Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Why I wouldn't live in Uttar Pradesh

Visiting, yes. Living, no.

And here is why..

There are far too many guns around. And people apparently don’t believe in discreet pocketable guns. Here, size does matter. And they are pretty nonchalant about that too..people roam the streets with ancient rifles carelessly tossed on their shoulders, and no one blinks an eye. No one, that is, except the two researchers with fraying nerves. Here is M trying to forget that she is asking sensitive faith-related questions of an armed crowd.

Nothing underlines the ubiquitous nature of the gun-culture in UP as the shops where they are sold. I am used to dedicated arms shops with 'no loaded guns allowed' signs posted everywhere, with lots of transparent glass and other security measures. But look at the shop below. Guns, mobiles, toys and cosmetics- something for the entire family.

And then there are the everyday experiences.
 In the few days that I spent there, I saw far too much misery. There are far too many underage mothers..including a grandmother who was not more than in her late thirties. It was clear when I spoke to the people that there is massive siphoning of government funds into private pockets. The meal a day, anganwadi, local schools nothing functions. And then there is the violence. Too many arguments are settled by fights. And for too many people, the options are just to hunker down and accept the blows.

On day three of our surveys, we decided that we haven’t spoken to enough farmers, and need to meet some of them. Now this being a pilgrimage spot, farmers were pretty rare. And so when B, one of my colleagues, saw a pair digging far across the plains, he dashed off to add them to his trophy bag, so to speak. As he was running towards them, he realised that their agricultural technique was a little unusual. One of them was taking snaps of the event while the other was burying the corpse of a young woman. Sadly for B, there is no cover on those wide, treeless plains, and so he didn’t have the option of suddenly changing course or diving for cover. And so he had no option but to keep running till he was close to them. They were hospitable enough, and did not seem to mind an unexpected observer. The corpse was that of a sixteen-year old girl, they said, daughter and sister to these two. B prudently refrained from asking such questions as why was the burial in non-consecrated soil far away from everywhere, why only two people, and why did they feel the need for documenting this. He said, ‘oh, sorry to disturb you at such a sad time’ and was turning around to sprint back, presumably much faster this time, when they insisted that he go over the questionnaire with them. Since he ran here from so far away, they said. And he did come back a little trembly but triumphant. Our reaction? We have enough funeral-participants! We need farmers!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i don't know how to react.

am touched, shocked.

on a more selfish note-
you and this 'M who questions gunmen'--
please stay safe, okay?