Thursday, November 30, 2006

Life in a hidden city

Allahabad is one of the best places to grow up ,if you want to see and understand India's middle and lower middle class society wihout the glasses provided by bullish management gurus betting big on these millions of people for their ability to act as 'consumers', and from a viewpoint that is unmatched for clarity. After all you will be one of those millions, whom you want to understand.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been a part of this middle class madness. This city hosts thousands of boys aged 15-35 coming from districts of eastern UP and Bihar (Many others go to Varanasi), who study in various government colleges/University/Coaching centers preparing for medical/engineering/administrative services/clerical services and whatever else you have! Most of these boys come from villages and their family's occupation is farming. The money is scarce and watching a movie, sitting on the front benches, on a ticket of 10 Rs. is sort of a luxury. The usual mode of recreation is a walk with friends on the banks of Gangaji and a cup of tea at the local 'hotel' in the evenings. The single room is shared by two or three (even four at times!) guys and it acts as living room, kitchen, bedroom and most importantly study room!

But there is something else as well. The discussion on any topic, be it India's stance in the World Economic Forum or any physics numerical question from Irodov raises an intensity of discussion that is as captivating as it is motivating. An electric emergency light or an inverter is an unaffordable luxury and hence candles or kerosene lamps are the sole support for late night studies that are mandatory to offset the time spent in cooking, cleaning and other daily chores.

The life is tough and it is this tough life that gives you a tough mindset. The viewpoints that you take here during these discussions are almost guaranteed to last a lifetime. The values, principles and ideals (how muchsoever outdated and laughed-at these words may be in urban lingo) are imprinted firmly in your mind. The scarcities force you to live a simple life and resist the temptations. Every success has got an idol and a sense of giving back to the society from where it has emerged and every failure is comforted with a precedent.

This is an India, so vibrant, so visible and yet so hidden from the world. After all this India does not play any role in the game of billions for the management Gurus.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The toughest question ever!

The train from Mumbai to Lucknow was choc-a-bloc, and despite having a reservation, Nakul and I had to adjust with three others sharing the berth with us. The day had just started and conversation was about to.

And it did and predictably veered to the familiar territory: politics and ultimately terrorism. In India, commuters won't discuss about politics only if they are daily passengers, commuting a couple of hours in the morning and back in the evening.

Apart from these guys, who discuss ONLY about schedule of trains and how they could/could not catch a particular train ("Saadhe saat waali passenger" or "Paune Aath waali local") and what others do in these cases. Rest of India keeps itself busy in cursing its politicians and worrying about Government's soft policy on terrorism.

And so my co-travellers did and I didn't. (Actually I was trying to think how to sit next to the girl sitting next to window. Don't get me wrong, all I wanted was to be close to window to take the photos!) And when I got rid of this issue (Got the desired seat) I started listening to what these people were talking.

The talks were about Mohammad Afzal and why he should be hanged, rather why is there even a question rising about his pardon. About how all Muslims are abetting terrorism in the country and that Uniform Civil Code is only way of stopping the politics of minority appeasement. About how we needed laws like TADA and POTA. And about lot many other things.

I just remembered reading columns of Vir Sangvi and Karan Thapar in Hindustan Times on this issue. And I just read one by Barkha Dutt. And all of these say the same thing: Howmuch ever we hate to admit it, hanging Afzal is not such a simple issue and hanging him will make a martyr of a murderer. And with people like Yaseen Malik and his compatriots of Hurriyat, this is not
exactly a fantasy.

All these journos admitted that they don't have any answer to question of whether Afzal should be hanged or not. If hanging him makes him a martyr, then not hanging him paints India as being soft towards terror. Barkha Datt raises a good point that if we had real perpetrators of crime, maybe then Afzal would have been a small fish and not been awarded a life sentence. But since actual culprits are either dead (the terrorists who actually attacked the parliament) or unreachable (LeT big bosses) and since we need someone to hang, it is Afzal!

Valid it may be, but useless in solving the mystry posed by question.

Don't know what will be fate of this man. I am not actually worried about him either, but I am really bothered about the fate of my country. I don't want it to bleed anymore. I don't want anymore 11/7.

I want the daily passengers to keep on discussing about train schedules!