Saturday, March 14, 2015

Of India, and changing India

All of us, once at least would have asked this question: “What will happen to this country!” (“kya hoga iss desh ka!”)…
I have asked this question several times to myself and now I helplessly admit that I have concluded that “iss desh ka kuch nahin ho sakta!”. India is going to remain India. By this I mean the attitude of the people and not the other dynamics – like usage of mobile phone for example. Recently I traveled in a train a few times after some years. I observed the train is exactly the same as it was decades ago, every single compartment was the same, the toilets were dirty, the bedsheets were not as good and just about anything that you could have observed about a train during your travel over the past few decades! I have travelled across many different sections of the country from North to South and from East to West. (What I found is the platforms in Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh were the neatest of all. The platforms of Uttar Pradesh were the worst of all. All other zones come in between somewhere.) I have travelled in general compartments, sleeper class, 3rd AC, and 2nd AC – in that order from childhood to adulthood as my changing ability to spend changed. The situation of each compartment and services remains exactly the same – by and large.
Now I want to know if India is changing, train resembles India, why has it not changed at all since decades?
Also, the movies – there was ‘Zanjeer’ about an honest ‘dabangg’ police officer in 1973, and then there is Singham on the same lines in 2011. 40 years and the same theme??? Does that mean the corruption situation is still the same?
Of course, things would have gotten only worse, surely owing to the increased population of ours and some changing environmental parameters. Then, are we actually changing?
Why are there NGOs for women empowerment perpetually existing? Are they not able to empower women or are there enough women to empower at any given time? In that case again, things have not changed for women at large right?
I may be termed as a pessimist but being an optimist here is very unrealistic to me. My most logical sense is, change happens – but at an individual level, at a small group level may it be a small community or a village (In case of railways too, there might be pockets like South Central railways for example that might have changed but to generalize, it is the same still!). For change to happen at an individual level it takes a few years, for change to happen at a family level it takes a decade or so, for change to happen at a community level it takes a few decades but for change to happen at a national level, it would take several decades but there are too many barricades in between that stop from the change to happen. For that mass change to happen, everybody needs to feel that change is needed for him or her, and there needs an individual or a group to make each and every individual feel the need first of all – that I feel is a close to impossible task! A lot of people don’t feel the need to have sanitation. When you go to some places like Uttar Pradesh, there is hell lot of dirt all around. Won’t people feel the need to not make the place dirty first of all, or clean it up once filthy? How many individuals can run the swach bharat abhiyan? can a small group go and clean the place all the time? That group needs to be dedicated for that task alone in that case, which is not possible. Even in a household, if just one person takes the responsibility to clean things up and every other family member keeps making the house dirty, how would that situation be? We are changing in terms of adapting to the new revolution like mobile phones or internet. But our basic attitude remains the same at large, it has not changed at all! We change in small groups and move to a strata that has changed or is changing, and feel that India is changing. It is a myth :) India will remain India unless the attitude of each and every one of the 1.2Bn people changes, possible?
I was a part of Jagriti Yatra 2014 where I met someone from Kenya. I asked him what is the one word that comes to you when you see India, knowing that he was visiting India for the first time. He said ‘dirty’, ‘chaotic’ and a few other related adjectives, I appreciate his honesty. It doesn’t feel particularly good when a visitor feels like that in your country :) But I have to accept the reality, though it is a harsh one. He mentioned India is not a country where people should be left on their own, they need a dictator kind of a ruler who will give them a task and just get them to do it, no matter what. Only then India will improve. He gave the example of Rwanda, I was curious and asked him how many years did it take Rwanda to transform? He said 30 years for such a small country.
Imagine about India transforming then!

