Saturday, October 24, 2009

A quagmire of disparate thoughts

A couple of months in India after a rigorous work schedule for four years sounded therapeutic to me when I was packing my bags for a flight back. A relief from the usual , mundane lifestyle, a sojourn into realms that I probably didn't even imagine.Its surprising how you can come back to the same place you left to find out its not the same place anymore.

The usual feeling was ofcourse of elation as soon as the flight landed at New Delhi Airport. Then started the feeling of disappointment and dejection right from my Shatabdi bound from New Delhi to Lucknow. The journey eastwards from Delhi into the heart of Uttar Pradesh was a nerve wracking experience. The poverty, the filth, the squalor was appalling. I ask myself - is this the country I was idolizing? At Kanpur, the train tottered across the Ganges - The Holy Ganges, the Ganges that I felt so proud of standing at Piazza Navona where Bernini paid an ode to the river, by immortalizing it in sculpture back in the seventeenth century. But today, the lesser said about the plight of the holy river, the better.

But that was not the only facet of India that manifested itself to me. Along with it came the love of family,friends and amicable, sociable people all around - in short deliverance from loneliness. So when a woman tried to strike a conversation with me on the train ride, I found it quite an exacting task to respond as heartily as I would have done five years back. A little bit of the European haughtiness that I absolutely abhor had in fact brushed on to me. When I reached Lucknow, a city that was a far cry from the Lucknow that I lived in was about to welcome me. A city which from a population of two million has grown to almost five million, where the heart of the city Hazratganj has now been replaced by several big shopping malls, where instead of the few restaurants that we frequented various lounges, bars and discotheques have come up. And last but not the least , where getting around in the city is much more tedious owing to the splurge of cars and other vehicles. This was not the city I lived in. Yet ironically, it is the city where I was born and brought up. And the big onus ahead of me was assimilating these various facets of the India that is now, and the India that is transforming expeditiously.

Driving through the streets in Lucknow I saw slum children gallivanting on the roads as if the sky was their only shelter. The fact that destitute poverty never affected me to this level was a little disconcerting. What was even more astounding was the fact that well to do middle class educated people are not perturbed by it at all, rather they turn a blind eye to it. In fact people are more inclined to acquire more and more material wealth and assets,to stash as much of capital as possible so that they can lead commodius lifestyles. What about the equal distribution of capital? I felt like yanking the millions out of the affuent and disseminating them to the poor. Alas its just a thought and India is a democracy where socialism is still theory, nothing more, nothing less.

But why do I feel like this? I am here to enjoy a holiday and instead I am vexed about the state of the country. It was in the same state when I left. So whats changed. Henry David Thoreau crept into my brain and whispered 'Things do not change, we change'. Its true, I must have changed. Living alone in a foreign country has personally metamorphosed me, but not to the extent that I stop loving my country, no matter how imperfect it is. Like the love I have for my parents, unwavered by their virtues and fallacies, is the love I have for my country wavered by nothing I know of.