Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Small Town!

How do you define a small town? And what if that town is in Bihar?

The general description starts with narrow roads crowded with stalls of panipuri wala and chaat wala; ocean of people on road with cycles and motorcycles making their way among them; stray animals feeding on garbage; big hoardings of schools, colleges and coaching institutes with faces of students who seem to have jumped out of ramp at Wills Lifestyle to study at these institutes. Though if the hoarding is of any coaching institute, it will have faces of successful students in JEE/PMT whose photos are collected by luring them for free study materials 2-3 months before exams.

But these small towns have much more than these descriptions. Small town has big dreams. Small town parents of today or youths of 90's have grown up watching luxuries of engineers and doctors. They suffer with power cuts of 16 hours a day and they have heard about the round the clock power supply in metros. They have suffered due to rickety infrastructure and have watched world class things in big cities. Television has offered them a peek of upper class lifestyle and they are bored of their same day to day life which they have been carrying over decades. They want parks and my town has none which qualifies to be one. They want to take out their family on weekends but alas! my town has no place to offer where you can go. (My town has population of around 3 lakh) They have stopped visting their friend's home because they have pretty much same issue to cry upon. They complain of poor medical facillities and are awed by comfort of Delhi Metro.

So, what to do?

"I have enough of this life, my son will not have the same life" And they found a easy way out.


Stop! Small town is more than mere dreaming. They offer ambition. They have watched Dhoni rise from neighborhood school, "DAV, Shyamli", to bright neon lit Pepsi hoardings at every sweet shop. Dhoni lives his dreams with big bikes like Harleys around. Small town kids are also fond of bikes. "So if Dhoni can, why can’t we?"

Movies have stopped being common to them. They show malls, frequent flyer hero and an alien open society where boys and girls freely roam around together. Startups are new hot today. They also want to start a company. Tata-Birla are old now; Osama-Gyanesh are new cool.

But where is the way?

Study! What else!

These kids are not scared of labor. They wake up all night to cram diversification in living beings and cracking down H.C Verma. Parents send their children just after class 10 to coaching factories at Kota, Bokaro, Ranchi, Delhi or Hyderabad. I name these palces because my friends went there. 17 years old teens who have not even washed their cloth at home are sent to study far off places.

Sometimes alone.

As one of my friends recalled his journey to kota,"jab gadi station se khulti thi, aisa lagta tha mano sab kuch khatm ho gaya,, main pure raste ek shabd nahi bolta tha..chup chap baitha rehta tha"

I went to Bokaro but i was lucky to have some of the best people on the earth around me. Those friends are real gems. These littile prince of their home are subjected to pressure treatment their which surely makes them hard enough to take on the world. Consider 12 lakh people appearing for 40,000 "good" engineering seats. 4 lakh students sit for 4000 medical seats. This pressure of intense competition, combined with pressure of worst tiffin food, super imposing landlords and contaminated water make their battle even tougher. Wait! then ghar ka yaad is the final nail on the coffin. I had fight with my roommate and even we didn’t talk for weeks. Now, i laugh at them. But that was what you expect from a 17 years old to do.

Small town does not offer many options. Either you pass or you fail. For now, small towns have either engineering or medical. Kids are often reminded that they have nothing back home; so they have to do the best at whatever cost it comes.

Small town is so different from big town.

In small town jo jeeta wahi sikandar. Someone ought to change the slogan

Monday, July 2, 2012

Thats what i saw!

My childhood was the same as that of millions of others my age.My summer breaks were spent in dadi ka gaon and nani ka gaon. I must admit that those summers had a different kind of impact in the way I think. One particular memory that i still have is that of a large bridge on the river Ganga. Those days, my village had a canal, about 200m away from my home, meant for irrigation of the neighboring fields.

Some days back, I visited my village and found the canal dry. River Ganga too seemed to shrink. This assertion can be supported by the observation that in this rainy season too approximately 25% of the bridge was futile . By this what I mean is, 25% of bridge length had dry land underneath. I frequently travel by trains, and I observe so many useless railway bridges which were earlier meant for the water creek below, but now are used as roads. I am not an expert on water resources; I am just narrating my observations. I may be wrong in what I am trying to imply.

Another of my childhood memories from the village is of a huge crowd of daily wage laborers that would assemble at my home in the evening to collect wages for their full day work. I used to go to the village school with my servant for an evening stroll. School then, was just the name of the place marked by the rickety structure of bricks. Because of the hazardous and fatal infrastructure, classes if any, were arranged in the school premises under the jackfruit tree. Students sat on their jute gunny bags.

5 days back, I visited my village after a long time. Indira awas yojna has done a commendable job in the way those daily laborers live. They mainly comes from Schedule tribe. Instead of the straw huts that needed repair every year, they now boast of a pakka house. This pakka house has uplifted them in many ways. Firstly, they don’t have to save money for the customary annual repair of house. Secondly, they could now use it as a store house for the grains and keep them safe. Third, definitely It induced a certain level of confidence in them which is a far more important effect considering their history of suppression.

Gradually, the dynamics of my village is also changing; more and more people from upper caste are selling their land each coming year in order to settle down in cities. The first and foremost reason, in my opinion, is the constant attraction of city life.The flood of engineering and management colleges has helped them realize their dream. They have sold their land and bought degrees for their children. The second reason is the growing scarcity of farm laborers. Majority of those laborers have now migrated to the cities. They are increasingly getting absorbed in the fast coming infrastructure projects in cities. Tough they get more money in cities but I doubt if they have better living standard in cities than what they had in the village. The third factor is the attitude of land owners. All through the years, these land lords have lived kingly lives with a battery of servants waiting for orders. Now, thanks to the numerous social welfare schemes; which, despite of several layers of corruption, have somehow managed to drop down to the lowest rung of the society. Though highly ineffective, in terms of output/input ratio, these welfare schemes have shown promising impact.

Raising the life of SC/ST through reservation and welfare schemes has changed the village social ecosystem so much that it has started troubling the upper caste people. Technological advancement has another positive effect on rural life. Now, we can see many cable TVs in the village. Increasing 24 hour news channels, has helped them realize their rights and knowledge of welfare schemes running for their help.

Partially due to curiosity and mainly due to the excess of time (that was becoming hard to kill), I went on to see the school. I have read about development under Neetish's government and much to my pleasure, this whole development noise is not just the work of “publicity” of government agencies. The school now has newly painted two floor building with proper infrastructure. There was all sort of painted data regarding attendance of the teachera, mid-day meal menus, total number of enrolled students etc. I could see the scarcity of teachers as 6 teachers are posted there to teach class 1 to class 8. God knows how they handle the students! The Government’s scheme to distribute free school uniforms has created an alternative scene where village children are dressed in school uniforms all through the day! I could see the white colour of their shirt turned to yellow due to their heavy use.

Corruption is existent. And the increasing load of these welfare schemes has now strained the economy. True!

But life of the suppressed people is changing. These schemes are showing some effect. Now at this stage, if the government succeeds in providing education to masses, enough to inspire confidence in them and make them aware of laws; I see no reason that a true 'India shining' should not be at the door step.

an old pond being restored

just a random click!