It’s the small stuff, stupid (once again)

Some months ago, I had recorded here the ideas of the Tathagata (It’s the small stuff, stupid) on the importance of taking care of the itsy-bitsy small bits. Today I was struck yet one more time about that truth. I was waiting at the Kandivali local train station when a huge board caught my eye. It was a listing of EMERGENCY and IMPORTANT PHONE NUMBERS.

There were about 20 phone numbers. Here is what they looked like:

Ambulance 38787012
Oxygen 87496504
Fire 67635476
Railways 87665375
Police 28388092
Airport 35465788
Womens’ Aid 29846500
Rape Hotline 32647583 … and so on.

Perhaps there are people who have amazing powers of recollection and recall, Perhaps there are people who can memorize random sets of 8-digit phone numbers which they can recall in moments of stress and urgency. I am not one of them. I can at most keep one phone number in my head to be used in the rare occassion that I need urgent help. I would not be surprised, if confronted with an urgent need for help, I dial “911”. That is the number you can call from anywhere in the US if you need help. It is standardized, easy to remember, even a five-year old child can be expected to know that number.

Why, oh, why can’t we think? It does not require a rocket-scientist to figure out that there should be one small easily recallable emergency number. You dial that number irrespective of what sort of emergency you have. Then when you get connected, you say “Fire” or “Oxygen” or whatever is your need. The operator then appropriately directs your call.

OK, granted it may require some brains to think of that simple arrangement. But in this case it is not a closely guarded secret. Many parts of the world have that system. Could we not just imitate them? Could someone in Mumbai not realize that perhaps we could copy their system? We do ape them in every crappy thing, don’t we?

They have Hollywood; we must have Bollywood. We are not smart enough to come up with our own name. They have Burger King. We have Jumbo King (sells vada-pao.) They have idiotic synchronized hip-gyrating dancing in their trashy music videos, we have idiotic synchronized hip-gyrating dancing in our movies coming out the wazoo. Aping the US seems to be de rigeur in Mumbai, and the rest of India. They go so far as to watch the same crappy American sitcoms and worst of all, they even watch the insane American wrestling shows.

Aping the Americans, unfortunately, appears to be epitomize the “modern” Indian. Not surprising at all. What is mystefying is that among all this aping, there is not one bit that is aped that is good. I would probably have a heart attack if I ever saw Indians adopt a good idea, however small, from the US. Take for example, the way Indians write phone numbers. Here is a phone number written the Indian way: 7460137498. No spaces, no breaks. Just thenumbersallsquished. Will we ape the Americans (746-137-7498) or the French ( Not on your life.

The US has “911” as the number for emergencies and “411” for directory assistance. We could have a similar standardized system. We didn’t invent the idea of standardization of important numbers, but would it be so terrible if we copied that idea? The first degree of stupidity is not having the brains to come up with a good idea. The second degree of stupidity is not adopting a good idea when it comes up and bites you in the behind.

If you just ape the trashy bits of rich countries and never ever copy the good ideas, you might be a third world country.

Author: Atanu Dey


10 thoughts on “It’s the small stuff, stupid (once again)”

  1. Lovely Piece Atanu(as usual,may i add)! I remember when i was in Madras it used to be 100 for police,102 for fire etc. Not only do we need a simplistic system but also a uniform system throughout the country. So if you are from Mumbai and happen to be in Banglore while having an emergency,you don’t wonder which numbers to dial!

    ‘Intellectual Arrogance’ is one of the main underrated root cause for not adopting better systems that exist in other parts of the world. We can’t grow if we don’t accept the reality. Case in point:India refusing Aid from other countries just to prove a point that it’s a regional power.


  2. If we look at out netas from the time of independence, there are numerous netas who acquired education in western countries. Every year numerous netas go arround the world spending the public money. They experience these simple things in the placed they go, yet why, oh why, they don’t get the idea of adopting these simple techniques in India which makes life easy for everybody. Are they so dumb? I guess its the general ‘Barson se chal rahai hai’ and ‘Chalta hai’ attitude.

    I have an idea, some high profile consultants should be hired to look at the system as a whole to find out the stupid things like this and propose solutions. This might draw the attention of netas as the process of hiring consultants will fill their pockets.


  3. Well, don’t think “Intellectual Arrogance” had anything to do with the non-acceptance of aid. We might not, and rightly at that, give our political powers that be the credit for being good, sound economic thinkers, but this one does make sense. Check out to learn more about foreign aid’s impact.


  4. Anurag, thanks very much for the link. The article is absolutely worth reading and pondering over. It almost exactly mirrors my view on the matter. I will write about it one of these days.

    [Administrivia: There have been problems with the blog lately. Comments and posts are being duplicated. We are working on resolving the problem. Please bear with us.]


  5. I am very late to comment.. India has one such “911” system.. Try 112 on your cellphone 🙂 in case of emergency, it connects to the nearest police station. Also it uses reserve battery power that almost every cellphone or voipPhone has, and you dont even need to unlock your cellphone keypad.

    Dont dial, lock your keypad and just dial 112. When you have dialled the 2, the cellphone displays the number and you can press the call key. (Dont do it unless its an emergency though, I tried it and a police guy shouted at me for playing pranks.. I was profusely apologizing )


  6. Thank you very much, your’s is the only post I have found that has mentioned this. Here’s something I just emailed to my brother:

    one of the most ridiculous thing about people living in India is the way they write phone numbers! It is so hard to either remember or even read something written like this: 00919986424523.

    First of all, what is 00 is the front? we don’t use 00 when dialing internationally from USA, its used only in India, and some other other countries.

    Secondly, you didn’t need to put 91. If I’m calling India, I better already know that the country code is 91. Why make it more complicated?

    Thirdly, break the number in three parts like we do in usa. something like this:

    now that’s much easier to read than 00919986424523, isn’t it?

    I think I’ll start some campaign over the internet spreading this awareness.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: