Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Tale Of Two Countries


I recently came across an article in the BBC website which caught my attention. The title read, "Diet of mud and despair in Indian village".
Now frankly, when I read the title, "A Diet Of Mud", I thought its a metaphor or a euphemism, pertaining to a situation of sorts. But I was wrong and a trifle surprised, when I came to realise, that the diet of a certain populace in a nondescript Indian village is actually mud. Well, silica to be exact, from the quarries.
Now that does make you ponder, when you come across an article so striking, as you sip cool lemon sherbet and feast on the luscious alphanso mangoes which by the way are quite a treat during the scorching Indian summer.
Now frankly, I did not have pangs of guilt nor remorse as I read the about the miserable lives of the hapless Indian villagers with my mouth stuffed with the season's best pick of fruit.
It doesn't make sense, to feel remorse or regret with regard to something you are not responsible for.
We all know the age old cliché which asks you to think about starving African children (for the American kids), or the starving Indian children (pertaining to my own populace), when you waste away morsels of half eaten vegetables.
But lets look at the broader picture here, its not like the kids living practically miles away in a wasteland are going to benefit from what you salvage in your kitchen counter far away amidst a glittering metropolis.
Therefore there's no point in pricking our conscience for a fact that we are neither responsible nor have anything to do with whatsoever.
As much as I like to fantasize about things, I also happen to be a core realist when it comes to certain aspects. Especially pertaining to ridiculous myths created by humans, which aim to create a sense of guilt, practically serving no purpose.
Its strange actually, because when I do read about a certain Indian populace so poor, that they have resorted to eating mud, its almost as if reading about a situation in some far off country, having little to do with my own life. The only fact being, that the word "Indian" seems like a weird coincidence.
How can you connect with something which you have neither seen nor heard?
When I look around me, I see no starving masses. All I see are high rise buildings, large banner advertisements for the latest Chevrolet auto-mobile, and multiplexes swarming with college students munching on nachos and buttered pop corn.
So it makes me wonder, is the story about the decrepit "Indian" villagers in the BBC a cruel international hoax?
Is it some sort of a world wide conspiracy to play down the impressive Indian economic "boom" given the fact that we are doing so well, while Europe grapples with surmounting monetary debt?
And why is the issue not reported in the Indian newspapers, whose front pages contain articles regarding the billions of rupees spent to secure the teams for the IPL (The Indian Premier League)?
Then it hits me.
The BBC is obviously referring to the "other" India.
The India, that most of us "Indians" have never seen but only heard about. Through fleeting rumours and small paragraphs which lie inconspicuously near a large advertisement picturing a famous Indian actress wearing a necklace of designer diamonds.
Yes, it all makes sense now.
You see, the western media, seems to think of both countries as one entity. Its a passable confusion when they choose to capture the pathos of the other India, rather than praise the economic and infrastructural developments of the India that we are so familiar with.
But this is where, Shakespeare's quote, "What's in a name"? falls flat on its face.
A name, especially in this circumstance makes a big difference.
Though they obviously sound alike, they are definitely not the same country.
They cannot be, for there exists a sea of difference.
Imagine the contrast.
The difference between a city with flyovers, malls, crowded multiplexes and state of the art multiple speciality hospitals. And the dismal picture of an "Indian" village, which probably doesn't even have a road to begin with, their hospital is a dilapidated building, where a doctor might show up sometime in an odd month or two. Parched lands with little or no drinking water and the absence of electricity.
It almost seems like a picture from the dark ages.
But nevertheless, as ridiculous as it sounds, its true.
I suppose of all the nations in the world, ours is a nation of absolute paradox.
When one end of a populace is practically unaware of the existence of the other.
Its hard to imagine a country which has caught the worlds eye, on account of its economic development, spending of billions on satellite launches, lunar vehicles and cricket matches paradoxically also seems to harbour a race of men, who have resorted to eating mud since they cannot even afford basic food or water.
Its the massive scale of denial and ignorance that perplexes me, rather than make me feel guilty over my plate of mangoes.
Its hard to feel empathy, when you have never seen or experienced something so out of the ordinary.
Its a great divide. On massive economic proportions.A divide reminiscent of the days of Tsarist Russia and 18th century France, where the nobles, aristocrats and the clergy lived a life of comfort and opulence, while the peasants starved.
Their ignorance was so great, that even as the mad, hungry mobs stormed their palace doors, in what culminated as the French and the Russian revolution, the nobles stood shocked and perplexed behind their glazed windows wondering what on earth could have irked them to this degree.
By the time they realised, it was too late, and the fragile windows forming the great divide was shattered. The mad mobs rampaged through the streets plunging the country into chaos, while the noblemen found themselves on their way to the gallows.
Its a fate that shouldn't belong to any nation. But its inevitable, especially when you have ignorant governments who seem to live in denial with regard to the situation in their own country.
If one reads the Indian papers of late, one comes across sections pertaining to a certain outfit called the Maoists, who have solidified themselves into a hard-line militant force spreading panic and mayhem across certain Indian states.
They originated from the other India, consumed by a blind hatred for the India that we live in, and leaving the Indian government perplexed so as to how to deal with the new found menace.
But like the Monarchs of 18th century France, the response of the Indian government has been rather insipid, even after the Maoists butchered 75 Indian military personnel.
Ignoring a complete herd of men can have dangerous consequences.
As their lives grow more difficult, misery leads to despair, despair leads to hatred and hatred leads to a blind fury which culminates into a revolution.
And like all revolutions, they will be bloody and lead to chaos and anarchy.
Divides in a nation are never without consequence. Sooner or later the parched throats of the decrepit masses will cry out for blood, while we sit unaware of the dangerous situation, in our homes.
Hopefully a situation where the other India, invades our India must never occur. For if it does, we shall be the losers behind our fragile glass windows.
Unable to prevent the bloody union of our two very different countries.