Archive for January, 2010
At long last, there is a ray of hope for the long-suppressed forward castes in India. Ever since independence there had been attempts to portray the entire forward castes as socially and economically ahead of all other castes, with the result that the poor among the so called forward communities were driven from pillar to the post to get admissions in colleges or to get some jobs. The politicians, irrespective of the party they belong to, looked the other way when brought to their notice the plight of the poor among the forward castes.
The good news for the forward communities came in the form of a Kerala govt order (upheld by the Kerala High Court), reserving 10 percent seats in government colleges for forward communities under the ‘Below poverty line’.
The Kerala High court deserves congratulations for its bold observation that the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward communities had undergone a revolutionary change. The court also said that the time had come to awaken these communities from the slumber of satiated insouciance. “These communities must realize that overindulgence of the government in extending benefits will only stunt their growth”, the court added. In due course, the reservation should be solely based on economic backwardness since social backwardness is a thing of the past.
In India, the freelance writers or activists who champion the cause of the weak often come out with their views on gender discrimination, communalism and similar topics but they are in the habit of viewing things from their own narrow angle and give us a stereotyped picture of these topics. The other day, I happened to read an article based on a report that India was at the rock bottom insofar as gender equality is concerned. In this connection, I am tempted to write a few words.
When it comes to gender equality, India may still be at the bottom, as pointed out by a free lance writer. What has been in practice for centuries will not disappear in a decade or two but things are not all that bad. Women in India are surging ahead and making their presence felt in schools, colleges and work places, though some men and women are vying with each other to pamper boys at the expense of girls, how so ever brilliant they are.
We have thousands of women in politics too, not as puppets but as powerful leaders. Ironically if there are still stumbling blocks which prevent women’s onward march, women themselves are responsible!
The south junction railway station was noisy and crowded. There were long queues in front of the ticket counters. Nobody was free and leisurely. The man at the information center was blurting-out some ready made answers to the eager passengers. Dozens were standing before the telephone booth and on top of this, there were the pestering beggars, porters and the handicapped who were selling lottery tickets. One could also hear announcements at regular intervals in Malayalam, Hindi and English about the arrival and departure times of the trains, indicating the platform numbers as well. It was just the week end rush and there was nothing unusual about it.
Madhavan, who was standing in one of the queues looked ahead. One, two, three, he counted; there were about 10 to 15 people ahead of him. He was getting impatient but there was no need to worry, for there was still an hour for his train to arrive. Anyway, it was not all that boring. There was the less fortunate ones who were far behind him in the queue; there were those who only had a couple of minutes before their train departed. There were the ones who were bargaining with the porters and also the more pathetic ones, who were in need of a few coins and notes of lesser denomination to tender correct change for their tickets.
The slow progress at the ticket counters was sickening. Madhavan cursed the clerks who took their own sweet time to issue tickets. At this rate, it would take at least 30 minutes before his turn came. He closed his eyes for a while and looked around as he moved inch by inch, rather mechanically. At long last he was so close to the counter with just two persons ahead of him; but as fate would have it, he saw a middle aged chap pushing his way to the platform unaware of the fact that his purse had slipped down from his pocket.
The purse was lying close to the information centre and nobody had noticed it. If that chap lost his purse, it was his fate. One man’s misfortune is other man’s fortune. There was no necessity to act according to the dictates of his conscience. He picked up the purse and placed it safely in his handbag. After all, it won’t make any difference if he postponed the weekend visit to his house next week. People are clever these days; they don’t keep much in their purse while they are on travel; may be a few hundreds. What next? He must leave the place immediately: otherwise if by any chance he happened to see that chap who lost his purse the gentlemen in him would be tempted to hand over the purse to its owner. So, off he went to the nearest restaurant and ordered for a cup of tea. There were only a few persons at the restaurant. The bearer brought the tea in a minute and as soon as he left the table, Madhavan fished out the purse from his hand bag. He looked around and opened the purse and to his utter disappointment, there was not even a 50 paise coin in it except a few folded slips, an identity card and a railway ticket. His first impulse was to throw the purse away, but since there were some personal belongings Madhavan decided to find out the owner of the purse. He returned to the station and took a quick look at the vague crowd that stood before the ticket counters. He had only a vague picture of the chap from whose pocket the purse dropped to the ground while he himself was standing in the queue. That chap was wearing a yellow shirt and blue pants though Madhavan could not recall his face.
Even as Madhavan was making wide search for that chap a police constable who was standing near the information counter called him and asked “what’s the matter? I’ve been watching you for quite sometime now. You look like a decent chap but if you are up to some tricks, I shall be left with no choice”. Madhavan smiled and told the police constable the facts. “In that case, you go to the waiting room or to the railways restaurant or to the boom stall or………”. Madhavan was off in a jiffy without waiting for the policeman to complete his sentence. It seemed that he and the police constable were on the same wavelength, for he had already thought of this idea but he was without a platform ticket. Now that he had the permission of the policeman, he was free to go all over the platform. The chap was not to be found in the waiting room or the restaurant. Madhavan walked up and down the platform and to his relief, he saw a chap with yellow shirt and blue pants sitting on a bench in the 3rd platform. Since no train was due at that time, he took the short cut across the railway tracks to the 3rd platform and approached the chap who was sitting on a bench and asked him in a hushed voice, “Sir, have you lost anything? I mean, a purse or something…..” The chap said, “No”. May be he was not yet aware of his loss. “Please make sure……..”. This time, the yellow shirt was emphatic, “No, No….Please leave me alone”. Madhavan was disappointed though he was sure it was the very same fair skinned chap. Anyway, it was his loss and if he were so adamant, let him suffer, Madhavan thought as he walked away. Meanwhile the police constable who seemed disinterested in this matter, became alert on seeing the behavior of the chap with the yellow shirt. Madhavan was a little upset when he saw the policeman crossing over to the 3rd platform and walking towards him.
“Sir, he says it is not his purse. Shall we leave it at that?” Madhavan asked.
“No. wait a minute. I’ll deal with him”, so saying he dashed towards the chap, much to the embarrassment of Madhavan. The yellow shirt stood up and moved off as if nothing happened but the police man shouted, “Hey….you there stop”. The man stopped there fearing high handedness from the policeman. Madhavan watched the proceedings from a distance and could not know what transpired between them. Then, he saw the yellow shirt being dragged towards the police cabin adjacent to the station master’s room.
When the police came out Madhavan asked, “What happened Sir?” That chap is a pickpocket. He did the job while the owner of the purse was boarding the train bound for the steel city. Anyway, the purse is safe with us and also the money.
Madhavan thanked the police and left the place cursing himself for trying to be good Samaritan. He was only a shade better than the pickpocket.