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Losing our identity

I was going to Allahabad from New Delhi by train a few days back. Usually this would be one of the many night trains on the route which would mean that I go to sleep within an hour of the train moving from the station and wake up when the train has already entered Allahabad district, thus leaving me with only enough time to wash up, pack my stuff and have a nice hot cup of tea from the vendor in the train before the train pulled into the station and it was time to get off.

However, due to the rather short time span at my disposal this time, I was forced to take a day train, which meant that I boarded the train at about 8 in the morning and covered the entire stretch in full daylight. Since I had parked my posterior right next to the window, by virtue of my lower allotted berth, I got an opportunity to look at the countryside racing past us and this sent me into a revue of thought. This being summer, the countryside outside resembled the area around my ancestral village in Bihar, and I couldn't help but lapse into nostalgia.

When I was in school, every summer vacation we used to pack our stuff and the entire family would go to our village and spend about a month there. While it was certainly not a comfortable existence, what with no electricity or tap water, we never really noticed the shortcomings. Whether it was the relative young age or the sheer excitement about being in a different place, we actually enjoyed the fact that we had to draw our own water from the well, eat our food while sitting in the courtyard in the light of a lantern, or go out in the field for morning duties, or bear the stifling heat all day, it was fun all the way.

Almost eveything in a village is different. Things which you would take for granted, like paved roads, shops for everything, medicine stores, doctors, access to telephones, televisions, cars and bikes, bread & other bakery products, soft drinks, even basic electricity, are absent. There are no drains laid by the municipality because there is no municipality. And yet, there is a sense of order, an invisible system that our cities do not seem to have been able to develop even after decades of trying.

While we struggle to wake up even with the aid of alarm clocks etc, village folk are able to wake up every morning on time by the sheer device of sleeping in the open. The moment there is a bit of light, your brain automatically signals to the body that it is time to wake up and off you go, ready to start a new day.

The brisk walk to the fields, pretty much the first activity of the morning, has its own benefits too. It gives you the time to wake up fully and get your thoughts in order, gets the blood and oxygen flowing into the limbs as the morning's fresh air starts circulating in your lungs,
and also allows you to chew the daatun, the brilliant rural toothbrush, into fine bristles.

A quick glass of tea, consumed with fresh rotis, (no bread remember? ) and milk, would be the perfect energiser for the day. It is this similarity and simplicity in routine that ensures that almost the entire village heads to the fields, withing minutes of each other.

The walk to the fields, along village alleys, most people walking barefeet on the earth, rhe feel of alternating patches of hot clay, wet earth, green grass, dry grass and even pebbles, is something indescribable and I still cherish it.

I used to love running up to the river that flowed by right outside our village and splash about merrily in the water all day. The water was very clean, quite unlike the Ganga and the Yamuna in Allahabad and it was hours of endless fun, exploring the river bed. I still remember seeing a crab one such day and running to my father, scared shitless at the sheer ugliness of the thing.

The way the trees swayed in the fields, the sheer joy that we felt at climbing the mango and jamun trees and eating their raw fruits while perched on top, the frequent admonishments received for taking such risks, the taste of litti chokha, or for that matter anything cooked on that clay stove, fired by dungcakes, the awesome feeling of sleeping in the open with a brilliantly lit sky to figure out all night, the soothing sensation of the early morning breeze as it caressed us to wakefulness, the thrill of eating at night, not being able to see clearly in our plates, the glee with which we just ran about the village with no fear of anything or anyone, the running into anyone's home and always getting something to eat, ah, I am rambling, aint I?

That experience of rural life is an important part of my life and has gone a long way in shaping me into the person I am. I wonder if our children will have any chance of experiencing the same and fear that in most cases, the answer is going to be in the negative. As we chase increasingly western lifestyles, with the incessant emphasis on convent education and using the summer breaks for vocational training or learning some other skills like music etc, we are almost certain to not be left with time for going to our villages and spending any length of time there.

I suspect ours is going to be the last generation with significant exposure to the rural life. And this is likely to widen the chasm between rural and urban India even further. It will become even more of a 'us vs them' scenario due to reduced levels of understanding of rural India and its unique problems in the future generations.

And if that is the case, then a huge part of our culture, our tradition, our very identity will be lost. And with every passing generation we would lose a little bit more of our Indian-ness.

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thats really good.never knew ur so down to earth.ONe should never forget his root.A lesson learnt.

But, losing identity is not justified.Like what our parents give u'll also give what u r today to ur kids in Parenthood.Its a chain u see.One goes after other and then it follows.

Vijeta: I really cant understand your english, pardon my ineptitude.

And I disagree with you. I cant possibly hand over those experiences to my children unless they actually get a chance to be in similar environs, atleast occasionally, which I am sure they wont.

Its me Neha.You contradicted your point only,anyway.

I am sorry but Neha who?
And how exactly did I contradict my own point?

sweetu..u know me very well.dont u?!?

trust me your kids will be extra-ordinary than you;)

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