The real India

I keep reading your blogs, and they keep me in touch with the real India wrote a friend recently. Made me wonder about what the real India really was. Is is it the one we desperately want to show the world, even if it means hiding all else. Or is it the one that lives in the the very places we so desperately want to hide?

In the recent weeks a saga has enfolded in front of our bewildered and helpless eyes. I refer to the now (ill) famed commonwealth games (CWG). Actually snippets of news about the aberrations committed in the name of the CWG had appeared time and again in the print media, often tucked away on an inside page, and we had not bothered. They did not make headline news and somehow did not touch us where it hurt. I mean the slums destroyed, the people rendered homeless, jobless et al, the shelters raised in the name of beautification, the children working on construction sites, the workers living in terrible conditions, the beggars being branded as criminals, the workers dying...! Somehow we were too blase or inured to even take note. It was only when we were told of instances of corruption that we somehow woke up from our slumber. Treadmills hired @ of 900 000 Rs for 45 days struck a chord in our jaded minds. How could that be, and it was our money to boot. So we needed answers about toilet paper rolls, umbrellas, and shady foreign deals. Homeless people were not up our street.

True there have been more than sufficient dodgy occurrences in these Games and the jury if out on them or so one would like to believe though it may well seem that the culprits will one again slime out as national (somewhat misplaced) honour is salvaged. Are we not masters at crisis management better knows as jugad. And then is public memory not dangerously short.

When the dust settles on the closing ceremony and the last light is switched off some realities will still remain. In a hard hitting article that I urge you to read an activist writes: In recent months, at least 100,000 of New Delhi’s 160,000 homeless people have been booted out of night shelters, many of which have been shut down or demolished in a bid to spruce up the city before the Commonwealth Games. Besides shutting down 22 of the city’s 46 night shelters, plans are afoot to raze slums, stamp out hundreds of street food vendors and deport 60,000 destitutes to their home states. Voluntary agencies have documented that as many as 300,000 more people may have been evicted from other parts of the city. Recent reports reveal that 44 slum clusters are being removed from around the roads and stadia where the athletes and the delegates to the games will travel and play. To add insult to injury, Delhi Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta unapologetically preened that since it is not possible to remove all the slums before the deadline, the government had decided to use bamboo screens to simply conceal the slums from sight.

Take a moment and ask yourself where these hundred of thousands of people have gone. What has become of them, of their families, their children. All in the name of beautifying a city for a 14 day show. Are the few medals we may or may not get enough to justify this? One look at the city makes you wonder whether anything will be beautified at all. I am sure we would get medals for numbers of potholes and dug roads if there were any. And do you hide slums behind bamboo screens or any wall simply to conceal them from sight as our Chief Secretary says. Slums are an intrinsic part of the city and if the powers that be are so ashamed of them why has nothing been done to house the city's poor who Mr Chief Secretary are not second class citizens but precious vote banks nurtured over the years by hungry politicians. Off with their heads seems to be an easy way out but we are not in wonderland!

All this talk about national pride is making me balk. What national pride when 5000 children die of malnutrition every day and rains rots in the open for want of granaries. Something is terribly wrong. So I ask again what is the real India? Is it the one our heartless leaders want to showcase in spite of everything or is it the one beyond the bamboo screen. For me it is the later. The one that carries on living in spite of all odds and is a lesson in courage, dignity and above all forgiveness. We simply seem to have forsaken them.

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