THE Rural Interlude

To begin with what does one picture when the word “rural” is popped up? The picturesque farms, little children scampering around playing with a twig or two, the lack of infrastructure in terms of basic amenities etc. Well, unfortunately or fortunately this is not what I experienced.

Venturing into the world of supposed “have-nots” from the zone of the privileged, I happened to re-learn the very nuances of existence.

Travelling in a crowded local train amongst sheer strangers (albeit extremely helpful), to reaching Talegaon, the entire journey was an eye-opener of sorts.

Hailing from the metropolitan Mumbai, setting foot on Talegaon’s soil came across as a not-so-rude-a-shock. At first glance it seemed to be a slow paced, sleepy little region tucked away off the outskirts of Pune, however there was more to meet the eye. My friend and I were on the look-out for a means of transport. To our delight we had a multitude of options in front of us. Of course the delight didn’t linger for long as it seems the “rural” area isn’t as “rural” as expected. Honest but having learnt the tricks of the city-like-trade, the drivers of a 3-wheeled rickshaw were conveniently displaying “the elasticity of demand”. Gauging from our persona, yes you might have guessed by now-the driver was in no mood to run us a ride by the meter. As there seemed to be no other alternative, post a little haggling and putting our bargaining skills to test, (which I must confess aren’t any good), we headed to our destination.

Our little ride in the rickshaw was an adventure in itself. Taleaon, the name itself has “gaon” in it, I was expecting to view some chickens running helter-skelter, cows mooing around, perhaps a well or two. Guess what! None of the above caught my eye. While we were driven within lanes and by-lanes, we realised that this place is not far from civilisation. To our right and left we were surrounded by residences-pukka houses, completely whitewashed and well-equipped with water and electricity (how we know that, shall be explained furthermore: keep reading J )

We were just digesting this fact of “civilisation” and lo and behold we have something else to up the ante! A Merc, a Chevrolet and what not were swerving into a lane close-by! I was awed, stupefied more to say. Somehow a part of me was very happy with the fact that India’s developing and accelerating towards being a developed nation (perhaps a bit exaggerated but I reckon the first few steps are pertinent).

From bumpy paths to a concrete road, yes we were nearing our destination. MIDC Talegaon is paradise! The wide roads, spick-and-span surroundings and the cherry on the cake-the n number of manufacturing plants, warehouses and the like-dilated my pupils out of excitement!! JCB to Maersk, you name it and it was THERE! That’s a different story, we had work with Renault India & to locate it was yet another task.

“Things happen when you least expect them-The Fred Flintstone’s” with all the build-up and excitement, we conveniently forgot to check whether the warehouse is functional on a Saturday! Sure enough it was not. However, as I always say: life’s a sine wave and though the warehouse was closed we were able to take a peek into it. If that’s not enough we were helped by a Mr. Malcolm and he gave me the contact details of a one Mr. Ayachit who happens to be heading the International Parts Control-warehouse! Yaayie! So once we were done with an initial recce of this region, we hurried back to Talegaon station. Why the hurry, if you may ask? Apparently the D (director) of our college had to meet a certain set of students (or as we say, student managers) on a Saturday afternoon & my friend was one of them. Talegaon to college takes roughly an hour, while we thought we’d make it in time-a new twist to the tale: the frequency of local transport (think: local train) is bizarre! While we were at the station by 1330, we gathered that the next was scheduled for 1430! Brilliant, now we had an hour to ourselves and my friend had to reach college by 1400; what were we to do? Enter technology: an e-mail, a call and that was sorted.

The adrenalin rush and the literal rushing around added to our hunger pangs and we were now closely scanning the surroundings for a source of food. Even prior this we had something else charted on our hit-list: we were in great turmoil looking for a public amenity (yes, to answer nature’s call) with no luck we had to just wait on! However, a residence with a little girl seemed like a welcoming option and considered it as an option. Well, first up to gate-crash into a complete stranger’s home and use their washroom: a little too far fetched! No it isn’t. We did do that! Now her pet Bruno’s incessant barking’s a story for some other time, but what’s the key take away is the fact that: people are so secure in their own world there, they have no qualms and consider nobody or nothing a threat. On conversing with the little kid, it dawned upon us that she was preparing for her board examination. At a macro level, education in itself can solve a lot of burning issues in India and take it forward, in retrospect I wonder how many practically put it to use. This little kid would definitely do so, as for us who are already better equipped: our life’s in this little secure bubble & we may not even consider the larger picture. If that wasn’t enough to get our grey matter and EQ thinking, we had another basic need to cater to(yeah I’m drawing parallels from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs J )Hunger pangs! True we were in a kid’s home but really we didn’t want to intrude further. So we weighed our options yes, we had many! From an Arushi resto to a Chinese centre to a bakery to finally a little stall that was selling snacks, we narrowed down to an Aunty’s shop which provided us of no ambience but a foodie’s paradise. Forget the food’s cooking, the fact that it was a little shop run by a self-made woman (complying with the Food standards, yes there was a certificate on the walls of the shop), really made me think-what am I doing with all that I’m provided with?? Perhaps nothing, nothing at all!

A little conversation and we got to realise that this was not what she had set out to do, the way life takes its course one can hardly predict: she had to fend for her family & its heart-wrenching to see her do it with much elan! This woman entrepreneur (yeah, the MBA jargons are back) went ahead to educate her daughters, 1 an engineer. In fact the woman in question actually conversed with us in English. It is nice to know that in times of despair there are people who still find a way-for survival and for a better future.  This got me thinking: if this is what India is capable of then why’s there such a disparity amongst the haves and the have nots? Or is it just a figment of our imagination.

This little place had an ATM, amenities like water and electricity, the n number of food joints and not to forget a Men’s parlour! Nearing civilisation! My verdict its already civilised; not just by means of infrastructure but by means of the sheer goodness and behaviour of the people living here.

 

The little community that they lives in and thrive, is so diametrically opposite in the urban world. Wherein even a basic greeting’s too much to ask for, a stranger was let into the home in the rural world. Where we’re cribbing for lack of time and chasing for a job; the rural world’s creating it: silently but surely. Its inspiring to see people take steps like the woman did. We did suggest her to increase her shop’s space and expand, in fact she was into the dabba system; however she wasn’t getting any returns. These self-made entrepreneurs go unnoticed not because of lack of skill or will, but because of perhaps the reach of connectivity. Or perhaps not even that.. we are so much at ease within our own comfort zone, the bare essence of the basis of education is lost. Its purpose is ideally to take the country forward, but how many of us are actually practicing it? I reckon not many. While we get into the rat race of numbers, marks and jobs; what we miss is not just to “stop and smell the roses” but even the fundamental “why” we’re doing what we are.  Think about it. The time is now. Desh badlo soch badlo (yeah that’s a ctrl+c, ctrl+v)

 

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