This incident took place a few years ago.

My son was in engineering college then. His college had arranged a meeting to enable parents to meet the various professors and project guides. I was not in the best of health at the time, but this was the first time such a meeting was being held, so I was determined to attend. My husband was out of town that day, so he could not come with me.

I reached the college a few minutes before the meeting was to start, and went around to the rear entrance. The entrance was locked. I found a college employee and asked him to open it. He refused, saying that he did not have permission to do so.

My son had told me that in order to qualify for ISO certification, a lift had been recently installed at the back entrance which started at the ground floor level (as opposed to the other lifts which started at the first floor level).

However, it seemed that the entrance leading to the lift was unlocked only when the ISO inspectors came, and not when anyone wanted to actually use the lift.

Now the college building had a huge entrance at the first floor level, with very wide steps leading up to it. Aesthetically appealing, no doubt, but designed to be used only by athletic types. NO divider in the centre. And NO banisters or railings to hold on to.

At the time, I was having balance problems, and could not climb stairs without steadying myself by holding onto a railing . However, having no alternative, I climbed up very carefully, one step at a time. I reached the top without any mishap, and thankfully sank down on the top step.

While coming home after the meeting was over, I related everything to my son. He heard me out patiently and then asked why I had not called him on his cellphone- he would have come out of his class to get me.

This was, of course, a very logical question. I could only say that I had not thought of doing that!

India is not a rich country and I would quite understand if the problem was one of insufficient funds to provide such facilities. But that was not the problem in this case. The facilities were available, but not to be used, they were just to satisfy the ISO inspectors!

This type of mentality is quite common, though. I have a friend who will not let family members disturb even a cushion in the living room, in case guests drop by unexpectedly. Maybe someone should tell her that a living room is for living in, not just for show!

When my children were in school, there was a librarian there who would not let the students touch the books. They were not even allowed to see which books were on the shelves. She was convinced that the students would mess up the books she had arranged so neatly. When they went to exchange their books, they had to take the one she gave them.

Not a procedure which would encourage children to enjoy reading!

I have read that in earlier times, some families in England owned expensive china tea-sets, which were kept locked in a cupboard. They were to be taken out and used only if the Queen came for tea. Since Royalty did not visit many homes, some sets were never used at all!

Anything is useful only to the extent that it is actually used! I think we would do well to remember that.