I have earned a bad reputation in my office for asking the annoying question-so what were your highs and lows on x, y/ z? I think today I can subject myself to this question. I am trying to make sense of what I feel about "India", not just today, but anyday. That is itself a difficult question to answer, since India is a land of mutliple realities. My German colleague gets quite annoyed whenever she asks us a question about India, in a typical Indian fashion, we answer indefinitively, this is also true, on the other hand, so is that....
My highs about India: My former boss once asked me what gives us optimism when all he can see around him goes against any ray of hope. My answer instinctively was-its people! I see my heroes and hope everyday: the street seller who was desperate to sell me a wet newspaper in the drenching rain, the cycle rickshaw puller who was pulling well-endowed and well-fed fellow citizens, the fruit and vegetable vendor who lugs his cart in my colony calling out to us; the auto-driver who waits endlessly at a gas station to refill, the stalls in Sarojini Nagar market who will loose their voices to just sell even 10% of their wares, my helper in my house-Shankar-who lives away from his family to support his son's education in a good private school, my maid who works in several houses to collect enough money to do the same-ensure her kids get good education, the construction workers building who go up and down the stairs in our building fifty times a day. I notice them and look at them and nod whenever I come across a smiling face. But whens its not, I just feel so embarrased and shamed to look them in the eye. They may feel I do so because I think I am above them, but the truth is, I just can't. It reminds me what all India is not. When I witness this sheer hard work and determination they show to do their job day in and day out, I feel happy. I also feel angry at all those who decide not to do this but to take up a gun. Many people argue that India's youth is becoming violent because they are unemployed, they do not have any opportunities. Well, all the people I listed above had the same choice at some time. They chose honest work. They don't see any other faster route to giving their families a better life.
Another high, is the changing political culture in India. Ok, many will disagree with me, especially my Dad, but I feel it is changing. Today more and more people are getting involved politically at the local level, state level and national level. There were more new parties in 2009 elections than ever before. Ok sure, they may not stand a chance to become an alternative to the big players, but they have entered the field. Last night I was in the company of some of these people, and I feel they are doing at least one thing they are very brave to want to step into the scary jungle of politics. They are slowly changing how we react to the dirty "p" word, "politics"! I was active in my RWA some time back when in school and I got discouraged very easily. So for them to fight and get defeated and then be back to fight again, big hooray for them!
My lows-well this is a much longer list. But what I am most low about is that there are so many things that people know need to change, but they just do not change. What will create change? Small change is happening, maybe its too dispersed and at a smaller scale, that we cannot see much of it. But it is happening. I would like to see more of it in the news, in the papers, in the magazines. Show us the positive stories, please! The change I am talking about it is improving how government works and more so in the panchayat or the municipality or a government department. In Ladakh, one of our fellow young travellers used to work in the City Parks Department in New York. Listening to her talk about her work, what they did, how the department was seen by the vendors and citizens, it just seemed so surreal. That a young person like her would want to work in the city government and was leading a team there and did not feel anything special about doing her job, that is what her department was expected to do. When I look at larger change; changing the rules of the game, that is where I am more sad. When will the police system reform, agricultural freedom, the courts.....This week's Outlook magazine compares Peepli Live and Do Bigha Zameen and it is indeed shocking that as with the film, the state of the Indian farmer is not much different.
So am I more happy or sad today? From the comfort of my home, I am close to the former. But I just hope that the next time a film on farmers is made, it mirrors a better India!