Home is….

Every city in India is a crowd.

Delhi and Bombay and every major city has two faces to it. The drive from the airport takes you the better way. The road which leads you to the five star hotels and the what is known as the Marine Drive. A wide road which runs parallel to the sea shore. With coconut palms and clean and wide pavements. It has been cleared of the usual crowd of beggars too, who descend on you at every traffic signal.

And then there is the other road, which comes through the inner city. Where both sides of the road are lined with little huts and shacks. Covered in plastic sheets, or if they are well off, in corrugated tin. Where generations have lived and died. You see people going in and out and getting on with their life, while you sit un- comfort ably nursing your own guilt, as you watch, what you consider to be their plight.

I was very un easy about the ragged children and cripples begging on the traffic signals. They will bang on the window and make a gesture with their hands to say that they are hungry. Point to their missing body parts and beg you to help. I would come back to my comfortable hotel, will suffer severe guilt pangs as I gazed at the lavish buffet laid out.

And then some one suggested that I watch a documentary called “Traffic Signal” which was made by an Indian filmmaker, after long research. The documentary followed the lives of the beggars, The revelations were astonishing. This was an organised trade. A consortium controlled these men, women and children. They were paid a wage, had ordinary lives. They were transported to certain points in the city, early in the morning. Some of them have had their limbs surgically removed. Children were starved intentionally, so they could arouse sympathy. Off duty, they lived quite a reasonable life. As their daily income was quite good. That night I felt a lot better enjoying my five star dinner!

Women are still considered secondary to men, despite that country having a woman president. Dowry system, despite being outlawed is alive and well. Families are financially crippled trying to marry their daughters. Hence the birth of a baby girl is still full of doom and gloom. A lot of baby girls are abandoned at birth and end up spending their days in the many orphanages around the country. And now with the facility available for an early scan, there are many back street clinics around, who will rid you of the un-wanted pregnancy.

There are various laws and bills of right, but there is nothing, and no one who cant be bought in that country. As someone said to me, that it is impossible to survive on the wage alone .So it is “necessary ” to take bribes. Hence it is possible to by pass every law, and evade every legislation.

India is still riddled with the caste system. Though the government has set aside special quotas in every school, college and in employment for the scheduled castes, as they are commonly known. But there is a huge resentment among others for this positive discrimination. A Dalit, or an un-touchable can be killed if he even dares to go in a Brahmin or a an “upper caste” temple. Segregation by caste, creed and status is very much alive and wel

The rich of that country are now very rich, and the poor are now poorer. It was a country of contrast before, but now it is very divided between the haves and the have not. The poor are the most generous and hard working.Taking everything in their stride.The just accept life as their destiny or their luck. They are not envious of those who who have everything. Just resigned and that gives them contentment. If you go into a hut, the people will welcome you and will share whatever little they have to eat. Such generosity of spirit,is what makes them happy and content. Those who have nothing,dont suffer depression or any other mental problems.They are just a happylot.

With no welfare or national health system, there is no safety net ,still thousand of infants die for lack of care and clean water.W”here as cities like Bombay and Delhi are bursting with five star hotels,and there is a seven star hotel being constructed,complete with a helipad.

Despite its own shortcoming, the Indian press loves to pick holes and point fingers at the way the British do things. When an Asian MP criticised Gordon Brown on his “British jobs for British workers,” it made the front page in most papers, but when Brown said something complimentary about Indian economy, it was tucked away in a small column in the back pages.

Before the media and press were very selective and subdued in reporting corruption and in-justices, but nowthe media isgetting its teeth. Only a month or so ago,some chief minister sent his henchmen to threaten a journalist who has dared to report against him. And all the journalists in that province marched and protested. Something un heard of in that country. The media isgetting the attention it desreves.

I don’t know what I wanted to find in that country. But one thing was certain I knew that I could not belong there any more. I left that country when I was a young and nave girl. Self absorbed, and pleasure seeking. I have found my home in this country ,found things I value and appreciate .Freedom of speech, sense of fairness and justice, and a society which is tolerant and just.

I was glad toget back home.

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