New Delhi: That much respected and tall figure of development economics, an American and one who was a friend of India, did us a favour 30 years ago. He called us a functional anarchy’. Since we never forget a friend, we have rather obligingly complied with his this description.

Raj Liberhan, Director, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi

So much so, we have moved a step forward and turned into being just an ‘anarchy’ shedding the appendage of ‘functional’ along the way. Now, this is not a pejorative flagellation of one’s motherland. The progress we have made is real and we are now being admired as being amongst the best managers’ of anarchy. Every proud countryman should hold his head high for this recognition is hard to come by.

Management of anarchy is a difficult proposition at all times. For a start, the uncertain element of any given situation is much higher and consequently its capacity to upset the logic of any rational course of action.

This factor shortens the odds for a rational response in the given circumstances. A great deal of ad hocism is built into every situation that we deal with. As an ad hoc measure denotes, it is only for the time being; naturally our response, thinking, principles and ideals then, have an assured validity, for the time being only.

Our voice of reason prompts, “nothing ever lasts". Isn’t this the fundamental tenet of our philosophy, so why create anything that will last, is the average man’s psyche. Our roads disappear recurrently with every monsoon, our rivers overflow causing floods annually despite billions spent by the vulnerable states; our fiscal regime changes every year, precisely at the moment when some understanding of the last one’s prescriptions has being established; our urban plans are ever changing and our political alliances are seasonal.

Nothing lasts and most certainly nothing that is good lasts. Our belief in good and durable is thus also passing. We live for the moment, which again happens to be a significant tenet of Indian philosophy. Why worry about the next moment, especially since you will not be around to face the consequences thereof. Just make sure that nothing blows up while one is still in the driver’s seat.

We should not put too fine a point on the bane of adhocs. It has several boons to its credit, as we have learnt over the years. For one, because ad hoc is by nature temporary and is for the interim, it teaches us to be ready for anything, anytime and anywhere.

It gives one and all the chance to create and destroy, a rare equality of opportunity. It also helps us adapt to unforeseen changes and go about our lives without blinking an eyelid when things continue to go in any direction, but the one that has been planned. It is all meant to be.

It is divinity that shapes our ends. Above all, adhocism means constant improvisation It feeds on our hope to attain Nirvana or perfect union, if not in this life, then in the ones to follow. After all, it is not for nothing that the rest of the world usually has one life while we have several.

Anarchy and adhocism go together. Most importantly, as a manager of adhoc skills, accountability is always diffused and no one can be blamed for things going wrong. That is why we never bring to justice even those that perpetrate terrible crimes.

The glorious uncertainties of cricket are made much of; these are nothing compared to the thrills of everyday existence revolving around ad hoc needs, ad hoc deadlines, and adhoc goals.

There are always several possibilities to choose from. Your telephone could play dumb and not respond to your benign or angry overtures, the water supply could cease without notice, your plane or train will leave on its own terms, and once having left, will arrive someday, sometime.

These are only very minor happenings that can derail your functionality. Every day is a triumph of persistence and perserverence over challenges of too many people doing everybody else’s work, paying little attention to their own.

Ever noticed the intensity and passion with which every one is concerned with the fate of the country with an equal lack of it for their own work? Yet, public discourse on issues of prime concern and future of the country can leave you perplexed. Also, its difficult to make out, who stands for what cause. While legislatures generate heat on a subject, light emerges from advocates of interest groups. Besides, you can always switch sides, stand with a cause one day and condemn it the next.

It is often said that nature is always in equilibrium. Even if there is an upheaval, a fresh balance emerges. Our state of functional anarchy is in scientific terms one such racy equilibrium, which is only a few steps ahead of a dynamic one.

A state of ferment is perhaps tolerable, but a state on the boil could scald the society. Let’s cool it, as the young have started to scream and believe in what our Prime Minister says, if winter comes, can spring be far behind.

Raj Liberhan is Director of the India Habitat Centre at New Delhi. Send your reactions to