Monday, 19 October 2015

To the old world and beyond

I like the rural life. I have lived in towns, cities, small towns, metropolitans et cetera. And after almost two decades of living in all these geographical varieties I have come to the conclusion that I like the rural life. Now some people might say that I haven’t lived for long in any rural area that’s why I am romanticizing it. Others also might accuse me of being ignorant to the plethora of problems rural people have to face on a daily basis. Maybe they are correct as well. It will definitely be annoying to travel some 10- 15 kms to avail of basic facilities which we take for granted in cities. Indian rural life statistically is not very high on infrastructural amenities and when it comes to rural areas in Northern India especially Bihar, the statistics descend to lower levels. Ambedkar believed rural areas to be a den of ignorance and superstition. I definitely agree with him. The Indian rural life is characterized by extreme caste divisions and laden with absurd superstitions and dogmas. And it is wrongly believed that people here are very simple rural folk who survive on modest things in life. Human nature I believe is same everywhere irrespective of the geographical surroundings one resides in. It might differ in limited intensities but largely it is similar. Either it is Hobbesian or sometimes Lockean, or sometimes, only sometimes a little different than these two. So in rural areas most of the people rely on mammoth superstition, the area is small so everyone makes it a point in meddling in each other’s affairs.
But even after this whole gamut of ills that plague the Indian rural life, I am still fascinated by it.  I have travelled through rural areas of most of the Northern states of India viz. Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Haryana et al. My parents have always made it a point since childhood to make us (I and my brother) rooted. They have continuously and consistently tried on their part to take us to our ancestral places, from where it all began, where the roots lie stable and intact. So from very early on life we have lived two lives, one characterized by the materialism and facilities of urban India & the other drawn by earthiness and ignorance of rural India. And we have become totally at ease with both the lives now. Sometimes we were in cities, enjoying all the facilities modern India could offer at other times we were looking at farmers slogging hard on their land. Sometimes we were in the comforts of our house wondering which movies to watch, at other times we were without electricity (now many villages have got electricity poles, which not always functions) being bit my mosquitoes occasionally. This dual life made us realize the perks of both the places simultaneously teaching us the values of life and significance of everything which should not be taken for granted. It also made us aware of the detriments of these respective areas. The most important thing that happened was that we got the right to choose.
Having choices in life is very essential. Apart from being democratic, having choices also gives one a little broader and wider picture to decide from, unlike when one is imposed with something to one’s utter dislike. So in possession of these choices we were on the beneficial side as I like to think. It made us realize that there is more to life than just the things we see in the finite comforts of life. There is always a sense of freshness accompanying the rural areas. Probably due to less developed roads the loud and brash sound of vehicles is rare to hear. There is a lot of greenery, everywhere surrounding you. You can actually hear the little birds chirping in a fresh silent morning. An ideal day begins with that gentle noise. Some people wake up, some choose not to. There is no rush on the uneven branched roads to reach any destination or meet certain deadline. Mostly people are carefree and have the unthinkable of little innovations to carry on their lives (maybe scarcity of resources has taught them that). If you are able to get up early, you can just soak in all the Vitamin-D, sun has to offer while walking through the greenest of fields. You can see people making their way to their respective fields with few instruments in their hand always accompanied by someone or the other. The serene atmosphere maybe occasionally interrupted by loud conversations, since it is mandatory for everyone to speak to all those people who cross their paths. When the sun rises a little higher, raising the temperature you are instantly reminded of the cities and the various facilities it can offer that very moment to cool you down. However you survive all that throughout the day listening to chattering of people and just sitting their observing the surplus of never ending topics, interrupted only by arrival of food. The evenings are usually picturesque if you are again feeling active and want to take a walk to the fields. Now you can witness people returning home, glistening with sweat and wearing a satisfactory look (sometimes it just makes me think of dropping all the ambitions I have in life and just become a farmer). 
This old world charm where you have the liberty to do everything, where you work hard and then feed yourself is bound to give a sense of contentment. Reminds me of Tolstoy farms which Mahatama Gandhi had set up in Africa that became witness to his Satyagraha experiments. Children there were engaged in manual work and skill learning of fixed hours without any discrimination on the basis of gender or class. It makes me wonder about this visionary that Gandhi was. He must have realized the value of simple joys of life that’s why he always believed that if villages perish India will perish too. In Tolstoy farms all the basic facilities were available; there was cleanliness and definitely no superstition. It was not a den of ignorance but of enlightenment.
What if something like that can be inculcated in our rural areas? What if basic infrastructural facilities are available and one does not have to travel few kms for smallest of things? What if in that limited area with less population, people emulate the sustainable development models?  The government, the individuals all the stakeholders will have to work together to make that sort of a dream a reality. The picturesque rural area will be a paradise to live in then. I am reminded of the mesmerizing   hobbiton village (New Zealand) in Lord of the rings which has now become a tourist spot. That sort of a rural area is little too much good to be real. But there are plenty of rural areas across the world which possesses all the facilities of city and all the calmness of villages. This old world charm seems to be always growing on me whenever I see and visit the rural areas. Practically and policy wise also India can only develop comprehensively and inclusively when the large no. of villages are taken care of, when they are pulled out of their den of ignorance and endowed with a Tolstoy farm like idea or maybe a hobbiton.
 Probably I am burdened with the extreme consumerism and rush of urban life and trying to find solace in the unpretentious rural areas. But I am sure one day when the covetous standards of cities reach its pinnacle, a whole cycle will be completed and people will look back and return to these simple geographical areas from where it all began. Maybe just to check whether the root is still intact.  The idealist in me remains hopeful.
 In the hope of a better world!