I have often written about the two Indias that exist, separated by an invisible yet impregnable wall. The picture above is my creche kids, all slum dwellers, enjoying a Happy Meal at Md Donald's Kalkaji. Yes I know fast food is bad for your health and am not one tom-tom its values. Far from that! But the kids had been taken out for an outing by a dear friend and this was a treat. And maybe also a cheeky way pf crossing that impregnable wall, armed with all the ammo needed should anyone have objected. The staff of this outlet was gracious and kind and the kids enjoyed the Happy meal. I guess they loved the toy more than the bland burger but who cares. It was our moment in the sun.
But last week a little boy in Pune
had a horrific experience. The little boy was selling balloons outside the outlet when a young woman decided to give him a treat and buy him a float. A security staff immediately intervened and pushed the poor kid allegedly stating:" These kind of people are not allowed here.
"The young woman shared this incident on the social network and the it seems the errant staff has been suspended.
This incident is not an isolated one. It is actually a telling reflection of the two Indias I often refer to. I have experienced it time and again. How can I forget how shocked a bunch of ladies from the other side of the wall were when I told them that we had eight kids from extremely deprived homes studying in a 'upmarket' boarding school. To them it was unacceptable. And what about the owner of again an 'upmarket' pre-school who wanted me to take the child of one of her employees in my creche. Could she not have just admitted the child in her own institution. I would give her the benefit of the doubt as probably it was blot her, but the parents of her 'upmarket' children who would have objected.
Needless to say that the kids who are enjoying the mandatory 25% reservation in all schools do not come from the most deprived homes. This reservation seems to have been God sent to middle class parents who are clever enough to fulfil all the paper work, even if it means bending the rules, and get their kids admitted to fancy school for free. What a win-win situation. The schools would not have liked having awkward looking kids in their mist, would they?
In spite of all their, efforts activists in favour of a common school failed miserably, though in my opinion that would be the real game changer in India and a real win-win situation. The reason is simple: how can my driver/maid/gardener's kid share a bench with my kid! It is blasphemy! And as long as this mindset persists, some kids will be thrown out of Mc Donald's and their clones.
Before sending our children to boarding school, we ran a one year residential programme for the where they attended a pre-school and then were groomed by us. We did not want them to be lost when we pushed them across the invisible wall. So we thought them to sit at table and eat with a fork and knife; we took them to Mc D and Pizza joints and introduced them to the toys and games that 'upmarket' kids play with. And when the moment arrived, they took to the school like a fish to water and never looked back. Many of them are doing exceedingly well and they are just like the other kids, if not a tad better.
The Rubicon has to be crossed, sooner rather than later.
I hope and pray that one day, it will dawn on our so called rulers to bring down the walls once for all.
But I know I am a dreamer.