रविवार, मार्च 29, 2009

Part 4:We need to keep the soul of the village alive, but HOW?

Rolling fields vs. ladder-like fields

This village somehow takes me on a thought tour of my own village where I lived for first 17 years during my childhood. We did not have sheeps but a goat (owned by me). We had cows and buffelos. There were many kettle fields (read mountains) towards the jungle. Every family had to accompany them once a month and bring back in the evening. There were no rolling fields but ladder-like agricultural land. Thre was no road though the middle of the village but a small broken path. Even a sick-old person needed to be taken to the health centre on the shoulders or special ‘doli’ by people.

I visit my village every summer or when opportunity arises. As per usual Indian conditions, lot of peole are jobless. They were jobless even before but had no opportunities to compete in the modern lifestyle. Kali-Kumaun (Read the story by a British Hunter ‘Jim Corbette’: “Maneaters of Kumaun” published in early 1900) has been a very poor place for the culture/education as compared to Almora, NainiTal or even Pithoragarh. Even Lohaghat Town has a direct bus connection from Haldwani and is less dependent on the broken road from Tanakpur. In 7 years, 11 district Magistrates have come to the district of Champwat but none could do much for this unfortunate road. People are frustrated in this region and usual jobless situation is going to be more problematic due to the socio-political situation.

Need of character, scientific ways and long term plans

In a way, this world is a village or made up of villages, countries, human borders etc with various languages and cultures. There are clear differences between the people. When I asked the one of the foreign student, can you tell me what makes your country different from the 'some other' (EU) country, - he immediately replied: “Character"!
Other Indian visitor commented while talking about the richest Indian in UK, ‘Many rich people even in India have emerged from Rajasthan-a desert, where there was not enough water even for drinking. While others had water, agriculture but wasted heir precious time and energy in non-scientific agriculture and remained poor’. Suddenly I see that his comment seems to be directing us towards something very natural in the present context. There is a need to put forward various ideas such as
(i). Scientific ways of lifestyle including sanitation
(ii). Water conservation and harvesting
(iii). Introducing the idea of ‘shares’ in a joint property venture through joint lands
(iv). Village tourism (visitors stay with villagers and pay)
(v). Mini- Hydroelectric plants and solar electricity/ solar heating
(vi). Provisions of charging of mobiles , batteries with solar power, solar stations along the national highways, in towns and villages
(vii) Primary and High school education
(viii). Higher education in pure science (including Mathematics, and Economics)
(ix). Computer and Internet education
and last but not the least
(x). Conservation of local culture along with the modernisation

Desclaimer: I visited UK for about 2 months. Besides my professional work I came across some experiences, I thought they may benefit the visitors or society in general. I am writing this in good faith; and especially do not claim that what is mentioned here is true to its full extent. It’s the impression I have got with various data collected with my five senses. I would welcome critic and comments but I am not sure if I will find time to respond-PBB.

Part 3: We need to keep the soul of the village alive, but HOW?

Do I remain the person where I come from? What about Mr. Obama?

India is a country with several ‘nationalities’. It is a good example for European Community which has come to existence in recent past. They have a single currency (single bank note) unlike Britain, for example, who have several. In certain parts of India Hindi is not understood at all. This is a fact. Those regions are very well placed in the main stream of Indian economy. Their food habits, cultures are reasonably different than those living in Hindi-Heartland of India. Here crop-in a few problems. For example, since last over a deade I stay in south India. I like south Indian food and other foods as well. I enjoy the sea-shore, I like the weather, I like what I am working on and the place where I am staying. But, what a shame, I do not yet know- how to shout ‘ Help!- Help!’ in Tamil!

Similarly, an Indian living in UK, USA or anywhere else would like Indian food, a French living in UK would prefer French food! That’s natural tendency. What is not warranted is that even after living for 40 years, I still try to be (mentally) from where I am. Instead of getting more integrated with the local culture, we somehow have opposite tendency. The problem is on the both the sides. It has to be addressed almost immediately by every one in this planet, before it becomes too late. On the contrary, Mr. Obama is a shining example which automatically unfolds an untold story in detail.

Especially the countries like India are changing extremely fast, their growth rates are more than 5%. The communication revolution has changed the lifestyle of people drastically. They are politically more cautious than the west. While in the west the telephones were used by general public way back, I was not able to afford a 10 minute telephone call from Chennai to Champawat due to two reasons. One, I had to go to a public booth, or book a telephone through the operator, second it was too expensive. Today the scene is entirely different. On the other hand it is interesting to note that people who left India about a few decades back (and visit India occasionally for short durations) have the same old understanding!

Part 2: We need to keep the soul of the village alive, but HOW?

Dal-Bhat, Roti-Sabji and German Soup, Salad and Knudle

I (north Indian from the foothills of Himalayas, living in South India over a decade now) am sharing a house with a Russian Teacher and a German student. We talk about various aspects and that’s what made me write this on the blog. We talked about the similarity of Sanskrit with the Latin (no one speaks Latin now, only Botanical names or scientific names are left in the language, such as aqua for water). Also we talk about times of Perestroika-Glasnost, Berlin wall, Munich , EU and what not. We eat Indian, German, Russian or Scottish food. It has been a dream stay.
Scotland is a country within the British union and they have their own Scottish Parliament. When asked about the views if they would like to be a separate entity, the answer was in negative by saying that they will not benefit with that. In general, people here talk about India in general, Kashmir, about satellites launched, about Slumdog Millionaire, about cast system by giving their own examples of how hey came across some one who went to India to see a number of girls selected by his parents etc.

