Friday, August 21, 2015

Sara's encounter with rural India.

During my India visit this time, my daughter Sara visited my ancestral villages in state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) for the first time. She was less than a year old when she visited my paternal village but she didn't have any memories about that visit. here is a huge difference between life style today's city kids live and life in undeveloped rural places. Because of this I was really curious about how she will react to this visit. Weather of month of August is not very kind in most of UP, it is extremely hot and humid, occasional rain brings some relief but otherwise it is somewhat extreme weather specially for someone who is not used to live there. When we came out of Lal Bahadur Shastri international air port, it was like entering into some hot oven, one can clearly feel the difference between temperature and humidity of air inside airport and outside of it. This is how her journey to UP began.

Her first impression of holy city of Varanasi was not that great, she really disliked excessive honking by drivers on road. Initially she tried to count how many times my cousin who was driving the car honked but after 10-15 times within short span of 2-3 minutes she gave up that task. Presence of stray dogs and other animals on road was also surprising for he, actually she saw these things in movies but in Pune where we spend most of our time during India visit this scene is not very common but this is not the case in Varanasi or other parts of UP. Then at our first stop her utter discomfort with Indian style toilets and lack of toilet papers was clearly visible, she didn't complain about this but I could see that she was trying as much as possible to avoid using such toilets. Then there were these mosquitoes, who bothered me also but I was familiar with these problems but for Sara dealing with them was literally a nightmare. Presence of cow in close vicinity of room where she slept didn't help the cause, but she managed to survive and still trying to figure out why the heck people keep cows in their home when cow dunk stinks so much? She also visited few homes in Varanasi with air conditioners and really loved cool and less humid environment, it was like oasis for her. Thanks to one unwritten political rule in UP, which is if MP or MLA representing your area is occupying some top or important post in government that area gets good supply of electricity and preferred treatment. Current prime minister Mr. Modi is MP from Varanasi it is having reasonably uninterrupted supply of electricity, so it was very comforting thing and a huge improvement compared to situation in past, Mr. Modi should get credit for this. I do criticize him or his government whenever I feel that they are not doing good job so it is important that I should give his team credit or appreciate their efforts wherever I see they are doing good job. One should appreciate Mr. Modi's effort to make his constituency a better place, I hope people also cooperate with him. 

From Varanasi we went to my paternal and maternal villages, we just stayed there for couple of days. Supply of electricity follows same political rule is UP villages also so our village representative is not from ruling party so it doesn't get any preferred treatment. Electricity went off at 8 PM on the day we reached there and supply was not restored for next 36 or 40 hours. We have to rent a power generator to survive that brutal heat and humidity, even sitting right in front of the cooler was not that comfortable but it was better compared to not having any fan or cooler. Among all these inconvenience and discomfort Sara had a great time in meeting some really wonderful people. Wherever she went people greeted her with lot of enthusiasm and joy. They all went out of their way to make her feel comfortable, they tried to make sure that she doesn't feel discomfort because of harsh weather of lack of certain facilities. This was really special part of her experience, she utterly disliked the facilities but loved people. She was amazed to see their tolerance limit and ability to adjust to harsh conditions. I was also surprised to see her efforts to adjust to these totally alien environment. This was surprise for me as it was coming from a girl who used to make a big deal about slow internet connection. She also tried her best to communicate with those people, engage in conversation to know about their life and problems (specially with kids of her age). Wherever required she tried to break the ice and initiate discussions and also controlled her aggression during discussions to make those kids feel comfortable. She commented on various gender discriminatory practices like ghunghat pratha, which is similar to burqa where women are expected to cover their head/face in front of elders or strangers. Most of the time people ignored her comments but eve then she persisted with it and tried to tell them that these things are not right if implemented in gender selective way. We also traveled to river Ganga near my village, I always love to visit Ganga river at this spot rather than on any ghats of Varanasi. At Varanasi water is very dirty and atmosphere is heavily commercialized, lot of so called holy men (pandas) try to mob you to do some useless rituals for so many irrelevant things. But same river near my village appears really calm, clean and grand. Its natural surroundings with birds like peacocks and many trees along with one small temple makes it more beautiful. For me this river is not any special than many other rivers but just because some of my childhood memories are associated with it I love to visit it if possible.

Sara's encounter with Indian railways was not that pleasant, two of our trains got cancelled on very short notice and the one which actually departed left almost 16 hours late of its scheduled departure time. I wrote about this experience in my one of previous blog post. Actually this experience had really negative impact on her mind about status of governance in India, she was shocked to see utter chaos at train station with no one having any clue about at what time exactly the train will depart. I have to take lot of efforts to tell her that this was not a regular scenario but she was not at all convinced. I don't think she will dare to travel by Indian railway in near future. But her over all experience was really positive, she really loved people and will always remember their loving and caring nature. I am sure love and affection for these people will bring her back again and again to this place. I wanted her to have wholesome experience of India, I wanted her to know that India is not just a city like Pune or Mumbai where things are very comfortable (except traffic and pollution).Very often when we face reality face to face we learn more compared to just hearing about it, watching it on screen or reading in book. I am glad that she chose to come with me on this journey of rural India. I also discovered a new person in her which I didn't know so far. It was a learning experience to both of us and I hope she takes all positives from this experience and try to grow as a person.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

No comments:

Post a Comment