Monday, 19 October 2015

To the old world and beyond

I like the rural life. I have lived in towns, cities, small towns, metropolitans et cetera. And after almost two decades of living in all these geographical varieties I have come to the conclusion that I like the rural life. Now some people might say that I haven’t lived for long in any rural area that’s why I am romanticizing it. Others also might accuse me of being ignorant to the plethora of problems rural people have to face on a daily basis. Maybe they are correct as well. It will definitely be annoying to travel some 10- 15 kms to avail of basic facilities which we take for granted in cities. Indian rural life statistically is not very high on infrastructural amenities and when it comes to rural areas in Northern India especially Bihar, the statistics descend to lower levels. Ambedkar believed rural areas to be a den of ignorance and superstition. I definitely agree with him. The Indian rural life is characterized by extreme caste divisions and laden with absurd superstitions and dogmas. And it is wrongly believed that people here are very simple rural folk who survive on modest things in life. Human nature I believe is same everywhere irrespective of the geographical surroundings one resides in. It might differ in limited intensities but largely it is similar. Either it is Hobbesian or sometimes Lockean, or sometimes, only sometimes a little different than these two. So in rural areas most of the people rely on mammoth superstition, the area is small so everyone makes it a point in meddling in each other’s affairs.
But even after this whole gamut of ills that plague the Indian rural life, I am still fascinated by it.  I have travelled through rural areas of most of the Northern states of India viz. Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Haryana et al. My parents have always made it a point since childhood to make us (I and my brother) rooted. They have continuously and consistently tried on their part to take us to our ancestral places, from where it all began, where the roots lie stable and intact. So from very early on life we have lived two lives, one characterized by the materialism and facilities of urban India & the other drawn by earthiness and ignorance of rural India. And we have become totally at ease with both the lives now. Sometimes we were in cities, enjoying all the facilities modern India could offer at other times we were looking at farmers slogging hard on their land. Sometimes we were in the comforts of our house wondering which movies to watch, at other times we were without electricity (now many villages have got electricity poles, which not always functions) being bit my mosquitoes occasionally. This dual life made us realize the perks of both the places simultaneously teaching us the values of life and significance of everything which should not be taken for granted. It also made us aware of the detriments of these respective areas. The most important thing that happened was that we got the right to choose.
Having choices in life is very essential. Apart from being democratic, having choices also gives one a little broader and wider picture to decide from, unlike when one is imposed with something to one’s utter dislike. So in possession of these choices we were on the beneficial side as I like to think. It made us realize that there is more to life than just the things we see in the finite comforts of life. There is always a sense of freshness accompanying the rural areas. Probably due to less developed roads the loud and brash sound of vehicles is rare to hear. There is a lot of greenery, everywhere surrounding you. You can actually hear the little birds chirping in a fresh silent morning. An ideal day begins with that gentle noise. Some people wake up, some choose not to. There is no rush on the uneven branched roads to reach any destination or meet certain deadline. Mostly people are carefree and have the unthinkable of little innovations to carry on their lives (maybe scarcity of resources has taught them that). If you are able to get up early, you can just soak in all the Vitamin-D, sun has to offer while walking through the greenest of fields. You can see people making their way to their respective fields with few instruments in their hand always accompanied by someone or the other. The serene atmosphere maybe occasionally interrupted by loud conversations, since it is mandatory for everyone to speak to all those people who cross their paths. When the sun rises a little higher, raising the temperature you are instantly reminded of the cities and the various facilities it can offer that very moment to cool you down. However you survive all that throughout the day listening to chattering of people and just sitting their observing the surplus of never ending topics, interrupted only by arrival of food. The evenings are usually picturesque if you are again feeling active and want to take a walk to the fields. Now you can witness people returning home, glistening with sweat and wearing a satisfactory look (sometimes it just makes me think of dropping all the ambitions I have in life and just become a farmer). 
This old world charm where you have the liberty to do everything, where you work hard and then feed yourself is bound to give a sense of contentment. Reminds me of Tolstoy farms which Mahatama Gandhi had set up in Africa that became witness to his Satyagraha experiments. Children there were engaged in manual work and skill learning of fixed hours without any discrimination on the basis of gender or class. It makes me wonder about this visionary that Gandhi was. He must have realized the value of simple joys of life that’s why he always believed that if villages perish India will perish too. In Tolstoy farms all the basic facilities were available; there was cleanliness and definitely no superstition. It was not a den of ignorance but of enlightenment.
What if something like that can be inculcated in our rural areas? What if basic infrastructural facilities are available and one does not have to travel few kms for smallest of things? What if in that limited area with less population, people emulate the sustainable development models?  The government, the individuals all the stakeholders will have to work together to make that sort of a dream a reality. The picturesque rural area will be a paradise to live in then. I am reminded of the mesmerizing   hobbiton village (New Zealand) in Lord of the rings which has now become a tourist spot. That sort of a rural area is little too much good to be real. But there are plenty of rural areas across the world which possesses all the facilities of city and all the calmness of villages. This old world charm seems to be always growing on me whenever I see and visit the rural areas. Practically and policy wise also India can only develop comprehensively and inclusively when the large no. of villages are taken care of, when they are pulled out of their den of ignorance and endowed with a Tolstoy farm like idea or maybe a hobbiton.
 Probably I am burdened with the extreme consumerism and rush of urban life and trying to find solace in the unpretentious rural areas. But I am sure one day when the covetous standards of cities reach its pinnacle, a whole cycle will be completed and people will look back and return to these simple geographical areas from where it all began. Maybe just to check whether the root is still intact.  The idealist in me remains hopeful.
 In the hope of a better world!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Romanticizing India.

