My introduction in my own land!

Sometimes I feel like a stranger in my own country. Off late, when I go somewhere and I am asked for ‘aapka parichay’. In my introduction, I say, ‘Rajeev Gupta, Gairsain’, which I guess should be sufficient. But they insist in asking, “No, where are you from? Which organization?”. They want to get out of me, that I am from Delhi and that I work with SBMA. I go to market, after little conversation, I am asked, “where are you from, you need a lodge?”. Recently, I visited a community health centre in the village, and I wanted to ask the doctor why the costly medicines are never available with the dispensary and if she is allowed to prescribe such medicines. So I went up to the doctor, and told her that I needed some information from about medicines. She asked me for introduction. She spoke further only when I told her that I was from the NGO. Now that she knew I was from NGO, she asked why would NGO be interested in this information. That’s why I did not want to divulge that, because after that, the conversation takes a different turn. In fact, so many people come to this only medical centre from remote villages. I am sure the doctor does not know them either. But she doesn’t ask them their introduction when they come for treatment. Or perhaps she does not bother to know a patient as long as he doesn’t do the abnormal task of questioning. Similarly, when I went to Krishi Mahotsav, and tried to make my point, the government adhikari asked me to give my introduction first. Why do I have to be from any organization to make myself heard? Can I not talk and ask because of the fact that I am an Indian? Do my wearing jeans and tshirt and sometimes a cap and clicking pictures make me any less Indian and I look like being from Africa, or America or Europe or Pakistan? The only explanation I can think of is that there are millions of India’s that exist with in the Indian Republic and each of those tiny India’s consider the others as a different country. With so much of diversity, such dilemma and identity crisis are bound to be there.

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Accountability of a people’s servant

It was my 3rd visit to Krishi Mahotsav today. It was at Maithan, which meant I went down around 200 meters in terms of altitude, thus it was very warm there. Initially, I was sitting in shade, but my buddy sun wanted to see me, although I did not and thus began the game of hide and seek. Whenever a patch of my hand was under sun, I would move my chair a little towards left. In no time, I was almost stepping over the chair of old man sitting next to me, thus there was no left left! So I got rid of chair and came close to what we all become after death – soil! Although the sun chased me down there on ground ttoo, but now I was more absorbed in the conversation that was going on between the adhikari’s and the farmers. Farmers complained that adhikari’s were listening so much but there was none who was even taking down the suggestions. The speaking adhikari, dude from Horticulture department pointed to another adhikari Mr. Tamta sitting next to him saying that he was writing, seeing that the poor Mr. Tamta started opened a register kept on table, I hoped at least then he had started writing. Everybody was saying that unless there is something done on these suggestions, there is no use of such fancy events as ‘Sarkar Kisan Ke Dwar’.

Then came the golden idea in my head. I grabbed the mike, and in presence of Pradhan Ji, senior members of village, the chief guest, who was a wise farmer and ex-armyman (which explains why is he hardworking and smart farmer) from the same village and the adhikari’s, I said, “Why don’t’ we all give two months of time to the adhikari’s and ask them to send a written report to Pradhan Ji which will give brief on all the activities that have done on the suggestions”. I felt like telling the adhikari, “listen dude, deal is simple, if you belive in every word you speak today, just write it, sign it and give today’s date.” This changed the faces of adhikari’s. Spontaneously, in front of public, they could not say or do much other than nodding in yes, as it was under normal circumstance, the ideal thing. And why should not. When I work at a private company, my boss does ask me question like, ‘Rajeev, when can we hope to finish this’ or ‘where are we on that research task’. People in private sector have to give weekly reports. And in private sector, less number of people have their stakes. But here, 1 billion people are the bosses of the government adhikari’s, 1 billion people have their stakes in the adhikari’s work. These government adhikari’s are ideally the people’s servants. They work for government and the government is ‘for the’, ‘by the’ and ‘of the’ people. In fact Nehru mentioned on becoming the Prime Minister that he was happy to be the first servant of the people of free India. So, all government officers and employees should give a written promise when they assure to deliver something, and should give at least a monthly report on where they are. Else, flyovers and highways will continue to get constructed till eternity and we will never get to drive. New hospitals will continue to get erected, but people will also continue to die pre-mature death because of lack of medical facilities.

Learnings from Swades – Education

I just read a small interview of a kid from SIDH. He studied in SIDH’s primary school. Now SIDH’s education is different from conventional education, because SIDH does not give education compartmentalized in different subjects through text books. It focuses education from within the village’s resources. A kid reads about trees, the occupation of people in village, the social structure in village etc.. and learns to express his understanding and learning through poems, essays, drawings and other creative forms.
Now when this kid applied for admission into government middle school, he was to write an exam. The syllabus and structure of the exam was little to alien to kid. In kid’s own words:

Through our project work, we learnt about trees but also about life. We learnt to
write poems and stories. We learnt new words. We learnt to write letters to
friends and the elderly. However, in Hindi (understood as a subject to be learnt
for the Board examination) we had to learn seven poems by heart, we had to
learn about our country and about other countries. We had to read stories and
learn how to answer questions on the story. We had to learn how to summarize
the poems we learnt. We had to make sentences in Hindi and learn what is a
noun, pronoun, verb, subject, etc.

