It’s been a long time since my last post, and I had been delaying this further since the last 10 days, because this time I wanted my article to have that something extra. I had been on the lookout for some inspiration and it was presented at a very unlikely time- during my railway journey in a general compartment.
Going from hostel to home, I seldom travel during the day, but this was different from the beginning, I missed the train late evening on the last day and as a result I had to take this morning train. I was traveling for the first time by this train and the scene was no different from any other. On any journey in the Indian Railways, esp. in the daytime, two things are surely visible in plenty- hawkers and the beggars. One might miss the ticket checker but there is no way one can miss these businesses-on-the-move. These are people who spend half their life traveling and are no doubt great sources of numerous anecdotes, but people never realize that these people themselves have a life too. As I boarded the train and somehow managed to clamber on to a seat and the cries of “jhalmuriiii!!!” and “Britannia cake-biscuit” struck their chord. Time wheeled by among all those myriad voices, and then the face behind one of them touched the core. It was a woman- middle-aged, about 35, she was selling incense sticks in different scents, but there was one difference: she was blind...!
The scene was amazing. I thought this might be a one off incident till I noticed another person, this time selling toffees- his right hand was just a stub, perhaps amputated in some accident and he was selling a bucket load of wares, with the heavy steel bucket ( it must have been around 5-10 Kg at least) hanging by the stub of the hand. In our country, where begging is an industry and people- young and old, disabled or just pretenders make hundreds of rupees a day, just by arousing the sympathy of the common man who feels the urge for a good deed in the course of his monotonous routine. Paying a few alms makes us feel good about ourselves and there are many who indulge in this pleasure routinely. There are people hale and hearty who take to begging as a business because the only investment it needs is the sacrifice of one’s self-respect and it’s highly profitable too- just look once at the beggar sitting in front of the mandir or the one moving around on the railway platform and you will know what I mean. This is the general expected scenario and these two exceptions awed me. They were disabled, but the fire was there- while they could have chosen the easy way out and still made a decent living, perhaps better than what they earn now, they had the courage to fight. In this world devoid of role models, here were 2 real heroes- but we, the people, don’t care a thought… maybe because they don’t fit our definition of a hero- someone with six-pack abs and a great looking girlfriend, who is the undisputed despot in his group. We have the Jawaan Diwas to celebrate the courageous soldiers who protect us 24X7 and the Shahid Diwas (Martyrs’ Day) to salute the courageous who sacrificed their lives for our safety. We celebrate without fail the birth anniversaries of anyone and everyone who has done whatever little for our cause but in this crowd, we forget the biggest hero of them all. One who takes up a million troubles every day, day after day, throughout his life- the common man of the nation. We bear thousands of troubles just to make up for the inefficiencies of our bureaucracy, take up a million pains with an ironical smile on our face to hide their corruption and instead of celebrating our perseverance, we end up celebrating their birthdays…what an irony…!!!
People are tired of saying kuch nahi badalne wala (nothing will ever change) but it is indeed true. India can and will never change. Not even if the ruling class desires to do so and changes their manipulative motivations overnight. The only way this statement can be proven wrong is by us. We have 1/6th of the world’s total population. Now it’s the time to ask why can’t we? And trust me, there is no reason. We should understand one thing- 110 crore people don’t change together but it is no reason for us not to change. If everyone contributes in their little way, we can start the change. Almost all of us ride bikes, if we stop breaking signals and speeding on the bike, it would not just reduce the number of road accidents or incidents of road rage but also save the money spent on bribing the traffic constables and also help reduce corruption. We are the ones who pee and spit on the roadside and then complain about the smell and hygiene. Next time you buy a chocolate or a packet of chips, take care not to litter the packet on the pavement. These are very minor adjustments and don’t cost a penny but if everyone follows them, the difference created would be starkly visible. And then we can stand up and say, “Yes, hum badlenge.” It’s our India and we are the only ones who dare to care about it.
PS: Like it or Hate it? Feel free to leave your comment below.