Monday, August 28, 2006

I wept twice amidst the cry of corruption

I reproduce a fine post by Amit at Struggleforsurvival

I wept twice amidst the cry of corruption

I'm revealing some of my experiences for those middle class people who think that they are struggling very hard in the life despite their good education, food and health - well, if not good then much better than millions of people - and blame the corruption as the biggest demon for their 'appalling' condition; weed out the corruption and we'll get the most perfect world.

It was my last day at an institute in Kanpur where I was working for a non-productive job for the past ten months; most of the educated middle class people do non-productive job and I was not an exception. Some of them also do productive jobs by selling their freedom; had they done it for the general masses then it would've been a little bit bearable but they do it for a very few at the top. By the way, it was a research job on 'Study of flow over a half-cylinder'. During all my stay at Kanpur, I was dependent upon a productive worker for washing my clothes who used to take care of all my dirty belongings twice a week.

We have a name for this type of worker - Dhobi, we usually consider him as a representative of people belonging to a menial class, as if he has not any personal quality except a group quality called washing. He was an old man in his seventies accompanied by his old wife. Both used to wash and press mine as well as others' soiled dirty clothes. Day before my departure, he came to my room unaware of the fact that tomorrow would be my last day.

As usual he asked me whether I'd any cloth, I instantly replied - "Here, my job is over now and I will be leaving tomorrow." No sooner did I speak these words than his eyes started to say something, probably he had guessed that, but he didn't express those speaking eyes in words. Since I was busy in packing I didn't notice them exactly. We exchanged some departing words and then he moved out of the room very slowly. Then the very next day he came again to my room and now I was able to feel that he wanted to say something.

We started the interaction together and suddenly he said, "Since I'm old now and nobody likes very much giving his/her clothes to me, you were giving me the clothes all these bad times and now you'll leave, but we are going to face real financial trouble after your leaving." Hearing these words, I started to think that I pay only 100 Rs p.m. to this man, get his very productive labor so cheaply because market decides the rate and it was not me but he was obliged, why, because I was a source of job for him. No, there is more than job; people in Bihar, where I belong to, call their employer 'maalik' - the owner.

And here also the difference between mine and his socio-political-economic status was making him obliged. I started to weep but tried very hard so that he can't see me. People could label this act as sentimental and shrug their shoulders off because they might have experienced it several times, but could they answer why he was so dependent upon middle/upper class people like me? Could they explain why his job is considered menial? Could they convey to me how corruption comes into this incident? Probably society and hence everybody is corrupt and corruption is human nature - this would be their answer. It means that only possible alternative to eliminate corruption is eliminating the human race!!!

It was my first day at Gaya, my home town, after the departure from Kanpur. Unfortunately I had my foot broken, a plaster was cast on that innocent foot, which was hurt because of my mind and the technology called motorbike, and you can't rely upon these two at extremely bad times like accident, though it was minor. So I wasn't walking since the last 5 days. Fortunately, it gave me enough time to think and finish some books, which I realized later. My father and friends came to the station to receive me.

They hired a wheelchair for me at the cost of Rs 50. This amount of money is nearly 5 times the consumption made per day by nearly 400 million people of India. When I came out of the station, I was still on that wheelchair. Suddenly my father got some little work to do at the station and he left me, my friends were busy in handling my luggage and here I found myself alone. Sitting on the chair I started to wait for them. I tried to move my eyes around, and I saw that a person with both legs cut off was sitting over the back of his friend, might be relative.

When he came near by and saw the wheelchair upon which I was sitting, he said in a desperate voice to his friend pointing towards me, "I was telling you that I needed exactly this type of chair. Look, how he can move by himself. Probably, by the end of Aghana (a Hindi calendar month, 2 months were still remaining for the end of Aghana) I'll be able to buy this chair." Injustice! I almost cried out. He is going to wait for almost 3 months more, probably he is doing the usual waiting job for years. I do nothing but I've been able to hire this, a few are capable of hiring the whole railway station, but here who actually needs it, has only the right to dream, sometimes this right is also snatched away.

