3 days ago, I became a graduate.
Graduating from a good college with a degree has a lot more to it than merely the certificate that you hold. It means that you, now are a chip of the old block, in this case the block being concrete structures personifying values, conduct, moral and ethical code, tradition, discipline, a drive to bring about change, awareness, sensibility, and virtues that uphold no less the paragon of a whole upright individual ready to take on the world by a storm. I am that individual today.
I have my degree, I have my virtues and I have my drive, but I am also an Indian. In my country, there is something we are trained to do. No, not really trained by our institutions, or by our family or any one in particular, but it is more of a survival instinct wherein you are trained to shut down an open eye of yours to the plight of the strata of the society that you cannot help.
I am an Indian, and in my country we have more villages than cities, more huts than houses, more slums than sky scrapers. In my country, we have more beggars than businessmen, more illiterate than scholars, more homeless than sheltered. In my country, we have more destitute than hopeful can ever transform, more broken than change drivers can ever fix, more poor than we can ever seem to reach out to, no matter how hard we try. I am an Indian, and in my country, it is imbibed in us to be numb to the plight of our nation.
During my graduation ceremony, the chief guest had mentioned in his address that our country would be one of the richest in the next few decades, a super power in the next few years, and we were lucky to be a part of the generation to go out and make it happen. I cannot understand. Was that some kind of sick joke? Then he mentioned something about how we ‘needed’ people ‘less intelligent’ than us to clean our toilets when we heart surgeons (he, being one) ‘saved lives’. Then he mentioned that the most important thing was to kiss our parents goodnight. So yea, he was a successful moron, but he was the moron who was featured on the show highlighting social troubles in our nation, he was the moron chosen to address a batch of graduating students who are to go out and change the nation, he was the moron who is one of the ‘aware’ leaders in our county today who we are to look up to. If my graduating certificate means that soon I will step into this country’s occupational threshold to become more like him and less like me, holding this certificate is the most unsettling feeling I have ever experienced in my life.
There are so many questions that come to our minds here when we see a hollow lifeless face and an outstretched arm, how many do we help this way? Sure this may feed them for right now, but what then? Is this even genuine? Can they work? Can’t they study? you have 5 seconds, as you walk past them on the street or are hounded by them at signals, to figure this all out. Sometimes we decide to hand out alms, sometimes we decide to not, but the truth is we have stopped really thinking about it the moment we realized that there is nothing we can truly do within those 5 seconds to help them. We have turned a blind inward eye to thinking about each of those forlorn eyes, to those forever quivering lips with pleading desperation, to those arms reaching out for help, because what most of us want is to rope them in, to give them light, to change their lives forever and we know we can never do that, we just don’t understand the point of what we could do none of which could change anything for them.
The string of slums beside big construction sites, the mini-villages with crumbling dilapidated houses and buildings next to big apartments, the crippled beggars or the blind elderly street singers on the most commercial areas of the city, it has all become but a part of the natural landscape, in my country, it is but the most natural thing, poverty.
The thought is so immensely suffocating that most often, I choose to not think of it. It scares me, to think how people live like that. It petrifies me to see the vendor on the street with a few bunches of cherries, a couple dozen of mangoes and some tiny tomatoes and realize that that little tray of fruit and vegetable is his life. It is the life of his family. It is the warmth of his home and the education of his children. I tremble from within but I don’t think of it for more than a few minutes because it would drive me insane. I don’t understand what I am to do or what will ever become of my India, the truth is, I don’t have hope.
As i travel around this city, I look at the mall to my right instead of the slum to my left, because I cannot bare to see the children living in roofless sheds with no bed or light or real safety. I get vexed at the crippled man in between the most crowded street because I think that he knows how upsetting it must be for me to see him and not be able to really truly change anything for him, and yet he is always there, as though I were being punished! I never take the time to count my blessings, but I don’t dare count their bane either, because their bane is my country’s weakness, and that is the weakness of every such graduate who cannot or do not do anything about everything around them.
I don’t know how to help my country, but with each passing day I have grown to fully realize that I do want to witness this change come to pass, and I do want to be a part of this process. This is my country, and this is my future.