The entire stretch of Asaf Ali Road between Kamla Market and Daryaganj is dotted with people in pink turbans. Clad mostly in kurtas and dhotis, this mass of humanity is almost continuous – it's difficult to discern individual pieces in that seemingly aimless flow. For a change, vehicles are lined on both sides of the road; pompously displaying their red beacons, VVIP signages, and occasional sirens and pressure horns helping them crawl; and the teeming populace occupies the center stage – rustling and bustling against each other, most of them also have their packed bags with them. Toting a camera, and donning a pair of blue jeans and a t-shirt, I might easily be overlooked as a journalist hungry for a bite in the evening editions.
Amidst the jostling crowd, occasionally I pass through groups of men of probably higher importance than others – the ones who are also carrying placards about the maha-rally today – a show of strength by the nation's ruling party. That's when I also notice that all the walls around, the ones still visible through the sea of people, have posters asking people to gather in large numbers at the Ramlila Grounds for the vishal jan-sabha.
This crowd is largely composed of farmers sourced from nearby states, as is apparent from their accent and travel bags. Smoking beedis, and occasionally marijuana, every individual seems engrossed with his own little world composed of friends from the same village, but still very much a part of the troupe. Most of them would've come here because they would have had nothing better to do in their villages anyway, or would have been promised an afternoon meal. They probably wouldn't know why they are here either, except for the fact that they would get to watch and listen to the powerful people who appear on TV channels regularly – they would also run a stampede to touch these 'celebrities' by hand, or just get a view up close, without knowing the reason why they are doing so.
There are two Indias. This is the India which breathes. And that's the only resource which it consumes more than the first India (one could argue about land, but without data to substantiate, it can still be safely presumed that in terms of real value, it does not). This is the India which comes only in statistics, the one which is classified and reclassified with different measures of dispersions, which is calculated by econometrics and humanities, but is somehow hidden out of view despite its size. This India is incomprehensible by the first India – the one which shines; whose claim to fame, the IT industry, consists of about 30-90 lakh people, depending on who is counting. Agriculture employs 25 crore people – that's about 25-80 times of everyone in IT – a magnitude which simply can't be comprehended in terms of real people.
Eight months ago, the Planning Commission lowered India's poverty line, in an attempt to better identify the poorest of the poor. That number stands at about 35 crore people – on an average, half of them are sleeping tonight without any food during the day. That number is incomprehensible in magnitude too – in our India, we don't 'see' it. It oozes out inconveniently, like purulence from festered wounds, at traffic signals and railway stations and sometimes, most inconveniently, in temples and mosques and churches. There are numerous more stats – on hunger, on poverty, on unemployment, on malnutrition, on quality of life, on urabanization, on slums, on diseases, on drinking water, even on manual scavenging (2 crore people live solely by cleaning excreta). That India is a huge swarm – the one which cannot think about Solon, Draco or Plato's works on democracy, the one which does not have time for education, and for which 'demanding rights' is an alien concept. It bothers about survival.
The first India, on the other hand, attends offices, reads papers, has an online presence, uses resources, and frets about city traffic. This is the India which might know the GDP stats, cry foul about Rs. 32 poverty line, but would largely be unaware of which five-year plan the country is running in. This is the India which feels disgusted at the classes in power, which hates bureaucracy, which even discusses the national issues in forums and conferences and blogs, occasionally rises up behind people like Kejriwal to do its bit for the country, and forms a sympathetic opinion of the second India through the lenses of camera channels or bollywood movies – as far as they realistically go.
The second India votes – for money, or food, or alcohol, or caste, or just because it wants to be alive. The first India votes too, without reading party manifestos, maybe in much lower percentages, which becomes further insignificant because of its size. Amidst this classic divide, the dance of democracy comes alive in full view – obscenely flashing itself from altars in Ramlila Grounds – persisting through decades by keeping the second India just the way it is, denying it with everything, and balancing off its destitution with belied human hopes in smooth murderous perfection.
I wriggle myself out of this sea, walk past the Delite Cinema towards my destination, the Daryaganj Sunday book market, and find the footpaths empty. "Aaj baazaar nahi laga hai sir, rally hai na," a paanwala informs me. Realizing the relative importance of the two things, I get back home.
Considering you being part of the first India; you headed for the book market else you would have been been part of the Rally which mocked Democracy and spat on its face! A good piece.
"Most of them would've come here because they would have had nothing better to do in their villages anyway, or would have been promised an afternoon meal. They probably wouldn't know why they are here either, except for the fact that they would get to watch and listen to the powerful people who appear on TV channels regularly – they would also run a stampede to touch these 'celebrities' by hand, or just get a view up close, without knowing the reason why they are doing so."
Maybe they know, maybe the reason they are there is as you say - to stay alive. Why think of them this way, almost like they are a herd to cattle.
this is my last attempt to post this comment - i cannot read the captcha, or google cant read what i type
I love you :)
Beautifully written, like everything else.
@Tanu: Point taken. Some of the crowd might be sourced with fear, some with petty incentives, some with real hopes, some just going because everyone else is. Pretty sad still, ain't it?
@Anonymous: Thank you, secret admirer. :)
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