This time I also tried hard not to bring water into my eyes. He was not telling only his story but a millions and millions of people share similar stories. Needful they are, but who is going to listen them? Charity workers, NGOs, state or corporates- those who exploit a lot by their respectful job in the society and then wash their sins or put themselves one step higher in their self-defined spiritual domain or become satisfied and happy for a good night sleep or oblige the voters sometimes by fulfilling their promises or distribute the wheelchairs as a part of health-beneficial scheme of the company if the workers cut off their legs while working with some machines for more than 10 hours.

Yet their conduct has not been able to solve these problems for ever, yet we find people struggling for better health facilities. Probably everything is in order, one has to just tight the corruption prevention thread and then we are going to get happiness everywhere! Probably create more wealth and see the dying dream to get it grabbed by/distributed to the needful, whereas all the tools for creating the wealth i.e. land, labor and capital (science/technology) is controlled by very few in this highly hierarchal system.

It was my 3rd day of stay at Gaya, my home-town incapable of solving many contradictions because of this present but historical order. In my neighbourhood stays a farmer, advocate and going-to-be teacher. He is well respected in the society but he also has many problems like he is a single man in the family and therefore he has very little time to control and prosper all his properties.

The main problem comes when he has to go somewhere out of the town to look after his other works - historically he owns good cows and buffaloes but who is going to feed them or milk them when he is out of station? Anybody at this stage needs a domestic helper, incidentally he is known as 'naukar'(in English - Slave, a domestic slave) here, which is widely used in reference; one doesn't call him by his name but by a distorted name.

He himself doesn't remember his actual name and if he has got over with his youth then he won't pay any attention when you'll call him by his real name. And by caste if he comes out to be a 'Yadava', then euphemestically with some respect you can call him 'mahto'.

For those who would like to know what govt. defined caste he belongs to, then OBC is the correct answer. Well, coming back to the incident, I was watching the dusk that time when I heard the noise of some children. It was 'mahto' who was the center of attraction and kids and women were making fun of him. Basically 'mahto' was unmarried despite crossing the age of almost 40. And now like some of his previous days, he had fasted for the whole day praying for his marriage and after breaking the fast he was distributing 'prasad' (sweets) to the people.

He was still in the hope that some girl would come for him despite the fact that he has no property except his labor, no social status except his caste, no relatives (all have ditched them in his childhood and took away whatever he had) except his too many 'maaliks' and 'malkinis' (Yes, every higher caste person in the mohalla was either his 'maalik' or 'malkini'), no youth except his romantic feelings. Well, I also prayed apart from my complete disbelief in God and I knew that many others were praying too irrespective of their fun.

He is living in this world with a single hope of his marriage and we all know that his long dream is going to be shattered. One day he'll realize this and then what hope he would strive for? Isn't the private property responsible for this? He could've fulfilled his dream had he shown the society a glimpse of his private property. How criminal can the private property become, we can get a feel only if we become devoid of it or interact with such people. Sans private property the life is like a hot bed full of thorns, all our standings depend upon this thing and people are seen lower to this in the present society.

Has corruption come into the picture in this so visible but at the same time invisible exploitation, as if its natural? Isn't private property a bigger demon than the corruption? Why is it so invisible then? No, it will be the only thing one sees when one becomes aware of the human history, its struggles and contradictions.

Where does corruption actually lie? Why do we see it only in those situations where educated middle class people work, beauraucrats handle the government offices, politicians and corporates serve each other interests? Because it is our quality, the middle class quality. We don't see the corruption when a mechanic fixes our cars/bicycles, a carpenter makes a chair for us, a farmer grows the grains and vegetables, a hair-cutter cuts our hair and makes it stylish. We don't see it in the situations where life is really moving on, we don't see among those who are really driving the whole economy but we see it where life is rotten, where one person is sucking the blood out of the other person.

I'm sure that we can find many more real incidents testifying the sign of the antagonisms between rich and poor as a class, as a group. It is there the root of our problem lies. Much better article has already been written over this subject, and here also the ideas are not mine, only the experiences I can claim that I share it with few people. You might not agree upon many realities which I've tried to cover here, but after disagreeing please tell me why there is such a wide status gap between a rich and a poor ?


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