After a long duration, I took the opportunity of a long weekend to get away from the hustle and bustle of Pune (although how that affects me is debatable) and spend a weekend with some very close friends in the serenity of Matheran. The visit proved to be soothing and gave my sagging spirits a much-needed uplift but the return journey left me pondering about more issues than one. A chance conversation left me enlightened but in spite of the fact that I know the path to be tread to effectively tackle a difficulty that threatens the very soul of my nation, I shall continue with my life as usual just like you. The reason would make an interesting topic for another blog but for the moment let us get back to this tale.
The journey back from Matheran required us to travel from Neral to Karjat to catch a train to Pune. Although we managed that part of the journey with relative ease, traveling from Karjat to Pune proved to be tricky. As is my nature, I have to manage to complete things at the very last possible moment and catching a train proved to be another chapter in the story. We reached Karjat just in time to catch the last possible train to Pune in the evening. We bought the tickets to the third class but did not have time enough to board the third class compartments. So, we boarded the nearest bogie which happened to be a reserved compartment. People who are familiar with train travel will know that a fine needs to be paid along with certain charges for an upgradation of class. The fine happened to mount to Rs. 150 in our case.
Trust me to find a loophole in the system. To avoid paying the charges, I suggested we move to the pantry car where we could sit without any concerns of being found out and in the process, enjoy a good meal while at it! Smart aren’t I? So it was that we moved to the pantry and made friends with some of the vendors on the car (who of course were happy to have us on board) who talked to us for a bit, (sold their wares goes without saying) and then dashed off to cater to the rest of the train. Some were from Bihar, some U.P. and one from M.P.
They were mostly children of landless farmers who wished to get away from the poverty that their families lived in and working on the trains ensured a good step towards a better life. In the course of the conversation I managed to get a deeper insight into the way some of them approached life and the changing course of Indian culture. Yesterdays conversation was an eye-opener for me and I hope this article would be for you.
They believed in the customs of child marriage where some of them had married their sisters to men 10-15 years older than they and were completely against educating the girls in their families. Think they are being unreasonable? Read on. They seemed to justify this because it was what their parents had done and if they had done it, it definitely would be right, would it not?
The death of reason, what say?
They narrated an incident that had occurred on their way to Mumbai from Bhubhaneshwar (those are the two cities it connects) a while back when they had just started working (a week ago I learned later.) A group of students on their way back from one of the colleges in Bhubhaneshwar (needless to say there were women in the group) behaved in a manner most inappropriate for Indians. (At this point, I was thinking along the lines of couples getting mushy or something but…) I asked what exactly were they doing that they seemed to deem it so unfit to warrant such disgust. They told me that the group was the loudest on the whole train, singing and laughing as their chatter rolled along the journey. I was perplexed as to what they found so inappropriate about such behaviour and was told that it was not very lady-like for Indian girls to be laughing and joining in the banter with boys especially since they were unmarried. They did not deem it fit for women to express their emotions publicly. They concluded that such behaviour was an outcome of the education they had received and that this was being carried out away from the eyes of their parents. When the group boarded off the train, these ‘good Samaritans’ took it upon themselves to inform their parents about the behaviour of their children and suggested to the parents of the girls that they marry them off soon. What mortified them though, was the reaction of the parents who told them to mind their own business and that such behaviour was perfectly normal. The kind praises they had for the parents would be best left unsaid in the course this passage. They believed that India was going to the dogs because of such irresponsible behaviour on the part of the parents.
I felt the need to lecture them right there and then on the need for them to reason their beliefs, to understand the need to educate their daughters and to realize that women were as capable as men and needed to be treated like human beings, as equals. On the need for reasoning each of their beliefs and not accepting anything as the correct course of action just because someone told them so or because it had always been so. I would need more than fifteen minutes to change the way they have been taught to think their whole life. I chose not to say anything though.
What was most disturbing was the fact that they despised the people living in the cities for destroying the Indian culture. Indian culture is undergoing a sea of change in this new millennium, adopting new ways and awakening to the process of thought. Some of the old ways will be destroyed and new ones adopted instead. It is a constant process of change which has continued over thousands of years and will continue as long as we exist. No one system can be perfect. Flaws can only be detected and ironed out of the system over a period of time. There will always be some who oppose the process- ones that I classify as those afraid to think and reason for themselves.