The Romance of discomfort, deprivation

“सारे newspaper वाले बोलते हैं कि Mumbai के लोग बहुत Brave हैं। Bomb-blast हुआ इतना भयानक, लेकिन अगले ही दिन से trains में फिर उतनी ही भीड़। सब ऐसे जा रहे थे काम पर जैसे कि कुछ हुआ ही न हो। Brave होने का तो पता नहीं, लेकिन कोई choice कहाँ है? अगर संभव होता तो सब लोग घर में बैठते। अगर संभव होता तो किसी और तरीके से काम पर जाते। लेकिन कोई option कहाँ है? नौकरी छोड़ कर नहीं बैठ सकते और काम करने की जगह से इतनी दूर घर है कि किसी और तरीके से जा नहीं सकते। कोई आतंकवादियों को चुनौती देने नहीं गया था। सबकी पेट की मजबूरी थी।”

(Translation: All newspaper guys say that people in Mumbai are very brave. There was such a scary bomb-blast, but the very next day trains were as crowded as ever. Everybody was going for work as if nothing has happened. I do not know about people being brave, but where was the choice? If it were possible, everyone would have liked to be at home. If it were possible, they would taken some other way to go to the work. But where is there any option? Can’t leave the job and sit at home, and home so far from the work-place that there is no other way to go there. Nobody went to challenge the terrorist. Everybody was compelled by the need to earn.)

This is something like what a cousin brother, who stays on the outskirts of Mumbai with his family, leading a middle class life, told me last time I met him in Mumbai. We had started discussing the Mumbai Blasts (who didn’t in those days right after the blasts?). His younger brother had escaped the blast by pure luck. He usually used to take one of those trains in which the blast had happened.But on that day he was assigned some extra work from the office – so took the next train instead. His usual companions and friends were in the same train. They were sitting in a second class compartment which was next to the first class compartment in which the blast took place. One of them was hurt badly and later died.

From outside, it is so easy to romanticize the motives.

On a slightly different note, there are certain personal experiences I have been wondering about. People who know me today would probably know me as a sucker for comfort. Unless absolutely necessary, I do not enjoy in doing things any lesser comfortable way. Staying, traveling, working anything… I do not see any romance in deprivation and discomfort. Probably somewhere I do not forget those days in the hostel of Navodaya, housed in a temporary building. We were running out of space to such an extent that 24 bunk beds were put up in a space that was hardly sufficient for 8 such beds. By any human standards that is. Space between the two beds was not be sufficient even for taking your buckets out. Combine that with an asbestos roof in summer months, invariably no electricity in those parts of the country at night, generator barely being able to support the tube-lights for few hours in the evening (do not even talk about the fans), and doors and windows strictly closed (it was a girls’ hostel, after all!!). Probably I have not forgotten those days in Ranchi when in a span of half an hour between the two tuitions, in the burning summer heat, I had to walk for almost half a kilometer after one of the tuitions (there’d be no rickshaws there) and then take a crowded, shared auto/tempo for a 20 minutes ride to Main Road (on good days) and then again rush on foot trying to make it to the next tuition in time. And not finding a rickshaw to go back to the lodge I stayed in after taking a similar ride back on the auto to Doranda Chowk, therefore, being forced to walk on foot again. This routine of tuition would have started after the school. Don’t ask me till when could I keep awake after that to study!! And I can not forget those trips back from my village, when you had to make space for yourself in an already inhumanely packed bus. There were no better affordable options. And several more things, which go so personal that I won’t mention them here. Yes – it has been better, much better than the hardships many people in this country go through. But at the same time, it has been much worse than the life most people I see around me today have led. And I fail to share their romantic ideas about discomfort and deprivation. They are mostly of the breed who did not have these forced on them. And yeah – today I am sucker for comfort. I want space, enough to have hundreds of buckets pass through it and more. I want convenient way to commute, so that I do not have to deal with nausea, smell of sweat and worst of all the groping hands which find a convenient victim in the rush and crowd. I want a lot of things. I identify with the character of Vikram in the “Hazaron Khwahishen Aisee” more than Siddhartha’s or Geeta’s. While I was writing the post on this movie, probably this was the aspect I wanted to touch on. But got lost somewhere.

