“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.