Thursday, July 28, 2005

The land I live in, is the land I do not know

Would you believe it - I call home and what do I hear? That it is raining cats and dogs! And here, I craned my neck out of the window to check... nah... there wasn't a cloud in sight. In fact it the sky was a mesmerizing electric blue, slowly receding into a glowing orange at the horizon. I decided to walk back to my room.

A solitary walk on a pleasant evening was peaceful and sweaty. I open the door of my room, to find my roomie sprawled on the floor, battling with the leg of the upside down table.

Smiling, and aghast at the same time, "What are you doing?"

"The leg is a bit wobbly. I am trying to fix it."

"Oho! Enough of your engineering already... let's go for dinner. C'mon!"

And so I tugged him free of his beloved table, and off we went to hunt for dinner. Another short walk, and we landed at a nearby mess. While I ordered 2 Naans, 3 Rotis, Mixed Veggies and a Dal Makhani at the counter, NP i.e., my roomie, found and held on to a vacant table for two. Seated and waiting for the dinner the conversation turned from here to there. Until it meandered to NP's home in Chattisgarh.

NP's home is near Bilaspur, in Chattisgarh. I churned in my brain all the high school geography I could remember, and asked, "so you are on the Chota Nagpur Plateau?" NP was rather delighted to hear that ignorant me knew anything about his locale. "Yes." He went on to tell me of the forests and the streams in the area, and about the Bastar tribes which inhabit the region.

I sat wide eyed, and amidst chomping mouthful of roti every now and then, I was whisked away to the gold and diamond mines. He told me of a the hills in the region, and how the soil yielded every possible ore on this planet. It was like I was hearing of another land, where people do not put doors on locks, or rather where doors were an anomalous occurrence in homes.

He told me how the making of a separate state of Chattisgarh had benefited his people. I was shocked at the naive ideas I held on this matter. I had always looked at it in a very "dividing-the-country" sort of way. I guess it reflects my typical cosmopolitan sacrosanct upbringing. I had no idea of the problems the people of the region faced, because Madhya Pradesh was simply too large to administer as one state. Neither did I know anything about how different were the tribes in the region from the average government employee in Bhopal.

He told me about how the new government had started to give free cows to the villagers, free bicycle to the girls if they went to schools, and also how entire tribes would move from an area where a school was opened because they detested any contact with the outside world. Innocence, deprivation, sanctity of a century old way of life, development fighting it out; trying to bring balance to a fragile world.

The government has sold huge tracts of land to the Japanese, because the soil was rich in iron ore. The tribal people still hunt with bow and arrow, and also fight off the insurgent naxalites in the region with them. With modern civilization is corroding the borders of his land, NP seemed concerned. I was more amazed with the fact that he was here today, eating with me. It must have been difficult for him to get here. I had no idea.

Every time I come in touch with a tiny bit of India, I am left at a loss for words. Where is this land? Where are her people? Do I live in the same country as NP? Here in Delhi, where I can either read about the mini skirt which is supposed to be back in vogue or Mumbai which is swimming in rain. Where the next person I meet can be from Honolulu, or Chattisgarh, like NP. In this city, although I can find the India I have lived my life in, I believe I am missing the India that has lived during my lifetime.

I often think, do other people feel the sense of wonder I feel for this country. I feel so... incomplete and lost... as an Indian who does not know so much of India. I have promised myself to learn about her as much as I can. I hope I can live up to that promise.


  1. India is so different from one end to the other that u often wonder if u r in the same country.
    i had frequently visited Assam(when my dad was working there) n that was one place i thot which din seem like India one fact if u rnt in guwahati, u wud have to literally hunt for a net connection

  2. that's one of the reasons i love India so much. its so diverse, there's so much to see, to experience! i was shocked at first by how little i know about Her.

    Now do u see why i wanna come back so bad?

  3. sigh.. i have mixed feelings.. i long for the days when i was little, India was quite different.. even in the cities...its alarming how much it changes ... and how fast it does... i hope people will be able to have a taste of the goodness.. before they throw it to the dogs...


  4. That's just what is so special about this great country, isn't it? An objective view of the general concept of a nation state makes me wonder how this country has managed to stay united, and more or less integrate such incredible diversity. The question remains if it is all worth it, but when it exists, i exult in this pioneering experiment that is looking more optimistic every passing day...

  5. Hey I didnt know that...I always thought our 'system' was too ignorant about its 'janta'. Nice to hear some positive stuff for a change!

  6. @swathi: It is. Every other step, one gets to see a new colour of life. It is these colours that make it so fascinating.

    @sonia: Then come back. Come back. And ofcourse! You have a treat to look forward to as well ;)

    @grafx: Yes, she has changed. For better in some places, for worse in others. It will not go to the dogs. Not as long as there are people like you and me around :)

    @rahul: Ofcourse it is worth it! As much as I hate all our riots and violence and fighting, I still think we as Indians have an enormous ability to assimilate and make our own, everything and anything the world has to offer.

    @khushee: :)

    @nomad: Thanks for the "dropping by" thingy. :) Do feel free to drop by more often.

    @mirage: The "system" works, in parts and in places. And I guess that is the reason, it still manages to exist!