Sunday, September 9, 2007

Back to Sqaure One!!


On the way back I arrived in Delhi early morning - it was a Sunday and my flight to Frankfurt was not until the next day morning... so thinking of touring around Delhi the whole day I jumped on the machine that was specially invented for India - AUTO RICKSHAW (commonly referred to as the Auto). It was around the 90's and super hot that early in the morning. The auto passed through the inner governmental complex and once again I felt oh! man!!! Delhi is clean...

I was going to my friend's place in a near by suburb of Delhi called Noida. Noida is one of the sleeping towns of New Delhi and I heard from my friend that several decades back the government started constructing mass housing... learning Le Corbu's mass housing in school... I was pretty excited to see how the central's mass housing deal was gonna be...

there is a bridge that connects Noida to Delhi across the river Noida... and my auto was about to cross the river... I saw in the dim light some multi-storied buildings in the far... was excited to see their architecture up close...

The auto crossed the river and there waited the shock of my life...

ONE word - shambles

Acknowledging that I am in the real India... the environment slowly started to sync in... Here's the picture...

The mass housing is divided based on income levels... UIG - upper income group has nicer flats (condos)and almost everybody here have their own cars and only few of these UIG flats as they call it existed in Noida... the rest were all in inner New Delhi...

then there is the MIGs - medium income group... thousands and thousands of people call these MIG flats their homes - my friend was one among them... most of these people own a two-wheeler and some own a car... some own air coolers (swamp coolers)... others rely on the mercy of the wind... my friend had one in their 3 bed room flat and along with him five of his room mates survived the heat through that one piece of machine that was trying its best... amidst the constant power supply interruption... then there is the water game... water is scarce in India... period!! so everyone had to plan for their turn to take bath... all these are not new to me... I have been through this all my life in India... but here comes the worst...

my friend took me to the LIGs - lower income group flats... just to give you a sense of LIG's nature - take MIG's so called luxuries and divide that by 2... that's what you get in an LIG flat... its rough... but again thousands live here and call these their homes... because this is what they can afford... in an LIG there is no running water.. you get one tank and you have to fill it up at the right time... if not you go water less for a day... (pretty sustainable huh!!) and the condition of the buildings .... lets not even go there..

but that's not the end folks... in this picture that I am trying to portray here... there is one missing piece... people with little to no income group.... this is the part that shocked... these people are the support system for the city... without them nothing will move in New Delhi.. no auto rickshaws... no buses... no clean streets... nothing... yet these people are given the least care when it comes to their daily adobe... believe it or not.. the central government had tried its best... it managed to build them houses... with just brick on brick.. with little bit of mortar in between to keep the bricks in place... no plaster or exterior/interior finish... this is what it came down to after all the money that got robbed as corruption during the process of government sanction to implementation... this is the majority of India - a striking 90+ percent... not the pretty pictures portrayed in Hollywood/bollywood movies...

and this is the place my auto driver took me through first as a shortcut to the MIG's as soon as he got off the bridge..

This shock... again this shock - noticing the richest and the poorest separated by one single bridge... all the fame and glory that I had for New Delhi on my first trip... vanished in a split second... this made a huge impact on how I started looking at India since then... on the way back to the airport - it was way early in the morning and I arranged an auto to pick me up at my friend's place and drop me at the airport... it was super hot again that early in the morning and very dusty too.. reaching the airport and getting into the air conditioned zone... was very painful to the heart... I just couldn't leave New Delhi like that.... felt like I was missing something...

On the day long flight to the US I had a conversation with a fellow passenger - an artist from the US - currently settled in Germany... talking through on my experience in Delhi... I realized how deeply I am rooted to India.. and all along the journey and even still today... I kept thinking on what could I do to improve the standard of living in India... my people deserve better!!

Social reform as a grass roots effort is becoming the next big change in India - many individuals - many non-profit organizations - all stopped relying on somebody else to fix their mess... they started taking care of their own environment... and many good things are happening...

fortunately many among my generation of youngsters who left India for studies or job, feel the same way I feel - it is our responsibility to push the country's progress one more step at the grass roots level... not just the "India is Shining" campaign for the west... I mean social reform... getting back to what India was really all about - a prosperous place that invited anybody of any origin to come take part in its centuries old cultures... a beautiful place that embraced anything foreign to it and adapted itself to the new...

a new form of democracy is shaping up in India - the capitalistic, entrepreneurial friendly democracy - a flavor brought by the west...and so strongly embraced by the current and past governments... and as many experts claim... the chances of "the next big China in the making" is very high... and hence every visionary in India being aware of that is trying to sway the direction of progress towards the peaceful democracy... and I strongly feel I should extend my arms... reach out and be part of the progressive positive change with the knowledge and passion I have been accruing...

(Insert picture - a famous bollywood movie - Swades - meaning 'my country' in Hindi... the story is about one youngster (the hero of the movie) who leaves India for higher studies... and finds himself a comfortable career... and how his one visit to India changes his future... he applies what he learned abroad to one simple effort in an Indian village that helps many at the grass roots... that changes him.. and eventually brings him back to square one - his mother land - India!!)

2 comments:

Gopinath Sundharam said...

Prem: I'm impressed. Nice article. True to its core. Yes, I can completely relate to what you think. We youngsters should be the change that we seek. We can and we only will be able to do it (one brick at a time).

Anonymous said...

dey each of you brothers praising each other online? get a phone