And if I can do something for those who are still deprived, I’d like to do something that will help at least some of them come up, rather than trying to find a universal solution, which if ever implemented, will be implemented in a terribly flawed form (talk reservations!!).

And when I hear those romantic descriptions of people who put themselves through discomfort and deprivations, but never had those forced upon them, I do not know how to react? Should I pity them? Should I feel contempt? Anger? Should I laugh? Should I shout and ask them to shut-up? I do not know.

There may be some exceptional people out there, who have gone through it, who have the ability to come out of it and still find romance. But I do not see any around me.

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About Jaya

Jaya Jha is an entrepreneur, a techie, a writer and a poet. She was born and brought up in various towns of Bihar and Jharkhand. A graduate of IIT Kanpur and IIM Lucknow, she realized early on that the corporate world was not her cup of tea. In 2008, she started, one of the first print-on-demand publishing platform in India. She currently lives in Bangalore and divides her time between writing and working on her company's latest product InstaScribe ( with a vision to make it the best e-book creation tool. Blog: Twitter: @jayajha Facebook:

15 thoughts on “The Romance of discomfort, deprivation

  1. .. I think no one romances discomfort unless they are masochistic.. Behind the “spirit of mumbaikars” is the attitude of a nation that doesn’t care about life.. Unless we start valuing life more, its difficult to mae people realize that they are suffering!

  2. “I identify with the character of Vikram in the “Hazaron Khwahishen Aisee” more than Siddhartha’s or Geeta’s”
    This line struck me hard!
    It was only some days back that I got the chance to see this movie and had been planning to write about it since then. Vikram is the character in the movie I fell in love with. No, I dont identify him. But there is this feeling of respect for a character like him. In him I found a real earthy human character. Somebody very comfortable with whatever he is and never trying to mask his reality with those pseudo-intellectual tall talks.I was disgusted with Siddhartha. But then aren’t many people out there, are Siddharata???? Living in their make believe world and the most pitiable fact is that they start believing that this is the reality!

  3. My suggestion to you will be not to fall for comfort now that you can afford it. Unless you think you have reached your goal and that your goal was to secure comfort for yourself. Probably you are going through the phase when we think we have ‘settled’ in life. Very soon you will realize how boring and worthless is this ‘settling’ and then you will create discomfort for yourself by setting new goals in life.

  4. Although I had decided not to get involved in any discussion on it, but this mis-interpretation was not something I had foreseen.

    I am afraid, you took the meaning of comfort to be different from what I mean. You took a deeper meaning of the word “comfort” than what I intended. I am talking of material comforts. Not of being comfortable with life and “achievements”. Whether or not I am comfortable there, whether or not I agree with you there is a different matter and I am not discussing it.

  5. This is the harsh reality.good to know that now you are not among them.We have to work,we cant skirt our jobs,just b coz of blast and watsoever.Remember my mail,hope not,but think over it encore.Request mine.i can only request U u know,donot u?

    take care


  6. By being equally (if not more) rude to me, you have absolved me of any guilt. Thanks. The obvious question in your mind would have been “Who the hell is he to suggest me something?”. Well, when you write about yourself in public domain, you implicitly accept the vulnerability of receiving comments from people unknown to you. What you do with those comments is your prerogative. If you receive a comment which does not make any sense “to you” “at that instance”, there are two ways to react. Reject it completely without giving it a thought (Ironically, the original article was under “Thought” section), or ask the “concerned” person to explain his proposition. If you are always right, know-it-all, while others can obviously be prejudiced or short-sighted, you would select the first way to react.
    It’s possible that you misinterpreted “goals” in a superficial sense (by thinking of them as academic achievements, career goals etc). And if you did so, I am justified in my suggestion made to you earlier. With that said, this is probably the last piece of comment I am writing to you. I wish you all the best in life (Whether you accept it or not).

