The Other Side of Development


Don’t worry, I won’t go all Amartya Sen on you. But as promised (see The Pilot Post), I will share my social organization escapades with you.

In no terms am I anti-development, in fact, I have always extolled the merits of development and how it is vital for our country. But this experience has made me question my judgment. It was shocking to see the lack of importance given to human life and dignity, its like they don’t even exist for these people. The people who have money on their minds but they gift wrap these ambitions in the universally accepted goal of ‘Development’.

What started off as an innocuous field trip turned into a mind shattering rendezvous with the truth. A truth which has been ever-present but always disregarded. There are two Indias- on one side there is more than 70% of the people living in rural areas and on the other side, the urban inhabitants. Both the groups are ignorant of the way the other lives. In reality, the urban dwelling population will do everything in its power to not even acknowledge the other’s presence. Perhaps, they are terrified of what they might find?

We talk about development as being vital for this country and how the GDP should grow in leaps and bounds. We talk about industries, SEZs and every other way to increase production. So, the Land Acquisition Act (which enables the government to reclaim land for development) becomes a source of power in this tale of money lust. A whole network of people (from the government, industries and bureaucracy) lobbies in order to illegally reclaim land for money minting industries. The fertile land is shown as barren land so that it can be acquired.

Development is not the predicament here but the way in which it is carried out is. It will leave you speechless if you really see it for yourself. Majority of the people in these villages sustain because of farming and animal rearing, their land is taken from them and they are left with nothing to live on. Some stone crushing units and mines which sprung up right in the middle of the villages (ignoring the law which establishes a threshold of some distance between the industries and the villages) have destroyed the villages, have damaged the houses (one house I saw, had cracks as big as if it had survived a very high magnitude earthquake) and according to the local stories the stones fly all over the village and can hit anyone anytime. It is like living on a live volcano.

My earlier thinking was industries lead to employment and a better way of life. However, the ground realities are entirely different. What about the houses that are completely destroyed; the land, the villagers have lived on for generations, and most importantly, is this employment a sufficient compensation for what they have lost financially?

This ain’t no movie! People have actually been killed for raising their voice. What’s worse is the mining culture that develops with these industries; the outsiders who come to work in the mines have become a threat to the security of young girls and women in the villages. Some gruesome incidents were recounted which made me absolutely shudder.

This, however, does not divide the people into good guys and bad guys. All humans are capable of either good or bad, but this collective ambition to selfishly replenish their bags of cash is disconcerting. Why should the villagers pay the price for having homes in a place that caught the fancy of these so-called developers? Don’t they have any value at all?

These self-proclaimed developers are plunderers who will stop at nothing to get what they want. They see, they decide and they conquer. The lands are acquired and the poor rural people are left with nothing. Wouldn’t this be pushing the people to take up arms and revolt? Wouldn’t this be literally pushing them over the edge? Then the usual response is to brand them as Terrorists. Have we learnt nothing from the Maoist Movement?

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Wanderlust Explained:

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By this post, I will attempt to talk about this ‘ wanderlust’ which affects us. On reflecting, I realized that not just the humans; but even a lot of migratory animals are affected by it. Specifically, some birds never stay put in one place all their life.  Perhaps that is why they have wings; so that they can fly?

How many times have you wanted to be someplace else as opposed to where you are right now? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a place you want to travel to, it could simply be a shopping mall, a cinema, a park or a yearning for some fresh air.

Travel is just a part of the Wish:

The yearning to travel is just a part of the whole scenario.

Is it just me or everyone feels like there is something out there to be experienced, discovered and lived. Not that there is anything wrong with the way we are living our present lives but there is a vacuum, a chasm ; if you will, somewhere  deep inside which can only be filled by this pursuit of the desire to discover something which  hitherto is unknown. Think about the gazillion cultures, tribes, cults, religions, places and tales just waiting to be explored, exposed and revealed!!!

At this point, it would be wrong not to mention the Inner Travel and Outer Travel.

According to me, any travel experience which entails travelling to any place, we are not familiar with would constitute two things on a basic level, an inner experience and an outer experience.

The outer experience would embrace the aesthetic beauty which we will see, natural like beautiful beaches, valleys, mountains and also manmade like beautifully designed buildings and cultural architecture.

However, the inner experience responds directly with the soul. So, you not only see things with your eyes but also with your soul… There is something about the sight of the magnificent ocean or the never-ending snow-covered mountain range, which communicates with you at an atavistic level. It strikes you at a spiritual level and makes you realize how insignificant you really are, how trivial your sorrows and pains, how ludicrous your struggles…..

Every travel experience changes something about you or rather teaches you something about yourself you didn’t know, the reason being that we are faced with unfamiliar circumstances and situations , things we are not used to and the way we react to them acquaints us with a part of our personality we didn’t know existed. So it really helps us grow. Every travel has changed me a little, my perspective in certain things.  It makes you aware about new things; things you didn’t know existed or cared about before, perhaps.

Does it signify a yearning for Freedom/ Emancipation?

Could this mean that the human soul really desires freedom when it wants to discover new things, new places , new people? Freedom to live beyond their societal boundaries by assimilating with different cultures and different ways of life? Maybe the soul was really not meant to live in these manmade boundaries, these boundaries which define how to live and how not to live.

What is strange is that every culture has a specific way to live and deal with things, so which one is really the correct way? How do we know that?

At this point, my saner self tells me, hey everything you wish to know and discover is right beside you, with you and around you. But how will I know that unless I do this, unless I give into this wanderlust and see where it takes me?

What is Honor:To do or not to Do?

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One of my fondest memories of my recent Goa trip, strangely, is a book I bought from the famous Singbal Bookstore which is located on the Church Square in Panaji ( Panjim), infact even Lonely Planet recommends this place.

I was in my Turkish- writer’s phase and decided to give Honor by Elif Shafak a chance. Since I had read the Forty Rules of Love and enjoyed it.

On the cover it looks like any other oft- written book about immigrants to foreign lands. However, this book grapples with a lot of other fundamental questions which are beautifully weaved into the plot. What is Honour? What are we really protecting ‘this’ for? And most importantly, from whom? Why is ‘honour’ only associated with women?

It is a powerful story set in Turkey and London, which roughly covers three generations. Adem and his wife Pembe immigrate to London from Turkey in search of a good life.  It highlights the differences between the Turkish and Kurdish people. Shafak highlights the question of Identity crisis which is faced by immigrants and even the generations that follow. It follows the lives of these family members which are shattered by an act of a brutal murder.

The protagonist, Iskender, a young seventeen year old is made to choose between honour and love and he ends up murdering his own Mother for the sake of ‘honour’. On finding out that she was having an affair with another man after his father abandons the family he is made to choose since he is the head of the family, being the eldest male in the family.

It makes you question the significance of love and blood ties. Peculiarly, by the end of the book a feeling of allegiance can be associated with Iskender and I wanted a happy ending for him, despite his cold blooded act.

Shafak managed to bring out the notion that you can’t hate the sinner; it is the sin that is condemn-able since behind everything there is a reason.

This was a good buy. Nothing is worse than paying for a bad book.

My next post will be about the beautiful Andamans!!