Posted by Prahi
She keeps her head down, bites down the urge to scratch the corner above her ear, holds the pot tightly to her chest, not a single spill and keeps walking, head down, determined to manage at least two more walks before the sun sets, one foot in front of the other, methodically, straight line, concentrating. She is a girl with a purpose on the road—this dirty road whose project was abandoned midway, the promises of development were projected loud and clear everyday, in between frequent breaks for murders of the ones who questioned the promises.
There were private handshakes in air conditioned rooms and power exchanged hands, the government found it more economical to hand over the project to businessmen, in auction rooms with their thick scent of greed, whose walls displayed that iconic poster of Mother India, as is mandatory almost, bludgeoned and sacrificed, sold like everyone and everything is.
These businessmen who know what the nation wants, while the migrant labour swelters in the July heat, awaiting the result of the holdup, waiting as they do for something better to come along, but there never is, just different attractive packages of exploitation.
We all come with a price tag, the irony of a motherland and a “helpless” woman escapes them, while the passionate slogans of, ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ still echoes around the village, around people who couldn’t care less because their land wasn’t theirs to claim, and that their thatched huts were as temporary as their citizenship. These businessmen who know what the nation wants, while the migrant labour swelters in the July heat, awaiting the result of the holdup, waiting as they do for something better to come along, but there never is, just different attractive packages of exploitation.
They were, as we know them, through the jargon, daily wage workers, so each day that goes by without them using their hands and their hunched backs that don’t stand straight, like a gesture of gratefulness; grateful to provide their backs on which the great nation will be built. And this image right here is what we live for, like vultures feeding ourselves the carcasses of deprivation, is an additional day that they don’t get paid, the hunger surmounts, both for work and for a decent meal that can satiate a grown man’s appetite.
But the undisclosed arguments between the private shareholders couldn’t come to a resolution that benefited all the parties that were involved, undisclosed as in not made public for the people who have no stakes in the business. So we are back on this ambitious project of a road, with Mala, and some boys who have found in this government sanctioned misery of walking ten kilometres for water, a new way to harass young girls, their bicycles leaning against one another, sharing the weight of machismo with each other because this midday, everyday ritual of cooing and coaxing girls isn’t done singlehandedly.
They were, as we know them, through the jargon, daily wage workers, so each day that goes by without them using their hands and their hunched backs that don’t stand straight, like a gesture of gratefulness; grateful to provide their backs on which the great nation will be built.
What’s one to do when rejected?
Mala travels further than her mother’s feet carry her—they are cracked and old, so she rests frequently, slowing the impatient girl down, and somewhere out there, twenty kilometres to the right, there is a cameraman zooming in on them, for a personal angle. He wants a bite-size quote, but he has been brusquely told not to interfere for the hours are precious and their walks are, if they can manage it, perfectly timed.
But the evening news with its regurgitated water crisis content needs a new face today, so he sticks around, to watch, and make “meaning” of people and life, with his camera, without getting too close, which can be misconstrued as help, and his hands are already full. His job doesn’t entail that.
Moreover, his job is to document the “truth” about our collective mismanagement, and that requires leaving a few bits out, unsavoury bits like Mala being a student, and this being a Sunday, so she is helping her mother out, or that their tap is broken, so they have to undergo this “drudgery” today, that this is not their daily life, but the TV screens live for helplessness, for an all-consuming poverty that doesn’t provide options, the dehumanisation that touches our hearts but leaves the anger undisturbed, because to disturb the zen would be a waste of a sixty minute yoga class, the hullabaloo around whose mismanagement led to such a disaster is a necessity, a background noise during dinner, to kill the silence of an aged marriage, the images make the viewers feel thankful for their own existence, and they reach out for another incense stick to smoke out the bad juju as they cushion themselves on the plush sofa to educate their minds.
Mala travels for water, without knowing that her life is a one-dimensional fodder for people she doesn’t know, and probably never will. That this one day of her life, just like any other day, except for this one long walk, will be turned into a story, the cameraman travels for the truth, the viewers travel outside their, what is it called, comfort zone, to watch the “real” India, while they pack their bags for that vacation to Catalonia in eight weeks, ”rich” cultural history and all that. It makes for an invigorating conversation upon return at the next brunch with the Mehtas, and the drama continues, with a new headline tomorrow.
Featured Image Source: The State Press
When Prahi’s not casually slipping in the rehearsed vocabulary of her liberal arts, gender studies degree, in lighthearted conversations, unapologetically, she can be found dancing, on her good days when she’s not too critical of herself. She’s usually very active on Instagram, and nowhere else, except on my blog.