[Taken from UNESCO Report on SIDH]

Now my question is why the kid has to forcefully learn about other countries or other cities/places in his own country? When I was in school, all through primary and middle school and even in class 9, I was made to absorb information about different countries, cities in world, many of which I could not locate on map until recently when I am 24. Do kids in Germany or Canada learn about India, its geography, its climate, its political structure? Many of the grown ups in other countries do not know even the four metro cities of India. Those who know often know them by colonial names of Madras and Bombay.

Is it just the question of developing countries knowing about developed ones? Will that be enough to justify our syllabus’s carrying writings on developed world while not the other way round? In this regard, I would like to quote Late Mr. Pramod Mahajan who I once met during the shoot of the Karan Thapar’s show ‘The Big Question’ on DD1. In response to question of one of the audience on the show, he said, “No, we can never take advantage of US, only they can take advantage of us.” But then we might as well go as far as saying why on earth do we need to learn another language called English? Of course, 99.999% of Indians learn English not out of interest but out of force or necessity. Here’s there’s a difference between force and necessity. When we were kids, we were not wise enough to know the need of a language, thus, we were forced to learn English. But, many people do courses like Rapidex English Speaking Course or some crash course from British council or Inlingua. That’s called necessity. It’s like me learning now at this age, French because I need a job in Paris or in French Embassy here. People might as well argue that because of English or know-how of western countries, we are doing good business and have advantage over many countries in Asia, who are left behind in this wave of outsourcing.

Or is something other than developed vs developing or strong vs weak? Is it that India is one of the few countries who have such education system, while others, irrespective of being developing or developed, eastern or western, rich or poor, have a curricula for school which encourages kids to learn about their place first, live in their place, develop it and then if he has interest, he can himself look for other countries on web, books, newspapers, magazines etc.?

Morning Walk

Although the movie with the name was drab against the high hopes I raised, but the experience I had in the morning during walk was amazing. I was amazed to see how flexible my day is. I got up in the morning at 6 and felt very cold. It was like Tabu felt cold on her first morning in New York. She took a shawl out of trunk and wrapped around. Similarly, first thing I did after getting up in the morning was putting on jacket and a mufflour all around my neck and head and ears. I have been here for over a month now, but these days may be because I am in the spirit of namesake, I felt as new today here as Ashima Ganguly felt on her first day in New York. After guarding myself with woolen I paid visit to toilet. Sitting on shit pad, thoughts started arriving in my head, and I was little pissed off with that. At least in the morning, these thoughts should give me a break. I am yet to be done with morning call, and thoughts are trying to find room in my head. I really should start some form of meditation, I desperately need that. So I tried to flush the thoughts out by closing my eyes. I had brushed my teeth the previous night, so I did not feel as bad, as I would have otherwise felt. Closing my eyes, I felt that I should sleep more, but as I came in the room, I saw at clock and realized that I had slept 8 hours. Had I been in city, I would have rushed to bathroom or to stadium for running, or to gym, trying to waste as little time as possible. But now, here when there’s no hurry to do things, when there’s no deadline to meet, I just lazily got down on bed, eyes half closed, sometimes staring through the bluish surrounding outside of early morning, sometimes covering my head with quilt to avoid the light from the same window. In this pleasant cold, it is so pleasant to just lie down silently in semi-sleep state. At 6:30, I felt I am not getting any sleep anyway; I should get up and take a walk. When I was in Noida, my morning itself will start with confusion and indecisiveness. When my eyes open up in the morning, I would be wondering if I should sleep more or is it enough. Then when I decide I should sleep little more, then after few minutes of that semi-sleep state, I would struggle to confirm to myself if I am getting sleep or wasting time in bed. Now, here in the village, that state is less intense and I come to that point of beginning of struggle quite late. After I woke up completely, I put my earphones and sneakers on, and put camera in pocket and started walking. I was busy with thoughts and music in ears, but some part of me was also silently and pleasantly enjoying every breath of fresh air, of the sight of fluttering of leaves of very few non-pine trees which are lining the road. Soon I saw couple of school girls with big pair of flowers of white ribbons on their heads, which looked funny and cute on them. Sun had risen but it was beginning to bless this side of the hill. At some point, my walk was almost matching pace with that of sun in rising up here. So in few minutes, I was touched by the first rays. As I was walking up, sun started showing up, playing peek-a-boo through pine trees. And now was the rendezvous with sun, we were almost face to face. I was bathing in his warmth. Early morning sun and setting sun offer unique and pleasant warmth, which is not scorching. I was hearing the beautiful lullaby from Omkara, ‘Jag Jaa’, I started singing the same as if praying to Lord Sun. I took plenty of his pictures. He must be feeling shy of this paparazzo. As I walked forward and continued to hum I met this old frail man who I would often see while running. Today I stopped and talked to him. With the lens of my Canon SX110IS, I captured the contours of his face.

Each wrinkle on his face was telling a tale from his enormously long life. He knew little Hindi. Somehow, I find such folks in Garhwal, who do not know Hindi, from a different world. Their ancientness invokes curiosity in me. We had almost no common language, but still we managed to talk and enjoy each other’s company! I used signs, little Hindi, he replied in little Hindi and more Garhwali, I smiled, he smiled,, sometimes must be feeling that I am stupid on simply smiling in response to his cryptic questions in Garhwali! I managed to learn that he had come to attend nature’s call of the morning, somehow, the elderly still feel, “log bahar hone undar kyun jaate hain“. One has to be from north India to appreciate that deadly one!