Thursday, August 6, 2009
My moral dilemma...
My daughter is participating in the parade at school on August 15. It's one of the many firsts for her ever since we moved from Hyderabad. And she's supposed to learn and sing a Hindi song on stage. After careful thought, and a lot of debate with my little princess, we both chose the title song from Hum Hindustani (which was released in 1960 and featured Sunil Dutt, Joy Mukherjee and Asha Parekh). And I felt it was very apt at this moment, not just for me but for all of us Indians collectively.
Aaj puraani zanjeeron ko tod chuke hain
Kya dekhe us manzil ko jo chhod chuke hain
Chaand ke dar pe jaa pahuncha hai aaj zamaana
Naye jagat se hum bhi naata jod chuke hain...
But have we, really?
Aao mehnat ko apna imaan banaaye
Apne haathon ko apna bhagwaan banaaye
Ram ki is dharti ko gautam ki bhoomi ko
Sapnon se bhi pyaara Hindustan banaaye...
Are we ready yet, I wonder!
As I was making my daughter rehearse her lines, I could only feel bitter thinking about the progress (or the lack of it?) we made in the past 62 years in Independent India. Orissa that way brought out the cynic in me. I'm not negative or pessimistic but I'm definitely cynical at this point looking at the roads, the (non-existent) drainage system, lack of basic amenities, or agents to supply gas within a 15-km radius, pathetic public transport, and what not!
That reminds me of my trip to Berhampur last week in a local bus (not run by OSRTC but by a private bus service - something like Setwin buses that ply in Hyderabad). I set out on a cloudy afternoon along with my nephew. With a spirit of adventure, we got into a Mahindra (called so in honour of the company that manufactures these buses - or mini-buses rather - in bulk) and travelled for nearly one-and-a-half hours one way (it normally takes about 30-35 mins in an auto).
Our primary aim was to buy Windows XP Home edition original software - available with great difficulty after a lot of search. On our way back we walked to a megamart in the viscinity and did a little bit of grocery shopping, walked out satisfied with all our purchases, and finally got into another Mahindra to get back home.
It started raining soon and within 10 minutes after starting at Berhampur, the bus started leaking from top at one of the seats. So, the other passengers shifted, shoved and moved a bit to make place for the two guys who were getting soaked by the water dripping from above their heads. I really admired the camaraderie the passengers shared. Hmmm... not for long though - as we realized slowly that it's not just one spot that was leaking. Soon, water started seeping down from every part of the bus and there was not a single person in the bus who was not soaked wet.
Should we thank our stars that we're on the road in a bus and not on the sea in a boat that's leaking? And most passengers in the bus are fisherfolk people who can easily relate to the analogy of the boat! I had a myriad questions in my head through the rest of my journey.
Are these people any lesser than the other mortals living elsewhere in the country or the world? Why are their living conditions so pathetic? What powerful force is it that's stopping them from getting their basic minimum amenities? Is there something one can do about it or are we just part of a deaf and dumb system which silently watches and goes along the flow?
I'm still wondering if I should go ahead and file a Right to Information (RTI) demanding to know where and why the OSRTC is failing to provide buses to rural areas? Or should I approach the State Human Rights Commission and narrate the incident? Or should I just mind my own business and be content with being the perfect housewife? What should I do? Let me know your thoughts.