Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Do big cities intimidate you? Highs and lows of life

Puneet Rajhans : Do big cities intimidate you? Not for the sheer fact that you are one among many; not for the simple reason that your loyalty is not under constant scanner howsoever diabolical and demonical you have turned in the recent past; and definitely not for the means employed to rake in big bucks so that your associates (and counting) cheer you up. A Big No to these forces and the prime positioning of the cities is enough to turn you a wild streak.

A break away from a metropolis for close to a month, taking one to territories like Dwarka, Somnath, Ahmedabad, Nathdwara, Ajmer and Hampi, the debate appropriately leans towards the increasing ability of high centres of growth running you down or you standing to lose a lot if you don’t get attuned to the mutating mindset of these centres.

Enamoured by the opportunities offered by big centres of development, the people made a mad rush to cities/towns since 70s/80s. The rush which began from a trickle turned to a flood as the home theatre hardly had any promises tied to them. Among others, including cowbelt states, underwent pangs of separation as labour-cum-lettered class made exit for good. Not bewildered by these stories of estrangement, as the states consistently believed that they were overflowing with mass and mass of people.

Cut to 2008. As states like Punjab and Haryana face a severe crunch of hands available to till their land, this dip has been brought through a relocation of a good numbers to their parent state. Employment opportunities haven’t considerably improved overnight but the sheer fact that a majority can stay tied to 100 days of employment in a year is enough to secure their tryst with their homeland. Some call it a revolutionary step and some call it a scam loaded one but the gains are not difficult to trace. This is one among emerging tales. What about those who have relocated with lock stock and barrel to a metropolis? The big city conundrum hasn’t diluted their intrasingent nature to fix and brim. The undercurrents of resentment are too visible to be ignored. First the credentials take centrestage. As big cities are bedevilled by big appetite to take mass for a ride, there are other leaks/shortcomings that would frustrate your attempt to bat straight. The continued push towards!
madness (the overwhelming scramble to seek a slice of misadventure here and there leaves you high and dry). The enormity of challenges that visit you day after day are enough to set you on a rethink course. But the hope developing/mutating by the hour that something would favourably turn the tide keeps you tied to the territory.

Big cities have often been accused of misgovernance - and primarily the blame has been laid at the doorsteps of all those who have stayed put (migrants). A friction here or a factionalism there is bound to be there. Since the numbers are large , there are bound to be dissent and divisions down the middle. The overbearing image is of one where the mass is on a short fuse ( definitely not a miniscule proportion). Since the sea of humanity converges on roads everyday, is it mandatory for them to do so? The back and forth commute they undertake everyday bringing the creaking infrastructure talk look nonsensical when people haven’t learnt the nuances of moderation. The indulgences of a city freak are phenomenal- h/she aspires for more, more and more ( we are not just talking about gastronomical delight here). Want to splurge as the plastic money enables you to do so ; want to build another dwelling because “my moolah my dream” is the reigning mantra. Want to cut loose becaus!
e the sizeable options are there. All these add to the convulsions which few are ready to take as a smooth sail.

Long on the road of being polite and modest aren’t considered prudent here because the brazeness with which one can tend to scale past the contemporaries, cars and customs are enough to get you some cheerleaders, though shortlived.

As the day isn’t enough for roads to see bumper to bumper traffic, as the night sets in , the big cars share space with a large fleet of trucks who make these cities their transit point - and their growing numbers each day seem to suggest as if there is no tomorrow. It seems every second person is willing to fleece anyone by hook or crook. Say a query here or a transaction there, the element of brutality is rampant. Nothing on paper seems to suggest that anything is in order. All said and done the conscience seekers are a dwindling tribe as they are continuosly up against a wall. This necessarily doesn’t shower the exclusivity tag of appropriateness on subdued centres of growth; those willing and having temerity to bypass norms would be fairly less vis -a-vis high centres of growth.

On a broader scale, these small centres of growth are infused with a fabric of fostering camaraderie. Tales of progression need not be at the cost of other constituents. Mind you, these centres may not be entirely aloof from the influence of commercialisation but still the aberrations are few and far. A long spell of notoriety that big cities are witness to is almost absent here. Rents are low , rantings are less and a regime that works close to your heart. Though on the last count there may be some divisions down the middle but manageable to a good extent. As one soul told me that an accommodation could be secured in Nathdwara (where i was based from Aug 24th-30th) for as low as Rs 600 a month. As against this a city bred has to shell out a lot to secure an accommodation; rantings are all visible on issues of no import as denizens have lost the drift - skirmishes breaking out every other day has become a ritual.

Almost on most of the occasions in these sudued centres every query put forward or a favour sought is promptly attended (nothing to suggest of quid pro quo). For a commute the tribe that takes to walking for miles together is a growing one and if a ride in a rickshaw is undertaken it is primarily a shared one unlike a soul doing the rounds of a city in a limo.

No doubt these centres are besieged with their set of problems in their background, beginning with a depleted infrastructure, poor public health service and an attempt to stay intransigent on certain issues. But the discourse has it that with limited means they are able to live a life of their own not guided by extraneous considerations. Imitation is the best form of defence that doesn’t apply here.

Primarily these centres are meant to maintain sanity against all odds and not let the the devil get better of you. Camaraderie is easily visible at every stage of movement. Three cheers for that sentiment.

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Puneet Rajhans (prajhans2000@yahoo.co.in)
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