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A river’s lesson

Businesswoman be trapped in hourglass and sinking in sand. Expired deadline, business time management  

Back in 2008, five of us went on a moderately arduous but exploratory trip on and along the Brahmaputra from Guwahati to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh. To cross the mighty river, we had to take our vehicle by ferry from locations along the riverbank. Waiting for the ferry to unload and reload goods and vehicles, we witnessed a cultural effervescence full of life. From traditional outfits to local foods and from alluring handicrafts to personal services on offer, there was much to experience.

Quicksands

Across the river from Dhemaji, the highway leading to Dibrugarh town was not that far. But on any given day, it was an ordeal for some 250 vehicles to reach the highway as most of them would invariably sink into the sand along the riverbank after being ferried across the river. Though we drove cautiously to avoid being sand-trapped, odds were stacked against us. Much to our surprise, our collective wisdom was of little value in overcoming the unavoidable hurdle. Panic-stricken, we tried to accelerate, but the car sank further into the sands.

Having run out of all options, we signalled at three youngsters who were helping others, to pull us out of trouble. With many vehicles falling into the sandy trap each moment, their services were oversubscribed. Yet, they rushed towards us and in a couple of minutes, we were driven out. They charged us a pittance for this benevolence.

Divorced from the conventional idea of giving vehicles a forward push, those youngsters instead gave the vehicle a sideways lift to slide some shrubs underneath the tyre to get the desired movement. It was no big deal, but why did it not occur to us? The whole point of jugaad is that it is never a big deal. No surprise, it is often said that common sense is often uncommon. But the point is that such a simple idea did not occur to us but to those who perhaps did not drive themselves. To me, it occurred as an inbuilt cultural empathy wired to solve common problems people face, and to innovate solutions for society at large.

Ingenious ways of resolving societal problems come naturally to us. It is thinking out-of-the-box that is part of our cultural construct, but it remains grossly undervalued. The 4.9-km Bogibeel bridge over the Brahmaputra, opened in 2018, has cut down physical distances, but has distanced people from the river to which they belonged for their livelihoods and survival. Overtime, such distancing can brew apathy towards the river.

sudhirendarsharma@gmail.com


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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 1:53:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/a-rivers-lesson/article35513520.ece

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