in their sheds in the back yard-leaving them parked outside throughout the day would be dangerous, besides we are not there for about ten hours every day.

@ Anil, Irfan - yes lack of civic sense is sadly the defining thing about us Indians!

@ Jack yes the shopkeeper IS having the last laugh.

simply mee said...

Ahahaha, sorry meera, i could not help laughing at some scenes...really? serious now#....i know how it means to be a lone voice in the wilderness....echooooooo! Forget your neighbours! You will be left with the towel hanging if you persuade them harder to join.
Solution?...Ask a welder to make a movable and lockable barrier obstacle for you with spikes on it, place it in front of your gate to prevent anybody from parking, while you have the key. It is a common in my country Nigeria. There are many ways to kill a rat.As for the govt, they are after the money in Tax....and there are some commercial properties that are compatible with residential...like supermarts and veggie shops.
Oh! yes, the shop keeper will be laughing as i am meera..oops! sorry ...couldn't help it :D

Rahul said...

:-) I just loved the deflating tyre threat...:-D And the woman had 4 tyres on her person alone..LOL..:-D I am sorry to hear all the troubles you are having to go through though. :-( I hope some solution presents itself soon.

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Rahul and Simply mee, the lack of civic sense in India is actually very comical. The way we disregard any rules is a national trait.

Simply mee, I like that idea of a gate with spikes. Or may be we should get a ferocious Rottweiler type of dog and train it to bite off tyres ( both rubber and other types ). Looks like governments across the developing world are all alike!

Bikramjit said...

This is sad , and yeah in india I doubt if anything will come of it , even if you report.

I guess lawfully nothing can be done , as the road is free for parking but its just courtsey not to prk in front of the gate..

I dont know what to say that could help ...

Bikram's

Gayu said...

Neighbours will never support for such battles. they will be quiet, sometimes they will crib, but they will never take a stand and co-operate. I have fought so many such battles in our society.
Our society watchman calls me "Jhansi ki Rani", always ready to shout and fight.

All the best Meera. I am struggling between office deadlines and commitments at the home front, will post the final part of the story soon.

Thanks a ton for the paitence.
Take care
Gayu

Cloud Nine said...

Best course- file a PIL. Teach them a lesson. No trusting thy neighbors. No point in asking their help. You have to fight it alone. Bribe the Neel Metal Fanalca men, urge them to park bins near the shop. To avoid cars being parked, in front of the gate, try to build two landings on either side of the gate, restricting parking in front of the gate. I wish i could strew some nails in front of your gate, if i were there:P

Meera Sundararajan said...

Hello Gayu aka Jhansi Rani.. looking forward to reading about your experiences some time ( and yes that unfinished story too)

@ Nivedita let us pick out nails and strew them.. I could engage the kids in the neighbourhood to help us with that

Renu said...

In Chennai, there is no planning, everywhere shops are coming up and then half the road is taken by parked vehicle, I am myself facing this congestion everyday, so difficult to walk, I wish they would have some laws or discipline about that..

Tomz said...

Your problem is truly an irritating one..and I understand you are hyperactive when angry..:)

anindita said...

Koi gumnaam aashiq hai jo 'Tere ghar ke saamne' ghar bana nahi paayaa, duniya bana nahi paayaa toh dukaan khol dee...

Meera Sundararajan said...

Ani... never been interested in business men... Hahn agar koi shayar hota to alag baat hoti :P

Rhapsody B. said...

Namaste...
Ouch! That is a menace and not good for the value of your property should you want to sell. Of course your neighbours are not willing to help or sign their names. They want you to do the work and they can all share in the glory and then take credit. Everyone is willing to gather and talk bullshit until you ask them to put "their money where their mouth is" then everyone becomes scarce.

Sorry about all the trouble. I fear that it won't get better as word of mouth get out about the vegetable shop. You can look forward to the stink of rotting vegetables, parked cars in front you home and all the other headache attached to being so close to this establishment.

Something should be done. My only suggestion would be to take a photo log of the garbage, parked cars etc and attach it to your letter as proof of what has been going on. Maybe (hopefully) the powers that be get off their butt and actually do something.

Stay blessed my friend in spite of the disturbances.

sunil deepak said...

Meera, I think my blood pressure has increased while reading your blog, and imagining something like that happening to me! It sounds terrible and frustrating.

Arooj said...

i have always been sick of such diplomatic neighbors.:-)

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