Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Economic Disparity

I was at a local dhaba about 15 minutes ago when in a serendipidous moment I realized the extent to which hierarchy is established in every single aspect of life in India - from houses to cars to food to vegetables to clothes and so on. I ordered a batch of tandoor rotis (indian tortilla made with wheat flour), but I got them with makhan (butter). It was then that a fellow standing next to me remarked that I was living well; in a society where 30 million survive of 2 dollars or so a day, a buttered roti is a delicacy, if not a dream. Imagine that - A layer of butter in itself implies a luxurious and privileged lifestyle!! It was then that I immediately began to think of any petty difference in my daily life and that of those 30 million wretched indians that had gone unnoticed beforehand. We own a car, and there are only 10 million car owners in India out of 1 billion strong. I eat chicken everyday - that is by far the most talked about "privilege" that often provokes remarks about my ostensible way of living. Non-veg food in general is considered a "luxury" and often reserved for special occasions such as the birth of a child or some other cause of celebration. I sleep in an air-conditioned room - another vivid mark of the rich and wealthy, something often gossiped about when one of the neighbours get its installed in their home. So whats my point? same as the old cliche that we take way too many things for granted, but it is in India that one realizes to thank and appreciate the ability of being above others in a socio-economic aspect, higher up in the heirarchial ladder - even if it is a layer of makhan on the naan or a tandoori chicken.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Most of my views about contemporary life in india tend to negative and pessimistic in nature, due to the very fact that I immediately compare everything to my experience in California. But there are inumerable, poignant memories that I relive every time I come back home to Bahadurgarh, Haryana - the ubiquitous rickshaw-walas peddling in brutal heat; the silence of night broken by the chowkidar's whistle, pounding the ground with bamboo stick; the howling of contentious dogs fighting over territory or bones that the few non-vegeterians threw out in our streets; the loud and descriptive yelling of the sabji-wala, listing the daily inventory of vegetables available; the iconic honking of the man who sells balloons and other cheaply made plastic toys; the evening streets lined with various food carts dispensing all sorts of fried, sweet, spicy finger foods; the early dawn sleep broken by the obnoxiously loud silencer-less motorbike that is signature of doodh-walas;the ubiquitous cows roaming, grazing or just lazily nesting as if the people are the troublesome intruders who need to manuever around; the beggars - oh yes theres plenty of them of all sorts - blind, maimed, young kids, single desperate women, the sadhus, the ascetics - some carry buckets of oil with pictures of gods, some dressed like hanuman (half monkey half man follower of rama), some who insist of slapping themselves with a large, leather whip until money is given!! One of the most amazing aspects of life here is that it seems idyllic even though there's chaos beeming every where; somehow between the blaring horns, the screaming hawkers, the hustle-bustle, life seems to go rather slow and easy. It is truly unique in every sense of the word.