This happened a couple of weeks back. I have been wanting to share this with you but like a plethora of other things, this got submerged in my ever piling bucket list.
You may not think of this as something big but it kind of hurt me somewhere deep inside and I find it challenging to express myself in words and the feeling that encompassed me then and now.
I travel by train to and fro from work. Okie, 2 trains, one LRT and a bus. Yes, I can be as crazy as my travel. “So, whatever happened to Singapore is a small place?”, you ask me? Well, it is but then small is always relative right?
Not digressing but providing you with a context there.
So this conversation happened in one of my travels. It is hardly a conversation because it was probably just a couple of dialogues.
I was sitting in one of the reserved seats for the pregnant, elderly and those with physical disabilities. Before you tsk tsk at me, let me gently share the fact that everyone had a seat and so I thought it okay to grab myself one and this was THE only one.
I must have dozed off because let me be honest here, I occupy a reserved seat to sleep coz’ it bolsters my dancing head. And then, I felt someone tapping on my shoulder. It was a train service personnel who wanted to “gently” remind me that there is an elderly man in the compartment. I got up immediately, still in daze and feeling guilty. After offering him a seat which he politely refused saying that all he does at work is to sit in one place and hence wants some stretrching, I further insisted. Reluctantly and smiling beautifully, he sat down.
He was accompanied by a family member. I have no idea what the relationship was and it doesn’t matter here. So, she started telling me how the work is so sedentary and it makes us all the more tired when we sit in one place all day. It is so true. And then after some of this glib talk, I started reading something.
As the station where they had to get off neared, she told me that she will be getting off. Suddenly, she noticed my bangle. A small note about the bangle. I was wearing a red bangle with a wide groove which is fitted with another gold bangle. I wear it coz’ I am relatively newly married and so kind of did not want to remove it
and show off.
She looked at it and asked me “Very nice. Gold ah?” I smiled and said “Yes, it is.”
She: Oh, newly married? (She was a Chinese lady but kind of knew a lot, I thought.)
Me: Ah, yes. Kind of. hehe
She: Oh, I thought. Dowry ah?
Me: (shocked) No, it was a gift from my mother in law. (Not knowing what more to say in such a short time given that the train stopped at her station)
A million questions ran in my head then. I get angry and upset when India is known by unpleasant features. I admit it maybe a feature. Am not going to be euphemistic about it. It is a big big challenge our society faces and has its roots deep inside our structure. Okay, agreed. But c’mon, that’s not all, right? I maybe over-reacting but I felt pained. Miserably. I felt pained that I could not explain in detail how there are so many families that don’t ask for dowry. And how dowry is not what every married woman wears as jewellery.
There are million other instances many of you may have come across where opinions are formed and impressions are created. People judge people, people judge traits etc. Jokes are made and labels attached. Given the variegated sections in our world, it is only natural for this to happen. And we’d be foolish to let this affect us deeply.
Or so I thought.
Turns out, I succumbed to it as well. I felt hurt because I want people to talk of India as a beautiful country. Only because, India IS that. Because inspite of female infanticides, there are adoptions of girl babies. Inspite of corruption, there are passionate workers who slog it to get into Public Service and help people genuinely, coz’ that makes them happy. Inspite of bad roads, uncovered potholes, there are new metros. Inspite of never ending delays in constructions of anything, there are completed projects. Inspite of communal riots, there are amazing groups of multi-cultural, multi-lingual friends who communicate across barriers using broken speech and sheer eye contact. Inspite of dusty road travel and long train journeys, people love them because the sights are too beautiful to miss. And inspite of impure drinking water that seem to affect the interstinal walls of visitors, there is the most amazing roadside panipuris, masalapuris, bhel, dahi puri and all of that chaat and the most most most most amazing food. I could go on and on only to end up being too emotional.
If everything was “perfect” (which again is a term that makes no sense to me coz’ everything is so relative) then everything would be so mechanical. Frankly, it would make me happy to get my paper work done in no time and pay no one etc but lets face it – it is not happening unless we try and we are not trying much. But still, it doesn’t change everything, no? Attempts are being made in whatever measure. Ours is a huuuuuuuuge diverse country and whom are we comparing ourselves with? We’ll get there, get nearer to better-dom. We have miles to go, yes. But that shouldn’t stop us from celebrating what we have now, right?
I want to change perceptions. It is like, I have this burning desire to make everyone see and experience what I feel. I know that expression you have now.
But after all, I guess it is for them to opine and us to know, right?