India turned 68 on the 3rd Saturday of August 2015. Six decades in the life of a nation is not a very long time to pass a quick judgement over how it is growing. India has been one of the ancient civilizations on earth and has been open to various people of different religion, race, creed and class who have lived here and continue to do so. Reminds me of Mark Twain when he said “India is the cradle of human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend and the great grandmother of tradition.” This transformation from an ancient civilization to a modern nation-state has been a tumultuous journey. But today is not the day to ponder over and analyze this ginormous voyage, today is the day to romanticize it. Days like these are about venerating our beloved country, idealizing that feeling one gets while observing the tricolor unfurl in its beautiful colors.
It’s about remembering the freedom fighters, the supremely patriotic people who gave up their lives so that after six decades one can cherish and romanticize over it.
It’s about taking oneself back to those times when our nation was divided into various regions and the mammoth task that was done to unite them all.
It’s about reminding ourselves of the challenging task which great men and women accomplished of giving us a brilliant constitution.
It’s about saluting those inspiring people who dreamt of an idea of India, of a united country, ruled by its people.
It’s about rediscovering ourselves, our identity, our roots, and our traditions and appreciating every bit of it.
It’s about singing the national anthem at the top of our voices, with our heart and soul and being mesmerized at the beauty of it.
It’s about being charmed with its humongous diversity, its huge population, its colorful culture, its beautiful people, its eco-friendly festivals and its strange ways.
It’s about being fascinated by its mighty mountains, its numerous rivers, its gigantic population of flora and fauna and the beauty that underlines them all.
It’s about enjoying its rich culture and traditions, its classical songs and dances, its poetry and drama, its authors and storytellers.
It’s about engrossing yourself in the country’s past and present, its history and geography, its length and breadth, its legends and traditions.
It’s about taking pride in its plurality, its ethos, its language and its composite culture and standing as one in times of any sort of external threat.
It’s about rejoicing the thought of belonging to this great nation with all its glories and follies, its achievements and its imperfections.
It’s about delving deeper into this ancient land and understanding how it functions and succeeds, fails and gets up, moving ahead.
It’s about understanding the idea of being an Indian and thinking of making this country proud in our own respective ways.
It’s about believing in this country and the country people.
Issues of price-rise, terrorism, women empowerment, unemployment, farmers, armed forces, clustered cities, poor villages, corruption, infrastructure, schools, colleges, factories, SEZs, government policies, corporates, PSUs etc. can wait for every day.
Whining is a routine. Let’s romanticize a bit on this one day and celebrate it.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Fall, Fall again and then Begin.

