While I am comfortably relaxing in my couch penning down this post, my mind has been revolving around a peasant couple somewhere in the corner of rural West Bengal, India. Coming from an urban background, I rarely made visits to my grandparent’s village. My grandparents also moved out to the cities and so our connection with the village was very less although my father had great love towards his ancestor’s place. The only relation with village that exists for me even today is having my paternal aunt who stays in the village. All these years she has been working on the rural development programmes, but she never mentioned in any of her conversations that there were extremely poor villagers who cannot afford very basic needs like food and shelter. Reasons are the villages around my city were quite well farmed and cultivated as most of them fall along the flow routes of two major river basins. And of course two major dam’s irrigation canals flowing in the region are another reason for abundant water supply. So, I never really heard from my aunt or any other extended family member who stayed in villages complaining of major issues in farming or their co-villagers suffering in below poverty line. In fact these villages were quite prosperous and green most of the year.
But this was not at all the case about this peasant couple that I mentioned; they were not being able to afford one meal a day. Isn’t it heartbreaking? If you wonder how did I come across this couple... recently a show was aired on BBC named "India on Four Wheels" which featured two enthusiasts from Britain driving across the urban and rural Indian routes covering all major corners and what they encounter or confront in their road trip was all included in it. The show was certainly one of its kinds. I hardly watched any such show with a purpose and yet interesting in the regional channels recently. Not to deviate but a much needed mention here is about the Doordarshan channel, which used to focus on such real issues but of course mostly in a documentary which is why it didn’t get many eyeballs glued.
Although we Indians being quite familiar with the huge economic disparities in the country, I was so emotionally touched while watching the show. Especially when on north western corner there was this Maharaja of Udaipur flaunting his vintage Rolls Royce collection. And not being able to maintain the huge palace on his own, leased out it as a hotel which seemed as an answer to his biggest problem. And on the north east corner therez this poorest peasant couple starving for days even after working so hard on their farm and on top of this one of the storms had swept away their entire year's toil and the little piece of shelter they owned. This extremity shattered me. I have no complaints against this Maharaja's extravagant living style; I indeed enjoyed watching his huge collection of the royal living and fabulous wheels until I saw the poverty in the other corner.
Poverty itself is such a scary term to many of us. Would we ever imagine us being there???...No, not even in our wildest dreams. Not having a square meal a day is really really worse. The couple I mentioned did not complain of anything but food and that too grown out of their little farm. While the luxurious richness and prosperity of the Maharaja seemed like a fairy tale, the dearth of this peasant family knocked of the fanciness and gave a glimpse of the reality.
This whole thing actually reminds of a scene from Swades one of my favourite films, where the peasant family reveals the paucity of very basic necessities for their existence. (From 3:00 to the end)
Well, I don’t know if I could stop this emotional outburst here and forget it in a while because it moved me so much so that I would expect this could see some positive repercussions.