The country is suffering, while the elite are engaged in Facebook wars. Nothing is going to change till each of us makes up his or her mind to fight patriarchy, caste, communalism and injustice. The working class continues to exist on a pittance, and the politicians continue to roll in rivers of money. I was standing near a chai-paratha shop on the streets of Delhi when a luxury sedan pulled up. The obese man behind the wheel rolled his (illegally) tinted glass down, bellowing, ‘abbe oye bhen-chod, paani laa.’
The little chai-shop boy complies, holding out the paani-bottle from a safe distance…I’m assuming that comes with the experience of being cuffed by the customers, and he says, ‘ye lo’ … (please note: no bhaiyaa!) As the man stretches out for the bottle, he shouts, ‘Izzat se baat kar, chutiya…’ I struggle to keep the disgust from showing on my face as I wonder why anyone should respect this heaving, gasping, sweating blob of flesh with complete disregard for any fellow living being. I wonder what he’s like at home. I wonder how he treats his wife, whether he had any kids. I’m sure he had a home full of servants, and spoke to them just the same. I ignore his drunken bellowing as he threatens someone on the phone, “Main kaun hoon malum hai? X ka manager hoon main, manager…” (X being a nightclub in New Delhi)
I look away, humming my latest favourite Van Morrison, under my breath, “well my Mama told me, there’ll be days like this…” and think of all the love and warmth I’ve received even from strangers when I travel across this country.
I often wonder where to start tackling injustice from, and when all this gross discrimination and injustice is going to end. No amount of disease, war or conflict seems to be able to dissuade our perversions. There are, of course, good people out there. But I hate how I stumble across them like they’re some endangered species. The middle class majoritarians mostly have laughable ambitions connected with the latest iPhone, and no sense of hygiene, decorum or cleanliness. I travel on the Duronto Express, an expensive, fully air-conditioned train, meant especially for India’s privileged. I usually sit with the porters, on these trains. The compartments are stuffy, and smelly, as the humans scream, shout and chomp on their stale, plastic wrapped food. I prefer to sit with the porters, chatting about their lives and villages, coaxing them to get me coffee and let me smoke in peace.
Sitting there, I have watched folks yank the train door open and festoon the countryside with their plastic waste. After watching five people do that, I told the sixth, there’s a dustbin ON the train, right UNDER the washbasin! A fat man in branded track pants told me, “Dustbin toh ganda hai.” “Haanji, malum hai, haath dho lena.” I suspect he went to the other side of the compartment to continue throwing his trash without my insolent interference. These elite, ‘respectable’ citizens of my country shout at the porters, call them gadhhe, ullu and lots of other stuff that inevitably involves their mothers and sisters. They yell at them for just about anything – passing them in the aisle of the train, not bringing water ‘fast enough’, or not giving cleaner bed-rolls. They yell at the pantry boys because the daal isn’t what they expected. Like these guys get to decide cleanliness or the menu. How about asking the politicians running Indian Railways to ensure better services? But no, it’s easier to shout at someone you know won’t dare respond. Later that night, one Supreme Court advocate told me how ‘these lower caste creatures’ misuse reservation and are born liars. I told him “upper caste creatures like him” are responsible for all the bad energy in this world. He refused to talk to me any further.
I’ve long believed a different world is possible, and it shouldn’t just be limited to the little space bubble we’ve constructed around ourselves. I see people building such connections, making such a world possible. Everywhere I go, for every bad human-being I meet, there’s one good soul helping someone out. If all of us were to establish positive connections wherever and whenever possible, to see truth in the face and tell it with love, we might be able to make a world which is a little less judgmental, a little more aware.
We need to get out of the safety of our homes, the comfort of our air-conditioned cars and step out and see the world.
Stop being afraid, of people, of experiences, of hardships, or of dirt and squalor. Take to the road. Take to the trains, the buses, the autos and the streets, and travel. Share your lives and your food with people around you. Smash all the stereotypes sent your way, and take this world by storm and travel. Like Rumi says, “Travel brings power and love back into your life. ” I know I speak from a space of immense privilege, where I have friends and family and technology ready to access, but I do travel cheap. I travel however possible, and with whomever possible. I use public transport and public toilets. I live with people, in their houses, and sometimes, we’ve even put a chatai in their office and slept a few hours on the floor. I’ve gone places on buses, by train, by auto and road, and sometimes, when budgets allow, a flight. These are few and far between. But travel experiences have forced me to expand my consciousness and learn more about different people, different cultures. These experiences have forced me to be humble, polite, respectful and have taught me to trust people, to be good to strangers, to make friends so I always have someone who helps me stay safe. We need to see how people live and what they eat. I’m wondering if the boor in the car had cared to know where the little chai boy came from, he would have been a nicer person.
“…all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration,
…we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively,
…there is no such thing as death,
life is only a dream,
and we are the imagination of ourselves…”
~ Bill Hicks
Radhika is a Travel Tripper, Dog Lover, Hippie Blogger, & Trance Dancer currently engaged in advocacy & awareness for animal welfare & human rights. She believes in body art, the power of karma, pure freedom & the possibility of a happier world. When she’s not playing with puppies on the beach, she can be found at Video Volunteers in Goa. She blogs at http://dogblogsrandomtrips.blogspot.in/