Monday, April 04, 2011

The Incident at the Mall, Dark Thoughts After a Win!

Had a peaceful Gudi Padwa, Udgadi, Vishu, Baishakhi, Cheti Chand. A happy day to all. 

This is going to be a long rant, so bear with me, I need to vent this, need to get this out, like a sneeze, a cough, whatever.

The feeling of a sense of victory soon fades off. The question that remains is what next? Where do we go from here? I am speaking of India's win in the Cricket World Cup which brought those warm fuzzy feelings into poor me suffering so many personal defeats through a lifetime. Yes, there's always a ray of hope and one holds to that ray like it is the only thing, the only straw to be clutched it. The world when we see it - I am not speaking of those smart-assed-fun-men-and-women who make a joke a minute and smile all the time like fools - has a lot of pain. This pain goes largely unacknowledged.

Just today it happened before me. I was coming out of a mall in New Bombay after buying something rather expensive and feeling utterly foolish. There was this woman outside and her son. She was dressed in the traditional sari and her son was a bit distracted playing at being a cricketer, you know, making action of making a defensive stroke. She was pointing to him and begging people for money. Probably, I am just guessing, she wants him to go to school and be a cricket player - experience the joy of holding a willow and thump a ball like Sachin. It's hot and the afternoon sun is like a desert typhoon on my head and back. I am dazed by the heat. I hold out whatever I can to her outstretched palm, feeling guilty as I did so. What shameful thing to do. 

It's all very well for us to shop in malls and bring home airconditioners. Yes, we deserve it, because we work hard for it. What about that woman? 
Does her son who dreams of playing the game he loves so dearly know that he has no chance of every distinguishing himself in the sport? Who robbed him of his chances? I wrote about pain going unacknowledged towards the beginning of this rant. This is the pain! I hear about several crores handed over to cricketers by the BCCI and governments around the country. Would these be justified when one in two people in Bombay lives in slums so putrid with faeces and piss that once you go there you would shudder at the prospect of going again? Netas handover money as if it belong to their fathers. Is this justified when their (woman's) problems aren't even addressed? What about the scams that have rocked politics recently: 2G scam, CWG scam (remember toilet rolls at Rs 4000 each?), the Palmolein scam, the, the, the, I don't remember. I can't keep a track of all of them. 

Well, these dark thoughts came to me when I went to buy me an airconditioner. It was getting unusually hot and the entire area where I live has been dug by the authorities and the dust gets blown in all the time. I hate dust. I am allergic to it. It gets into my lungs and gives me a nasty cough. So I need protection. Therefore the airconditioner as a last resort. To make matters worse a slum came up near where I live. I got it removed but it has come back again. I have again written to the ward officer as follows (don't mind my language, when I complain, I complain):

"I am a resident of Artist Village, the beautiful area created for artists and writers. I am concerned about a slum that is coming up in Veer Savarkar Ground, Artist Village. 

"They say they work for the municipality and that they will go away after the work is finished. However, I do not think they will do this and I would like them to be relocated in some other place. Once they live there for some time, it will become a permanent structure. 

"I request you to please remove this slum as it is spoiling the look of Artist Village. 

"Also recently some pipes have been laid and the roads haven't been resurfaced leading to a lot of dust being blown into our houses. Please do something about this also."

But nothing has been done this second time around. Naked children roam around, they burn firewood, they shit in the open and that's what's bothering me. I am not stating here that they give free flats to the people living there, but that are the issues of their healthcare, their education, their living conditions being addressed? Are they being treated as an equal citizen of the country who can one day play in a World Cup cricket match? Can that woman and her son expect to live a better life when their money is being squandered in scams?

Yes, we are world champions. But let us show some restraint in the celebrations and focus on the issues of "Sadak, bijli, pani" or "Road, electricity, water." Dear party president and prime minister, are you listening?

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