PC : Crowds at a ration shop

Time was when rulers, when they felt like it, would set forth in procession, throwing fistfuls of gold and silver coins to the assembled crowds. In yonder capital city of a State that has since become two States, the erstwhile ruler would do this and his canny citizenry armed itself with upturned umbrellas so as to catch as much as it could of this money from up above. Now, our State too has done the same by distributing Rs 1,000 to all ration cardholders. Clearly our State must be doing well and since we are a democracy, by inference, we too must be doing well.

The Man from Madras Musings is well aware that it was only in the last issue that our beloved Chief had written a piece lamenting over this largesse. Clearly the citizenry disagreed with the Chief and decided that if the Government was foolish enough to easily part with its money, then it was the duty of the citizenry to go and collect it. Which is why, on the day the money was distributed, serpentine queues were to be seen at all the ration shops.

MMM, realising that this was where he could get some easy grist for this column’s mill, decided to drive by a few of these outlets and he did note that while several of those who had turned up were clearly in need of the money, several more clearly were not in need of it. Prosperity was writ large on their visage, dress and deportment and you could see from a mile away that they were doing their best to make it clear to onlookers that ration shops were not places they visited on a regular basis.

Several others had been cleverer. They had got maids and chauffeurs to stand in for them in these queues. A phone call was made even as the stand-in inched closer to the counter and the actual cardholder then turned up, signed for the cash and walked away with it. Some pocketed the money while others distributed it as charity. Very few actually spurned the offer. MMM made bold to ask an elderly lady of a prosperous family and who was not very steady on her feet as to why she took the trouble to stand in line and collect the cash. The answer was most impressive in terms of logic – she had always seen situations when the Government took money from her under various guises such as penalties, taxes, statutory deductions and the like, apart from bribes she said. She had never ever envisaged a time would come when the Government would shower actual cash on the citizenry. And now that it had happened, she wanted to be a part of the celebration. Why not, MMM wondered. After all it is a poor heart that never rejoices.