A very recent incident in my life has made me “right” this one. It is not often that you want to avail the service of a public transport in smaller cities and towns in India, considering that the available space inside the same is utilized so efficiently that where only 2 persons are supposed to be seated, the conductor or the driver of the public transport will make sure that at least double the legitimate number is made to fit in the same space. If that was not enough, a couple of people who happen to be standing next to you, would be found leaning over for want of some space and air, coming through the windows.
But this is just the tip of an iceberg, when it comes to being scared of a thing or having some apprehensions about the same. A couple of days back, having heard so much about the state of the public transport in my city, I decided to experience it first hand. And there I was, travelling in this bus, which was supposed to take me from a place called Mahanagar to Hazratganj, which resembles the likes of CP in New Delhi, when it comes to the colour combinations that have been used to adorn the place.
Having barely managed to squeeze in the bus, I was lucky to have found a seat next to a gentleman, who looked to be in his twenties. One thing that foreigners find quite funny in case of us, Indians, is that no matter whether we know the person sitting besides us in a journey, we are very good and keen on starting a conversation with the unknown person available at our disposal.
Not only do we happen to talk about the general affairs going on in our country ranging from what Modi might be up to in the coming elections to would Dhoni be implicated in the IPL crisis that has ensued in recent times, but also about our own personal issues ranging from what my boss might have said to me the very day, to what would happen if my child happens to fail this year.
Keeping what I can call the tradition intact, the gentleman (whom I will refer to as G, from here on ), sitting to my left, started the conversation.
“Hi, so where are you going?”—G
“Hi, to Hazratganj, and you?”—me
“I am going to charbagh, to catch this train. You see, my luggage is kept right above me. Actually, my uncle’s son is getting married, so I am going for his ceremony. So, you are originally from Lucknow?”—G
“Yes, very much :).”—me
“By the way, yesterday I went to this place called Indira Dam. Have you been there?”—G
“Ya, I have been there twice. Nice place, I must say.”—me
“What nice! You know what happened yesterday. I went there with a couple of friends. It was 6 p.m. in the evening. As we were walking past this barrage, we saw this lady lying unconscious on one side of the road. One of us even thought about calling the police, but we were too scared to get involved.”—G
“So, you didn’t inform the police?”—me
“We did. But it was only after we had left the place, from a P.C.O. (Public call office) located some 2 kms away. You know how it is with Police. With no fault of yours, they might indict you for something which you cannot even think of in your wildest of dreams and even if you happen to find a good policeman, then also you wouldn’t want to be going to the court as a witness every now and then, for the case might go on and on, considering the state of our judiciary, which takes ages to issue verdicts on cases.”—-G
“Hmm! Then what happened. Did you follow up?”—me
“Not really! We just hung up the phone, after informing the police of the whereabouts of the lady. Later on, we came to know that in recent times, a couple of people have been found murdered at the same place and people have even spotted a couple of bodies floating in the running water at times.”—-G
“That sounds awful.”—me
“Ya, so many things are so awful in our country, if I can refer to it as my country in the first place. You must have already noticed the cap that I am wearing. I am a Muslim and for Muslims, especially the underprivileged ones, life is not so easy. You see, for every other blast or terrorist attack that takes place in this country, we are the first ones to be rounded by the police. We are made to suffer for no fault of ours, at times. That’s why, so much of resentment can be found in the Muslim youths, who find it easier to astray rather than comply with the laws of the country. On top of that, these political parties try to throw freebies at us, thinking that we can be cajoled by their futile efforts, which is nothing but a mockery of the political system in our country.”—G
“I know, it is a very sensitive matter. Instead of treating us like aliens, the political parties will do good if they can just treat us at par with every other citizen of this country. Anyways, this gets prioritized only for namesake at the time of elections and later on it is found no where on the agenda that the political parties are so proud of presenting during their election campaigns.”—G
“That is very true. But then why don’t you try to get rid of all these political leaders who talk as if they are the representatives of the entire Muslim community and take matters in your own hand, by creating awareness and vouching for some political and social work?”—me
“If it was so easy, then don’t you think every other person would end up doing the same? These very political leaders create so many hurdles and for a common man like me and you, it comes down to a choice. Whether we want to continue living our lives in the same pseudo-peaceful manner or do we want to disturb the peace of our minds by going against the Hukumat.“—G
“Hmm! You know, a day would come and in some ways, it has already, in at least the Naxal affected parts of our country, when people would take up arms and would revolt against the atrocities and crimes that are being committed by our administration.”—me
“True! You know what is more moving on an emotional level. When we lose lives just because of maladministration and faulty decision making on part of our government. You see, what’s happening in Uttarakhand. So many lives have been destroyed. So many people have gone missing and no one can predict when their lives will go back to normal.”—G
“Ya, it is very sad to see that knowingly we opt to sit on a time bomb, waiting for it to explode. Faulty constructions and the approvals for the very same granted by none other than our administrators, coupled with total ignorance of the environment has resulted in a major tragedy which will continue to haunt the lives of those affected for many years to come.”—-me
“Yes, and the lack of preparedness on part of our government is a sheer nonsense, which shows that no one is really concerned about what’s happening with this country. Everyone is busy looking for avenues where they can make quick bucks in order to secure the future for themselves and their loved ones. Oh, your stop has come. I guess its time to say bye. How soon time flies by! It was nice meeting you. Allah ne chaha to fir milenge.”—-G
“It was a pleasure talking to you. I am sure we will meet sometime in the future :).”—-me
And there I was bidding goodbye to this wonderful gentleman. As I got down, having experienced the journey which began as a test of the public transport in my city, I wondered whether the picture of my country that had been depicted of in the conversation that I just had with G, would ever improve.
Being an optimist that I am, I certainly believe that there is still time to bring our country back on the right track. Lots needs to be done not only on part of our government but also as individuals. It might require some sacrifices and hardships.
The question, though is, are we all prepared to think over and above our selfish ends and rise up to the occasion to eradicate the fear that has for so long kept haunting us for the want of corrective actions in our lives?
Source for Image: http://punjab-tim.blogspot.in/2010/03/no-seat-belts-requiredindian-buses.html, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/07/30/top-5-police-brutality-vi_n_115921.html, http://www.deccanchronicle.com/130701/news-politics/article/congress-bjp-twitter-war-over-uttarakhand