Failure is such a depressing thing. One failure in life and everything comes to a halt. The world shrinks, becoming the size of an ant. Everything around you becomes gloomy. You are in such a state of confusion about yourself that you forget every god damn thing that has ever happened in your life. Not only you but everyone around you does the same. All attention is focused on that one lonely “failure”. Suddenly it receives all the attention it never deserved. Failure can be of various categories, sizes and shapes, but one common trait that binds them all is the kind of impact it creates i.e. HUGE.
People try to console you quoting the cliché things like “Failure is the stepping stone to success” or someone would come up with “To succeed one must fall”. And you begin to momentarily think of yourself as Abraham Lincoln and start believing that this too shall pass. But all of this becomes unable to lessen the impact that lonely failure has created. All you can think of is WHY? , WHY ME? Thus begins a series of comparisons, self-doubt and a zillion questions.
In those depressing moments, all one needs is some sort of strength, strength of family and of friends on whom one can rely on. They are the ones who strengthen your backbone and rescue you back to the normal world. It is the time of discoveries, you discover the true faces of people behind their masks, and you discover yourself in the end. Only will-power and determination can liberate you from the clutches of the dreaded failure and set you on another path. The road that is less travelled and that is what makes all the difference as Robert Frost would say. And then one fine day, when success arrives, pushing failure a zillion steps away, reversing everything that failure brought that you realize that "Failure is definitely the stepping stone to success. Reminds me of Henry Ford when he said " Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Dr. Kalam.

Uncertainty is the way of life. Life has strange ways of testing you and relieving you. One moment you are enlightening students on "Creating a livable Planet Earth" and the other you fall off and die. Sounds so unreal!  Sadly this is how life ended for our revered and always inspiring Dr. Kalam. I was travelling to Delhi in a train when I got the news update on my phone about his sad demise. I was aghast. This was the last news I had expected. I just couldn't believe it. I googled for it and there it was, the bitter truth in front of my eyes. Dr. Kalam had collapsed on the stage while giving a speech at IIM Shillong.
 As far as I know and remember, he has been one of the most popular presidents in India. The missile man as he was aptly called, had a very deep influence on the citizens of India, children and elders alike. He was widely respected in the country and beyond. His death is such a shock from which at least I haven't recovered yet. I am sure many people across the country share my state of mind. It’s not that I knew him personally or was an acquaintance of him, it is just the kind of impact he had on our minds, our thinking.
I still remember my parents gifting me his autobiography “Wings of fire" when I was in 8th grade. It was such an inspiring and motivational read. A man from humble origins, who went on to become the missile man and eventually the president, Dr. Kalam became an icon one could always look up to.
Secular people have their own significance in this country. What I mean by "secular people" here is one whose lifestyle is a certain mix of various religions. Dr. Kalam was a Muslim by birth, he played veena(which is associated with Hindu religion, even musical instruments have religion!). He was also a vegetarian again believed to be a Hindu attribute. He was widely read and also a keen reader of major religious books, being equally comfortable with Gita as he was with Quran.
 I remember once seeing him in school. He was then the president of India. My school had been celebrating its 50th anniversary. Dr. Kalam was the chief guest for our founder's day. Usually children were hardly concerned about the chief guests. But this time on the school's 50th year, and Dr. Kalam being the chief guest, there was an unusual sense of excitement. Everyone seemed high on energy. And then he came in his cavalcade along with our Principal and other dignitaries. There was silence all over the open auditorium. Everyone wanted to get a glimpse of him. From a certain distance I could see his calm demeanor and his gentleness. He replied in a very calm and detailed manner about all the questions that were asked of him.
Dr. Kalam always believed that children are capable of doing anything. That is why he was usually seen in various schools and colleges, inspiring them in any or every way he can. And in the end, as is being widely quoted everywhere, he died among them, motivating them in his own way. He is an inspiration for everyone who ever want to get inspired in life. His death is a huge loss for the country and has left a void which is impossible to fill.