Friday, January 8, 2010

When I was a kid, I had a dream... Now I have... reality!

As a child I used to love the tall glass buildings which used to catch fire at sunset. I loved the jet black road on which all those Fords, Corollas and Pajeros used to proudly pounce upon. The toys’ aisle in marts used to be almost heaven and all those chocolates and lollipops that turn your tongue orange could never be enough. Surprisingly, with a little more age and experience fantasies developed even more. The sleek technology of the geeks seemed so cool, clean shaved men with gelled hair, strong colognes and expensive suits represented authority and even success and modern fashionable women symbolized independence and women-empowerment. However, all these perceptions which I now call fantasies have faded away. With a geographical change of my abode changed many things – stimuli, thoughts, notions and the urges to react.

This side of the world which I now am in has taught me a lot. And I am glad I got a chance to see this other world. Had I not seen it, I would’ve kind of lived in an illusion, in a fool’s paradise. Not that I wouldn’t have learnt anything ‘real’ at all on that side but it wouldn’t have been enough to produce a worthy individual. Obviously, a ‘riper’ age played its role as well but without this right kind of exposure age alone would have been nothing.

It all started when I saw this new world for the first time. Looking at such mayhem on the street, it seemed that all the vehicles would crash into our car. But I survived. I survived to see streets that were crowded more by beggars and vendors than by vehicles; I survived to see walls whose not even inches were spared by political graffitists, to see minors who didn’t look like children of my ‘pretty’ world at all. I survived to breathe in such polluted air that made me choke and wonder if I really could survive. Hardly, did I think that I had just begun living in the truest sense of the word.

As I saw more and more of this world, I realized that it was a practical example of the universal gravitational force – a force that attracts all the beings and things of the universe – and the thought of our interconnectedness and interdependence hit me really hard. Seeing extremely diverse elements operating so closely was seeing nothing less than a wonder, yet a sad sight. Seeing how even the city’s top elites couldn’t totally prevent themselves from bearing the ugly sights of handicapped and ‘burnt’ beggars, was something very surprising for me, someone who came from a place where there weren’t any beggars at all. Yet the fact that these elites were as indifferent to these ‘other’ social elements as a crocodile would be to broccoli, make me wonder the sources of the inhuman ‘indifferent-ness’ that prevails within us today. Just a chapter from a book of economics or sociology or even just a couple of hours of meditation is enough to make us realize how badly interconnected and interdependent we are. Yet some manage to believe that others depend more on them than they do on others, that they have the rightful privilege to employ hundreds of workers and be the ‘gods’ of their families dismissing the thought that without these ‘worshippers’ there would be no perfectly tailored Prada to boast of, no skyscrapers to wonder at and not even mineral water to drink. In fact, without these ‘worshippers’ the ‘gods’ will be left by themselves. After all we are nothing but mere players in a game of relativity.

I, at the age of nineteen have realized pretty much that I depend on millions of humans living across the globe. The water I drink, reaches after thousands have touched it, the staple items I eat, have been worked upon by thousands again, the sweaters I wear sweat hundreds of farmers, weavers, designers, tailors, distributors and salesmen before warming me and so on. I also realize that I am connected to millions in different ways. We all breathe the same air and the same sun shines on us. Sadly, not many ‘privileged’ people would love to acknowledge that. For many, as they believe, life is all about their cosy homes, the ‘best’ institutes or clubs they attend or corporations they work for and the couple of exotic locations they go to for vacations every year. I randomly asked a twenty-year-old what he thought life was all about and got ‘Life is all about style.’ as the answer. I asked another college mate what her aim in life was. She said that she wanted to be the best at whatever she did. The point here I am trying to make is that ‘privileged’ people especially in my surroundings tend to be insular. Such is the intensity of this insularity that nothing at all is visible beyond the comfort and glamour of life. Let’s see an example. Economists, whose sole purpose is to advise the government so as to improve living standards of the humans in that particular country are already guaranteed all the money that could buy them scrumptious meals, heavenly homes and luxurious cars. Can such people empathize with the common man? It’s not their fault; it’s their choice of surroundings’. Just as I would have been one of the most insular creatures, had I lived in that pretty world forever, it’s not a wonder that elites in my society too are indifferent. The only difference between them and my old self is that these people do get to see glances of the ugly scenes around them, whereas, I had not had even the remotest idea of the existence of such things.

Talking of insularity, I must say there are two kinds of factors that lead to it; optional and unavoidable ones. I’ll take the example of a conversation with an ex-college-mate of mine to explain this. This girl used to drop me home on her way back from college. Once, we stopped at a signal and a beggar came across asking for alms. And she almost jerked the lady off by saying that instead of begging she should ‘work hard’ and rightfully earn her living. Turning back to me she said out of sheer contempt that these beggars did nothing other than feeding on what others earned. And I couldn’t agree more with her, at least till then. Today, when I reflect on these beggars and other economically less privileged people I see nothing but our own faults mocking back at us. Imagine, you are born in a family which practically lives on the street. Your father is a drug addict and your mother has five other siblings of yours along with you to take care of. And all she can do is begging on the streets because no one would allow her to work at their place if she brought all her children along. She can’t let you all out of sight either because you are just three and your younger brother’s one. So having nothing to do on the streets and nothing to eat either, you start begging, which by the way isn’t a wonderful job. Most of the time people take their frustrations out on you even before you could do something. Even worse is when they just pretend that you don’t exist. This is when you really wonder what your fault was that made you so unlike those beings sitting in those warm cars while your fingertips and nose are freezing. You desirously look at the infants who are wrapped up in quilts while your scantily dressed younger brother is sick in the biting cold. Now, had I not seen such elements in my society, my insular attitude towards them elsewhere would have been of the first kind which I earlier mentioned, that is unavoidable. However, people who regularly are exposed to such things and yet do not dwell for a moment on how they play a role in making the lives of such elements miserable are what I call insular by choice.

Many would have flipped the page, rolled their eyes over or activated their defence mechanisms by now expecting me to call them for social volunteer work. Well, actually I am not. What I am saying here is that we are humans, brought in being by the same Creator, who has assigned certain responsibilities to all of us. Unfortunately, we try to adopt an ‘escapist’ genre of life. We are so lost in our careers, parties, looks and properties that honestly, we give don’t give even a damn how we achieve these things and what the effects are on the less privileged side of the society. Don’t get me wrong, I am not in favour of abandoning these gifts of Allah. It’s just that there is a way of enjoying His bounties.

The way, are you asking me what it is? Well, it’s all written in a book that we have carefully kept on the top of our bookshelves. So high a place it is kept in, out of reverence that it has vanished from our sights and thus, has been banished from our minds.