The Unadorned

My literary blog to keep track of my creative mood swings with poems n short stories, book reviews n humorous prose, travelogues n photography, reflections n translations, both in English n Hindi.

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I'm a peace-loving married Indian male on the right side of '50 with college-going children, and presently employed under government. Educationally I've a master's degree in History, and another in Computer Application. Besides, I've a post graduate diploma in Management. My published works are:- (1)"In Harness", ISBN 81-8157-183-5, a poetry collections and (2) "The Remix of Orchid", ISBN 978-81-7525-729-0, a short story collections with a foreword by Mr. Ruskin Bond, (3) "Virasat", ISBN 978-81-7525-982-9, again a short story collection but in Hindi, (4) "Ek Saal Baad," ISBN 978-81-906496-8-1, my second Story Collection in Hindi.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Less is Lovely


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Suddenly I felt the shudder of a Maltusian nightmare. It was only involuntary yet verily true. A harassed driver on the overcrowded Mahatma Gandhi Setu of Patna or a restless passenger in a cramped local train of Mumbai should understand me better. In Europe things are different; one can even pick up from the floor one's contact lens in a crowded running bus. Their crowd has no comparison with ours.
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Visiting a new land should bring new realization in its wake—haven’t great Indian souls (re)discovered India when they are abroad? To a person like me who has lived and breathed pure Indian way for more than half a century, what should come to him so striking in the West? Well, it cannot be the high-rise buildings with glass and steel exterior, for our cities in India now have oodles of them already defining the landscape. The European metro is no longer an out-of-this-world system, for our Delhi Metro is already a world class system and will soon surpass others in spread and volume of passenger movement. Paris is as much a multicultural city as some of our metros, thanks to liberalization and IT business. On the flip side, I have seen beggar-musicians at the city centre of Frankfurt and in the metro rail of Paris, semi-begging pursuits for raising funds for deaf and dumb right before the Louvre or before the famous church of Sacre-Coeur in Paris. Even in one of the alleys of Paris just a few hundred meters from the bank of the Seine near the metro station of Bibliotheque, I saw people rummaging the trash bin at 7:30 PM to grub out the loaves of bread discarded by the restaurant. I did not want to take its photograph for it would have proved nothing. Of course I took a snap of the multilingual notice board at the entry point of Louvre that warned tourists, “Beware of pickpockets inside the museum.”
Then what else could have made me feel that I’m in a land altogether different in ambience?
Well, it is the population sparseness that made me feel I was undoubtedly in a different land. Paris appeared to me a little crowded, but then it was nowhere near Mumbai or Kolkata. Everywhere else I found more buildings than humans. Let me say it a bit figuratively: Sometimes, their shops had more mannequins than men. Even today they have enough room for bicycles to fearlessly ply on their roads and there are dedicated bicycle tracks too. In Paris I saw bikers happily pedaling their way along Champ de Elysses. As per Wikipedia, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées is one of the most famous streets and one of the most expensive strips of real estate in the world. In Netherland I was waiting for a bus at Delft to go to the city centre and the bus did not stop. The simple reason was that it was full. A full bus giving the waiting passengers on the route a slip is nothing unusual in India and so it could not have sprung any surprise on me. But others waiting for the bus were surprised. A Chinese student who had been there for a year or so stated that it was for the first time that he could come across a bus which was really full. Others standing there endorsed the statement. Then I realized what I felt so good about the place: quietude. Yes, what we call it in India, a pin-drop silence. Whereas we believe in the principle the more the merrier, they celebrate the symphony of silence. On our arrival at the airport of Frankfurt we took a shuttle bus to the hotel nearby and en route had many things to talk among ourselves. Our cacophony was the expression of our happiness…and it was an honest expression at that. It was the driver of the bus who could not withstand our noise. And he commanded us to be silent. Our being happy stepping on their land was thus misunderstood. His rudeness had definitely meant insult to many of us, but then, in the process we could get some first-hand knowledge about their profile and preference. Aha! They are businesslike--they're simply silent, serious and successful.

In Switzerland, while going to Lausanne from Geneva airport, I saw vast expanse of farming lands with some crop already in them. But I could not see a single person working there. There were cows grazing but none to look after them. As if the cows in Switzerland behaved as per their model code of conduct! Otherwise, it appeared their farming activities were so much mechanized that they had no need of manpower? Looking at their docile and law-abiding cows I was reminded of a hilarious joke that once I read in one of Khushwant Singh’s Joke books: In Pakistan the owner of a certain poultry firm stopped feeding his birds; he just gave them 25 paise each so that they could buy themselves food of their choice from the market. Joking apart, let me recall what I saw at the stations of Europe—there were only ticketing terminals like a bank of ATMs in a row and nobody was seen selling tickets. The cost of operation is saved this way. In the restaurants, nobody was there to make us a coffee; there was a machine to give us coffee, tea, cappuccino, hot milk, chocolate drink. One should only understand the control panel as to which switch was to be pressed. Oh yes, I learned it just by observing: one should press the switch glowing with letters “Lait” to get hot milk, for “Lait” in French meant milk.
I wonder if they are not thinking of inserting a chip in the body of people which would store information like how many occasions one has travelled in metro or taken coffee from a restaurant or crossed the traffic signal so that it will connect to the banks via wireless to debit his/her accounts! By this it will further reduce labour cost.

