(picture courtesy: Arindam Mohanty)
I went on one of my crazy trips recently. Stuck without access to my computer, I was forced to stare out of the window and watch the everyday hustle of the rural village folks and urban slum dwellers.
My mind wandered, with nothing else to do, and I suddenly realised that I couldn’t get my eyes off the village and slum folks. I realised that I deep down on some level, I actually envied them a little.
I wondered for a moment whether I would like to be in their shoes, but knew that I wouldn’t last. I was a superficial urban being, having grown up in the cities and been a victim (as I liked to believe) of the ‘negative’ influence of western media. I couldn’t possibly give up my computer, mobile phone, broadband internet and other superficial joys like KFC and coffee houses that sucked up my money with a sadistic joy, like most capitalist establishments do. I was spoilt and could never live without those ‘fancy treats’, but these village folks could or maybe had to.
As I continued to stare shamelessly at the kids who scrambled around the country side, I realised that while we urban beings sigh with sympathy for the poor, they actually enjoy some things that we don’t and may never experience.
1. The simple pleasures of life
For us today, fun has become directly proportional to the amount of cash spent. And as our greedy desires want more, we remain unsatisfied creatures. We do not value what we have and never will, but instead spend our lives consumed by the demon of ‘want’.
I recently bought myself a vanilla ice cream cup and enjoyed it. I enjoyed it because it was after ages that I was relishing something simple. I had for a long time not considered the joy that the simpliest of ice cream flavours can give. After all, with flavours like Rocky Mountain, Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate Chip, Triple Chocolate Chip and Bangalore’s deadly Death by Chocolate floating around, one would look at you weirdly if you asked for a simple plain-looking vanilla cup. (Even this argument of mine actually shows how urbanely spoilt I actually am).
The simple things are often the things that provide an individual with real happiness. (Watch a child play with a random stick on the road and you’ll know what I’m talking about.) And we don’t have it, but the simple village and slum folks do.
2. A community
Another element that we lack in our supposed sophisticated urban circle is a community.
I have spent most of my life in Delhi and Pune, and in both those cities, one generally does not know their next door neighbour. We do not mix but instead turn our noses up at one another in distrust and suspicion.
I have heard of many instances in villages, when a child’s parents pass away and the village brings the child up as one of their own. That same child would have a whole different story if born in an urban set up.
I think the keyword here is ‘belonging’. I have never felt like I belonged anywhere. And for that reason often hesitate when asked where I’m from. But if you ask a person from a village where he is from, he would respond without a moments hesitation, even if he has migrated to the city.
Such is the feeling of belonging that exists in their community; a joy that many of us KFC crunching urbans would never understand.
The joy of simple things and the feeling of belonging, i.e. inclusion, are some of the principles on which Oasis function, and as a young fish driven to this new pond by that sigh of sympathy, I can only chuckle in amusement at how the supposedly “under privileged” people probably look at me and sigh. “Poor guy, he doesn’t belong,” they’d say!
This blog was also used in the February 2011 edition of our Online Newsletter. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.