This country is run by women

For quite some time, I have been observing around and I come to the conclusion that this country is run by women (this is a generalization, outliers remain though)!
If you actually see and analyze, the amount of work that a woman does is much more than the amount of work a man does. There are set duties for a woman, almost all the duties are pertaining to others in her life; anything that she has to do for herself she has to take extra time out – whether it is going for a walk, or office, or beauty parlour, or gym, or any other of her choice. Any of these activities happen only if and when she gets free from her routine duties that are defined for her. And even when she is on her own in any of these activities, you would notice her taking calls pertaining to her ‘duties’ again :) Why is everyone so enthu about defining duties for women? A friend of mine said once that they didn’t have a cook during their childhood, if they went out on a day of the weekend, her mother used to prepare the food once they were back home. In her own words, ‘bechaari meri mummy ghar aake khud saara khaana banaati thi’, those were not the days of cook for them, also not the days of ordering from outside. I am sure many households are still like this, except for very few outliers.
I had a maid servant some time back who looked like a 12-year-old kid. She was married with 2 kids, she didn’t know her age to tell me when I surprisingly asked her after coming to know she had 2 kids. She was very hard-working and diligent, her work was perfect, she used to come on time, when she came that is. But she used to fall sick very often. Poverty leading to no proper food was most likely the cause. When asked about her husband, she mentioned once that he doesn’t do anything; then a few days later she mentioned that she got the society pass for him too with the help of the other house owners where she worked. So the husband got to sweep the society and earn some money. This lasted a few days and in those few days she was happy and regular at her own work. But just after a few days she again became irregular and when asked, during the conversation she mentioned her husband left the job. There was no feeling of frustration or desperation, she very casually mentioned about her husband leaving the job. He was not doing anything again. She used to work from 6AM to 11AM in the morning, go home and make lunch, feed her children and have it herself. Again at 4PM, she used to come back for the afternoon part of the work. I once asked her if she cooked anything before 6AM when she came for work? She replied in the negative and I came to know that her children don’t eat anything till lunch time. She could not afford that much milk to give them, it seemed. She would be most likely beaten up by the husband also very often. What is all this I wonder?
I have a vegetable vendor near our colony. We make sure to buy from him whatever is needed so that they make some money. They keep vegetables, milk, bread, eggs, curd which are the usual regular day-to-day stuff. The shop is run by a couple who have 3 kids. A few days earlier, I went to the shop in the morning when the woman had opened the shop and was organizing things. There was another customer before me. Our guard came running and asked her where her husband was because a kid had fallen ill and the guard wanted her husband, who also runs an auto-rickshaw, to take the kid to a clinic. She said he had gone to the vegetable market in old Gurgaon, which is his usual morning task. Soon, the other customer left and she burst out in tears (I don’t know what comfort she shared with me) – she said her husband has not gone to the market but he is sleeping because he didn’t come home last night, and was found in the morning in the neighbourhood. He was drunk last night. She was so worried that the vegetables stock was not enough for the day. The kids were ready to go to the school but he is not in a position to drive the rickshaw. She also mentioned there are two other drunkard friends of his whose families are in Bihar. They are regular drinkers and her husband joins them. She was worried about him not making rounds of the auto-rickshaw, saying income from that has stopped because of his habits. While saying all this, she also said ‘didi, 3 bachche hain, ek baar bhi bola nahin hua nahin ki subah uthke school ke liye tayaar kar de’? (didi, I have 3 kids and not one single day has he woken up in the morning and offered to get them ready for school). He is always found loitering around, instead of taking the rickshaw rounds.
What nonsense is all this? Here is a woman who is trying to do everything from managing household, to kids, to the shop. It is obvious that this auto-rickshaw has to be driven to make money, and it is obvious that this man has to make money. Why doesn’t he get it? Why is he not fearful like her on how will the household run? And on top of it, he is so dumb that he cannot weigh the vegetables properly and calculate the money too. I very patiently tolerate his dumbness only because of his wife, I want her to make some money. She has taught him to use the calculator, she once lightly shared that he loses money because he makes wrong calculations. How nonsensical!
I think there is an inherent talent in women that they can multi-task (tasks of different variety, not many tasks of same variety – there is a difference and the former needs more talent) much better. And in the lower classes, I have noticed many couples where the women are much more intelligent than the men. Since childhood, girls are brainstormed about ‘duties’, which take up their entire time, and they are not left with any to grow in their own way. And more often than not, they just succumb top those duties. I am sure they would be getting married under this immense pressure to perform their duty, and further perform more duties to have children and run the household. Had this not been the case, they were capable of getting a much better spouses and would have grown a lot differently, to great heights.
I witnessed an instance in a village where in a family many men were refusing to marry. It was high time as per their age that they get married. There was an elderly man who expressed the worry, ‘why does no one want to get married? who will cook in the household?’. I was shocked! They want them to get married because they can’t cook themselves? Why don’t they teach them to cook themselves?
Who has given the right to men to define duties for women? I think these kinds of men especially are afraid that they would be left behind if these duties are not imposed on women, and when women become more successful their ego hurts and things like acid attacks happen! Otherwise I wonder why are there no acid attacks on men? (At least not reported).
Most of the women face situations like these, at various levels at various intensities – some or the other in the family, in the society, in the surroundings is there to remind the women about their ‘duties’, sadly women themselves also, very sad!
I am reading this book ‘Lean-In’ where Sheryl Sandberg described in detail on how women inherently don’t come forward to take on new things (possibly because of the upbringing, its in the air), and in work-life balance, with all the fears and the biggest fear of being a good mother/wife/daughter etc., usually work is left behind. How true! I realize it is a world-wide phenomenon and just an India story. The intensity magnifies manifold due to the other problems in our country.
To all women – read the book Lean-In.