  7. With “Know-it-all” people I am a bigger “Know-it-all”. Especially when it concerns something that I am writing on *my* blog, about *myself*.

    Thank you for deciding not to write further comments.

  8. Excellent post! My thoughts exactly – I find no romantic notions in enduring hardship or discomfort, when I have an option not to do so. For example, in the heavy rains of Mumbai, I was saved the trouble of having to be stuck in the rains and consider myself lucky. But many of my friends would tell me I missed the “thrill and joy” of having to struggle through poor infrastructure!! Life is no joyride as it is, so why take on more struggles just for the sake of notions like romantic?

  9. I immediately identified the life you spent during your Navodaya days and later in Ranchi and now that ‘want’ to make yourself comfortable. Being a part of Navodaya system myself (was part of the first batch of JNV Darbhanga), I know a thing or two about the initial days. Our school also had a temporary campus (earlier a Bihar Military Posice campus) later converted to school. We used to clean the school in the morning (even found a few snakes while cleaning shrubs), classes during the day, again cleaning in the afternoon, some play or preparations for god knows what day, studying in the hostel in the night using kerosene lamps and then trying to catch those few hours of sleep somewhere in the corner. In the summers, prayer ground used to be a better place to sleep during nights.

    But I also remember those Sundays (or all Sundays) when excitement used to be in the air, the message from school gate of arrival of someone’s parents, weekly quota of snacks and that feeling of a free bird (even if for an hour). I remember the way we used to spoon, cajole and fight Pheku (our peon) to open the TV room after dinner to allow us to watch ‘Fauzi’ after news.

    Things were certainly difficult if we compare that with our pampered materialistic life today. But somehow we manage to romanticize everything and at least in my case I have made those days part of my life that sustains my individuality today.

  10. Being a girl in Navodaya system kills even those slim chances of romanticizing anything. Sleeping in prayer ground?? We were not allowed to open the doors/windows most of the time after evening prayers. So – what if you are getting boiled up in the heat. Holi? Doors are locked from all sides. Manage whatever you can within your hostel. I do not even want to get started on those experiences here. There was one good thing in all that. I learned to respect the value of freedom and independence. I tend not to misuse it when I get it.

  11. So correct.

    I feel both anguish and pity on the people when I see them wasting food in the office cafeteria mentioning that preparation is not good even though its from Taj. I guess they feel proud in doing so or ashamed finishing everything on their plates.

    I still remember my days in Bangalore when I was in my first job and salary was not regularly paid (sometimes 3 months) and I had to stay hungry on numerous weekends.

  12. Even i was also 4m navodaya…n yes being a gal u have to suffer a lot..but then there was a mental peace,a satisfaction which i cant get in pizza hut or mac’d…
    i belive i sufferd those day thts why i can resist anything..n i can stand anywhr in any condition.
    in darbhanga navodaya we use to clean field,even we have duty to put water in toilet one bucket morning n one bucket eve….it sounds funny…but it was like tht..we have duty to serve food for full day in one month…n all tht…..
    becoz i did all tht tht time now i can do anything….
    n yes tht 7 years was the most memorable days of my life….
    I think its just about enjoying every phase of ur life

  13. Unless you are deprived of finest things of life or comfort,you will not actually enjoy their real taste or rather will not start even striving for them,so life always has lot in store to offer you and one of them is those struggling times, by experiencing them you actually become more grounded,more practical,more versatile.Even if you look at the life of great people most of them had either been to those struggling conditions or had chosen to live certain parts of their lives like that. So it always adds value to you as a person by making you obviously more multifaceted than others around you who is born with the golden spoon in their mouth and chauffer driven cars.

    I myself had experienced this in my life during my stay in/visit to my flood affected village when i used to travel on boats for kilometres even without knowing how to swim?and life at JNV Darbhanga as has been mentioned in post by Manish Shekher Bhai and Mamta singh but loved them coz it came with lots of goodies also.

    message to all
    Be romantic to whatever come across to you except few things, see the difference in life.

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