Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

31. Shortage

At my workplace, every year we (my team) organize an event on the occasion of ‘International Women’s Day’. The idea is to sensitize the colleagues and bring in new perspectives. We invite different guests and the program is generally only for couple of hours, on Saturday. So, it was yesterday, 14 March, in the afternoon.

We are 80 people working here. We send invitation to all through LAN. My team personally invites everyone (except for the few who have never attended in the last eight years). Our workplace cleaning task is outsourced; we invite all those ten workers for this program. This personal conversation gives us idea about the expected attendance and we make adequate arrangements. Some of my colleagues are traveling and some have deadlines to complete….. We know in advance that they won’t be coming, so we do not wait for them. The attendance is of course voluntary, the choice is with my colleagues.

I do not know whether you have observed how people enter into any program hall and how they choose chairs. Generally, they will try to occupy last rows. Some people come and like to sit in groups. Some people like to be left alone. Some people take this opportunity to exchange ideas (when the program is going on) and some are engrossed in ‘sms’ing! From the organizer’s perspective, bringing back row people to the front is Herculean task. With all the formal and informal appeals, some people do not move, some move only to the next row…. keeping all front row chairs empty.

I think occupying back seat is a safety measure. If the program is boring, one can just slip away without disturbing the audience and without the organizers noticing you. I appreciate such visionaries – it is a practical aspect of ‘happy living’.

The program went on well. After it was over, I met some of the colleagues who did not attend. I casually asked them why they did not attend. I was stunned to get the answer “We wanted to, we came, but the hall was already crowded and there was no place…so, we went back. Why don’t you have the program in a bigger hall?”

At least 15 people wanted to attend the program, thought that there was not enough space and so went back. In the hall there were at least 25 empty chairs…..

There was enough from one side, and there was shortage from the other end. This shortage was artificially created and it affected the benefit of few. What happened? I believe it has to with distribution, accommodation, and discipline. If everybody would have kept back row chairs empty, it would have helped. But the early birds use ‘choice’ as ‘right’.

Thinking about ‘those who are not here’ is an essential part of any equitable distribution… but the ‘haves’ do not generally think of ‘have nots’. They not only assume that others will come and get whatever is the benefit; they also comment, “Oh! But they should have come in time” forgetting that everybody cannot have enough access to and control over resources.

The ‘have nots’ are not assertive enough and/or interested enough, so at the first opportunity they withdraw. I do not know whether it a lack of motivation or from experience they know that ‘the best is over for them’. They complain for what they did not get, but mostly do not take that ‘extra step’ to achieve what they want. So, the gap remains, the artificial shortage (non issue) becomes a ‘real issue’.

Arranging the program in a bigger hall (increasing resources/schemes/facilities) seems to be an obvious solution, but with the present mindset what is the guarantee that we will not create artificial shortage in that situation too?

Creating artificial shortage by haphazard and selfish choices is one part of the problem. Not taking extra efforts to create a space for ourselves is another side of the same coin. Unless we tackle both these issues simultaneously, whatever we may have, some will always be left without it, even when they want it. We all seem to love ‘shortage’ in one form or other and we all contribute to creating it.

So, why complain?


  1. I was there on one of the empty chairs! Did you see me?

  2. We tried our level best to provide the accomodation to everybody but as u rightly mentioned that whether people really want to attend it or not is the issue. But program was good and people responded well to it


  3. I think some people take back chairs to avoid being questioned and to answer if questioned. Be on safer side. Whether interested or not does not matter. There are some time passers as well.

  4. Good, u You can share this expe. in next progrm so people will move to the front (High hopes!!)

    Rajyashree K

  5. Congrats for your enormous hard work as well as to gather people of having different psychology ............ans savita it is society .......having different categories of people...... some R ……..now we R more interested in the content of the programme… please write about it in next blog……. I think we should not take into account like these circumstances

  6. i always read ur blogs which give me some insights


  7. It reminds me of a line I read somewhere- I think it was said by some historian (British or Indian? not sure)..
    Britain is a nation. Indians are a crowd (not nation)!
    I think the question was - how did British rule India, even though outnumbered by 1 to 20..?
    Anyway, are there advantages to being a crowd?
    It also reminds me another saying: we all are marching to a drum beat- which only we can hear.. (so, of course, we all march at our pace..)

  8. Are you working as what anyway?

  9. What a good idea. At least you know that you had many people who wanted to attend. That's better than not having anyone, right?

  10. Mrinalini, u seem to have magic wand to be invisible... next time i see empty chair i wl talk to you (sitting there!)

    Shriniwas and Puja I completely agree with you.

    Rajyashri, it a good idea. Hope next time when I use it, it works.

    ashlesha, yes I should be writing more about content ... but that is not the puropose of the blog. I wl arrange to send you official report of the program.

    Thanks sw for ur compliments.

    Sachin, good thought ... i wl think abt advantages of being 'one of the crowd' which i cannot claim to be.

    nadhsamuel, my official work is to be a part of rural development NGO. That would explain it i believe.

    BlackenedBoy, you are right. Instead of complaining I should look at the positive side of it!


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