In the name of illiteracy

Illiteracy is to do with numbers and letters. Not basic manners. Where I have come to visit my father at present,  there is not a day when our gatekeeper’s son, aged five or six, is not wailing at the top of his voice intermittently. His parents seem to care less. I don’t see the father busy with work.  He barely opens or closes the gate for most of the residents. The mother seems least interested other than the time when she has to feed her family or do the dishes. Upon discussing this annoying issue with my neighbour the other day, she shrugged it off by saying, “they are illiterate!” I have seen the parents and even the elder brother hitting the youngest son. It is as if they enjoy to hear him wail daily and endlessly. After nearly a month of ignoring this I finally took most of the family members to task today. The father was lucky to be not around. The mother was part-lucky to not to understand the language (as she speaks just the regional language and I can’t speak it) but she and the elder son understood what I was putting across them curtly. Like music needs no language, so does anger and the hurls that follow. The younger son quietened down in a few seconds. And as I write this I have not heard him wail since and it has been a few hours. Touchwood!

I am not against poor and uneducated children but playing the cards of poverty and illiteracy to gain sympathy of public is unfair. A few weeks ago a handful of poor kids (I am guessing they were above the age of 9-10 as per the picture I saw) accompanied by a social activist were denied entry to a popular restaurant in Delhi. In protest, the social worker sat outside the restaurant and returned the next day to continue with her protest. A lot of hue and cry was raised. The news had gone viral with many sharing it on the social media. A prominent minister of the Delhi government stated that the whole episode ‘reeked of colonialism.’ In defence, the restaurant said that the activist along with the kids were allowed the entry but were then asked to leave because of the ruckus the children were creating.  I don’t know what happened after that. The news, like any other hot local news, got relegated to the bottom of the newsfeed.

I don’t see what was wrong in asking the activist along with the kids to leave the restaurant. What did the activist want to prove and achieve? By taking these poor kids to the restaurant and making them experience what it is to eat food in the restaurant, how was she aspiring them? Ok, everything is not about aspirations and seriousness but would it not have helped if she had also taught or told the children how they should be behaving when they were in a restaurant. How difficult is it for kids  (above the age of 7-8) to understand the instructions (If they choose to ignore, that is different!) imparted to them especially on how to behave in public. If you cannot respect the decorum of a place you visit, you have no reason to protest – rich or poor. And that is why you have bouncers in the pubs – to control the customers from going berserk and even asking them to leave if things go beyond control. Rich or poor.

Again, I have nothing against the poor children but it does work me up when they start their begging pitch. They know exactly in which tone to beg and the kind of sorry face they have to put up. The moment they are done with you you can spot them looking natural. And they are back to their performance as soon as they spot some more potential people who can give them some alms.

The same boy, who wails endlessly, I caught him once sh**ting at the back of the apartment and when I called for the father he looked indifferent. What has literacy got to do with this? They have been given a bathroom to use. Why should I or anyone be subject to such a sight. It is not a village or some jungle where they can ease themselves off.

The ‘Swachch Bharat Abhyan’ (Clean India Mission) is a national drive by our government to keep the country clean by both rich and poor. You don’t need education or economic background to understand this. If keeping a place clean is considered understandable, so are basic manners and a consideration for others around you.

Again, I have nothing against poor children. I am against such lazy parents, guardians and social activists who refuse to bring up the children in their care properly. Add poverty to their social status and they think they can do anything that they feel like.

(And the boy hasn’t wailed still! Thank you!)


 

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Shun the must-visits for vicariousness

 Don’t be disheartened when you can’t visit a ‘must-see’ place  or  can’t do ‘things you should do in your life time’  as  splashed in a plethora of articles (usually recycled) in print and online with filtered glossy pictures . I have done a few of such things and it usually has been a painful experience. Some were as close to being traumatic. From witnessing the F1 race when it happened for the first time in India some years ago to going up the historical towers in different countries- it has only been a time consuming, money wasting and mob-intimidating experience.

 Very recently, in my quest to make the best of what could be my last ever visit to the lovely coastal state in the east of India, Odisha, I decided to visit the iconic holy temple of Lord Jagannath in the small town of Puri, some 50 km away from where my dad works and lives in the state’s capital, Bhubaneswar. I have visited Puri some 4-5 times in the last 2 years but have always headed towards the beach. This last trip was more like ticking an iconic place off my suddenly-erupting-from-nowhere checklist and letting everyone know, all those people who asked me earlier if I had been to the temple, that yes, I have!  It is akin to going to Paris and not visiting the Eiffel Tower.

I am lucky I survived the very poorly-managed frenzied crowd that went berserk as soon as the gates to the sanctum opened. In a place where one should ideally display their best behaviour– after all, you are in the abode of God, one could see their worst coming out. They didn’t care if there were children (and a lady even got her one-month old baby!), ladies, old, sickly and frail people around them. They continually pushed one another till they reached the point where they could catch that one glimpse of the God’s idol. The mob was intimidating. I was one of them. I had to push along to survive. There was just one exit and the only way to it was by being carried away to it. I felt more awful for my mother who accompanied me as she is a quasi-claustrophobic. After a certain point I lost her in the throng. With phones being banned inside I could not contact her. Luckily, she had managed to reach the exit.


I have been to some amazing places in the state whch do not have the “must visit” tags attached to them. Starting from the Biodiversity park two minute away from my father’s accommodation where I jog every morning to visiting lovely beaches in the coastal towns of Konark, Puri, Gopalpur-on-Sea, and Chandipur-on-Sea. The Bay of Bengal looks so vast and beautiful. Not to forget the architecture of Konark’s Sun Temple which is breath taking.


 I am better off visiting the temple across the road where my dad lives. I have not witnessed anywhere else the enthusiasm with which the priest performs the daily evening prayer. As he goes in trance, some devotees play the drum and ring the gongs in cadence. You can feel the passion, the vibrations, Goddess Kali being invoked. And most importantly, you can breathe and come and go as you like.

So if those ‘must’ visit places attract mob, then you are better off watching them – the games, the places, the people – in the magazines or on the television. You have not missed out much. You have rather been a wise person. 

Explore unknown places. Uninhabited places. Unpopular places. Place that you will genuinely enjoy and not just go to a place ticked as mandatory by others. 


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Images from top (all clicked by me on iPhone): 

1: Lord Jagannath Temple, Puri

2. Walkers in the biodiversity park, Bhubaneswar

3. The priest at the local Kali temple, Bhubaneswar

4. Papa takes a walk by the Konark beach