Development is a matter of opinion, a matter of degree. Although it affects everybody, it’s effect differs greatly and is quite subjective.
As a busy but silent onlooker who was helping the maids rip some corn out of its shy shell, I couldn’t help but overhear their nervous chatter. ‘All this corn leftover would be good fodder for your goat’ , suggested one Bai to a young, over zealous kid who works as a petty do-it-all at our house. The other Bai, eager to contribute with her vast knowledge of goats said ‘Do you know that a goat’s urine is an excellent cure for TB?’. Everybody nodded. It was common knowledge in that circle. I was silently shocked at this trivia but I smiled knowingly because I wanted to fit in. The young boy, beaming now, because he was the privileged owner of goat-urine, quipped,’ I love drinking tea made of my goats milk too. It’s not just healthy but tasty too’. ‘Not if the goat has been fed too many onion leftovers!!’ Laughed the Fat Bai. Hilarious but subtly disgusting.
‘Who needs goat’s urine now-a-days? We have doctors and they have medicines that cure you in a jiffy ‘. I couldn’t make out if the Old Bai was happy or annoyed at that fact. ‘Did you see your name in the list for the new ration card?’ Ration Card. The comfortable identity of the poor, the blessing showered by the gods in the government. A trump card of sorts, a magic book that gives them food grains for free almost. The politics of the hungry.
The Old Bai was sorted. Hence the mocking question. The Fat Bai snorted, ‘ Not yet. But I’m sure it’ll come soon’. Elections are coming as well. A lot of votes depend on that list. She knows, The Fat Bai understands The Politics of The Hungry. She realizes the power of the little black dot on her middle finger.
She’s aware. Still being beaten up my a drunk man at home. But educated about how the government has planned to please her.
This is subjective progress. Convenient progress. They have embraced that part of development that does not demand them to change their attitudes. They have moved forward, yet ironically are at the same convenient mindset.
Development has skimmed the surface of their lives but not their minds. They are alright with the knowledge that they are being used as mere pawns in The Game of Thrones. For a little bit of gain, they have forsaken the opportunity to play a productive part in The Fate of Democratic India.
In the disguise of modernism and leaps in technology, their flat screen TVs and not-so-smartphones sit as trophies of the ever-developing India.
Their sons drop out of schools. Their daughters elope with strangers. Their husbands spend all their earnings at the local wine shop. But they have a Ration Card. They have The Blessing.
What else could they ask for? Government is making them construct roads under its meaningful employment scheme, it’s letting them stay in their huts for free, it’s feeding them semi-grade grains to their heart’s content.
‘All for you!’ , they say. You are the true sons of the soil. And I am your step mother. I’ll feed you but I won’t let you grow. I’ll make you aware of your duties but I won’t educate you about your rights. I’ll give you a pain killer but I won’t cure your disease.
In blissful ignorance, the boy smiled. ‘I am going to vote for the hand’, he said. The same hand that has slapped him.