Slumdog Millionair
There are a few food courts in the university. All the hostel accommodations (mixed-ladies, gents) have kitchens so that they can cook now and then. Although a bit expensive, students do have Hostel accommodation in the west! There is a Chaplaincy in the university. One Tuesday of every month, they provide soup and bread butter for 1 Pound. Many foreigners or even British students and visitors go there. Once I also visited and that was the day when Oscars were announced. A professor asked me, if I am happy that Slumdog got so many awards? I replied ‘it is actually a British film’, and then I asked him, ‘if the Musician got any?’ On affirmation, I told him , ‘Yes I am happy that he has also won the award'. During Feb, or even before the Oscar declaration, one could see the double decked city buses carrying big signboards of this film. Many people have seen it. People were concerned about India!

Foreigners? Where are British people?
My friend is living in Edinburgh since last 10 years. His car (which had a Petrol engine) was hit by a lady driver (before I landed in Scotland). He somehow wanted to change it as it was almost time to change (that’s another story that we filled petrol in the new diesel car). During one of those days, he took a bus on his way home. He told me that he was surprised to see the number of foreigners in the bus. I agree with him as follows. Even when I went to the university here, I had guessed about presence of some foreign students. I was sure that everyone must speak English here (at least, as against Japan and Germany where I was like an odd man out in the number of casual discussions). As mentioned earlier, it is even difficult to follow the Scottish accent, when you are new! Even another Indian who has come here for a ‘training’ from one of the NITs for a week taken aback when the secretary in the ID card section said ‘I have to enter the details in the computer and it will take about half an hour, either you wait here or come after half an hour’, to which he replied ‘what’? I could understand as I was 7 weeks senior than him. (I had initially though that I was again in a non-English speaking country).

The point I want to convey is that you can hear Chinese, German, French, Hindi/Urdu, Arabic, Russian and also English on the corridors, or at the lunch tables, or even lab-classes! This tells that in principle, universities in Britain now are admitting students from abroad just on the basis of fees etc. I found out from one of the new Ph.D. students that she had an Indian friend also while she was studying in another university, but there were more Chinese (90%) in maths than British student! I also visited a company and another university in Glasgow for a lecture. I found that British or Scottish people were in minority when it comes to higher education/ research. I am not sure if this was the general trend in UK, at least my experience showed me this. Till recently, a person with status of dependent-visa was permitted to work in UK, which was not in many other countries.
.............to continue

Part 1: We need to keep the soul of the village alive, but HOW?

VISA!- No-way
‘You will not get the VISA with these papers Sir', said the lady sitting at the counter of the VFS, Chennai. I had gone there just after visiting British Deputy High Commission at Chennai, who directed me by saying '3kmts from here'. I asked 'where is the map?' There was none. I took an auto, asked him to wait near the VFS. My previous hour was already wasted in shunting between the High Comission and the VFS as well as due to the wait at the VFS. The counter lady asked me to bring all sorts of the papers including 'land papers' and what not. Being at IIT, we are so ‘normal’ that I had not even bothered to take the so called originals (such as bank passbook, even though I had a statement from the bank). Anyway, I realized that to get a UK visa nowadays is going to be tough, why? I had to come all the way to UK (Scotland) to know the answer.

'Cheers', said the person while getting down from the bus near the Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, reciprocated by the driver. I said thanks and driver reciprocated as well. Every one who gets down expresses his/her appreciation for the service they received from the driver. The driver stops the bus exactly at the designated place. Even in the university after a mutual discussion is finished, people exchange cheers! This is something like Achha in India. Hai-ya is a greeting. Real Scottish accent is lovely, although a bit difficult to follow when you are a new arrival.

Shunting from a Scottish Village
I spent about 3 weeks with my friend. This was initial stay passed talking about Indians, Indian economy, watching NDTV as well as other Channels of my interest in the evenings over a glass of Shiraj and sometimes Italian dishes. I also watched TV channels our neighbouring countries with great interest (given the opportunity, which I never come across in India). Later I moved to a village (name not given for the sake of anonymity). I see sheep-farms, horses on the farms, children running inside the village on Friday evening and weekends. This village is towards the west of Edinburgh, almost on way to Glasgow. The double-deck buses pass through the village, a train station also exists. If you get in to the train, you can get the ticket in the train from the TC. Return tickets are cheaper for the same day as compared to one sided ones.

There is a post office and a small store in the village. In Scotland there is no restriction in walking through the fields. We walked around and saw that how in rolling fields the tractor can easily roll unlike Kumaun hills. Thefts are never heard of in the village. Eventhough, there are thefts in some areas in the city, especially of the car tape or satellite map reader.

There is another village nearby and has some good schools. Therefore in this village there are many children of schooling age. In the morning, if I am late, or my bus is late, the bus stop is crowded with about 50 kids, waiting for their bus.
.......................to continue