Bharat and India are not separate pieces of land. However, they are separate states of mind.
In the last week of November, I travelled to what I would like to call ‘Bharat’, about 180-200 km from Mumbai to a small town near PUNE…. in the suburbs of PUNE if you might call it so….
And as I try & recall & chronicle my trip I realize that the entire experience was filled with contradictions. Contradictions: where a new resurgent India has met an Old fading personality.
The old fading personality with its wealth of experience, plethora of knowledge and age old wisdom is begging new dynamism for some restraint and compassion and has, unfortunately until now found NO response!
The trip starts with the epitome of New India. The road transport i.e. Mumbai-Pune expressway. Nothing can describe NEW INDIA in a way that this road does, wide & big. This is the template. FULLSTOP.
But one look further & you will notice that all is not hunky dory!
The smaller roads adjacent to the expressway leak slum settlements, there are poorly farmed lands and dozens & dozens of people that from the distance of a speeding car just simply appear homeless
From the speed the car then comes to a gradual halt. As we alight the stark India v/s BHARAT difference is refreshingly highlighted… The food court that we have stopped in has a McDonalds in it. I see foreigners in their summer attire standing in a queue. In that queue are also Indians. Mainly people from the 14-35 age group in their jeans & tee’s . waiting their turn to but their McBurgers and Coke floats. Just outside of that air-conditioner cocoon was BHARAT. Just ogling away and the New India!
Men dressed in simple pants and shirts, some even in Dhoti’s. Women in their Sarees, and Salwars. All wondering what the fuss was…why the simple patty in between a bread loaf should cost Rs. 20/- when the same VADAA PAV was available outside for Rs. 5!
People wondering what better breakfast food could exist than a POOHA or a UPMA…this was the old…smiling into the new…just standing and wondering what all the fuss was about!
Two days later I saw the India of the 21st century that probably inspired BJP’s spin doctors to coin the ‘India Shining’ campaign in 2004. I had an appointment with a dentist in an old Run down theatre in Mumbai’s GRANT ROAD area. I could very well have been in any of the European countries. All Plush, neat & elegant. The dentist who I had gone to visit agreed with me when I told him he had a wonderful facility. He went on to show me his new machinery and how he had invested quality time & money only for me i.e. his patients. That same afternoon while I was returning home my eyes glanced upon another board of “Doctor Mr. **Gupta. Dental Surgeon”
As I looked closer into the clinic by the roadside I realized that the clinic lacked basic hygiene. As maids & drivers sat there patiently awaiting their turn another set of drivers gathered around to share a joke and spit on the already painted plastic chairs provided inside for seating. From the outside, it looked like a miracle that the fan even worked and even more surprising was how, the walls in their current predicament had now given way until now….
It has been more than 60 years since independence. Yet basic healthcare, sanitation and a minimum wage limit seems a distant dream for most Indians even in urban cities…
It takes affluent Indians driving in their Honda’s 2 hours to drive from Andheri to Worli which is just 18 kilometers away and all of this is just unacceptable!
And its all around us, for us to notice and take in.. its just that we have chosen to ignore it! But after all I can see and understand how do I say Mera Bharat Mahaan anymore?