In India it is the population that makes all our progress appear pathetically inadequate. It is the big denominator hazard. Everything achieved is divided by population and what one gets is a miniscule average. It may be quality of life index or poverty index. The kind of comfort a bus journey or for that matter train journey one enjoys in Switzerland is just unthinkable here. How many buses will it require to transport the office-goers in Mumbai if only 15 to 20 persons commute per coach that is invariably air-conditioned? Don’t they say, in Mumbai you can more easily get a place in one’s heart than in a local train! Again, we have more people to spit on roads than to clean them. Nobody, not even we Indians visiting their country, ever spits on their roads. Not to speak of roadside defecation, their railway tracks are devoid of trash, for the toilets of their coaches do not drain onto the tracks. Somebody said it humorously, “With a bottle of water selling more than 6 Euros (some 420 rupees) who can afford to drink water just to visit the loo?” Well, a vegetable-eater is more likely to defecate in a train than a meat- and cheese-eater.

Now, let me be serious for once: at the end of the day, can we skirt the issue by telling jokes? True, our most popular politicians have won their elections in the past by telling jokes. Yet, can jokes bring us the level of development achieved in the west? Hot water cannot burn haystacks and jokes cannot melt underdevelopment. We have to work and the starting point is to rein in the population growth…and to develop the living human resources.
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A. N. Nanda
23-11-2011
Coimbatore
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9 Comments:

Blogger NS said...

Dear Sir
"Less is Lovely" really depict why we still remains as a POOR COUNTRY. Even though our gross production is good per-captia is less which is not lovely. Actually the critique clearly tells the way from where we start.
In one way our population burst gives us youth strength which is positive, but in many walks of life it causes stiff hurdle for our growth.
You have rightly said that sound is our symbol of happiness,but not for others.Cleanliness and silence will become the habits of our brothern leads us to a heavenly society.

--- NS Tirupur

8:15 AM  
Blogger A_N_Nanda said...

Sometimes I think poverty now is more severe than it used to be in the past. A poor man in the past used to go to the paddy field and catch fish n crabs for his nutrition needs whereas now no fish is available in the paddy fields to catch because of the use of pesticides. In olden days there were talented children in village schools and such children now go to expensive private schools. We have free schools now where poor children go to study. But where are talented children in such schools for peer group education? At the end of education when such children come out of those schools they prove just nothing before their rich counterparts. Everything has been monetised: there's no hospital that treats poor; no teacher would like to give free coaching; sometimes water is more expensive than milk; marriages now are so expensive that those who are today marginally above poverty line become poor tomorrow after a daughter's marriage with or without dowry; nobody walks and there's no room on our roads for biking and the alternative is journey by motor vehicle which require petrol--even a beggar has to spend money on bus fare to go to town for begging. These are just a few examples; many more changes are in the offing.

Thanks, NS, for visiting my blog n offering comments.

A N Nanda

8:47 AM  
Blogger padmalayaa7 said...

Pictures are soooooooo lovely and narration is very nice. I have not yet been able to understand why poverty is associated with population growth? May be it leads to lack of awareness and education- thats why.

8:29 AM  
Blogger A_N_Nanda said...

Thank you Padmalaya for visiting n appreciating the post. As for your query, growth of population per se is not the reason of poverty. It is rather a strength of a nation. Trouble starts when such population is not given the due facilities like nutrition, education, health, entertainment, training for adaptation in new age etc. Such population or rather the deprived section out of it may or may not be law-compliant, adds to social unrest, thinks of braking social harmony with the hope of achieving those things that are denied to it etc. If we have more population, there is likelihood of inequality appearing in its most virulent forms.

7:32 PM  
Blogger NS said...

Population explosion is even though seems to be a strength of a nation but virtually not so. 20 and more cows in India totally give milk less than single cattle of Finland. The productivity is calculated only by efficiency not by quantum. There are two ways of living. One is to live with less spending than the earnings; another is to earn more than the spending. Both are likely to be correct, but the first way is the best way and possible to everybody. Population control is the only way to ensure social amity. The author is absolutely right in enlightening the cause of all social evils is nothing but the uncontrolled population.
---N.SUBRAMANIAN, TIRUPUR

9:27 AM  
Blogger A_N_Nanda said...

Very true, NS.

6:02 AM  
Anonymous Devaraj said...

Sir... after going through this article..i felt that i am in abroad.... Very nice article
ThankU

Devaraj

1:38 AM  
Blogger A_N_Nanda said...

Thanks Devraj. I'm happy that you liked the post.
A N Nanda

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I believe that you ought to write more on this topic,
it might not be a taboo matter but typically people do not speak about these issues.
To the next! Best wishes!!

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1:36 PM  

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