“India is a land of unity in diversity”, said my teacher when I was very young.
However, this quote did not hold true for long; especially in my adolescent days. Frankly, I do not have an issue with it. Believing the quote, I have lived in 5 cities across the country. I am from a native Hindi speaking community which makes me a North Indian for the people in Bangalore (rather Bengaluru). They have their reasons; just as some of us refer to all of them as Madrasis, incorrectly.
The fact is that people address each other with varied names; some out of respect, some out of jealousy, some out of anger, some out of love, some out of revenge. I guess this is the way we are united; not by diversity of customs or traditions or language but diversity in the way we express hatred. We get enough occasions to see this; the most prominent being before, after and during elections. I came across one such incident this morning.
Here’s What Happened:
I take a bus every day from my residence to work. The buses are designated to stop only at the bus stops. However, one can board and de-board if it is a red signal. And that’s what I follow almost every day. It was a usual day and I got on a bus going towards the Majestic bus stop. I confirmed if it would cross my work location and hopped in. I bought my ticket the moment the conductor came asking for one. There was a girl who was skipped by the conductor due to the crowd. Neither did she ask for the ticket nor was she noticed by anyone. As she was about to get down on the next stop, the conductor’s eyes spotted the girl and he asked her politely, “Do you have the ticket, ma’am?”
To this, she raised her voice and replied arrogantly, “I got on the bus and no one came to ask for the tickets; it is your irresponsibility that you missed me.”
Needless to say, the driver and the conductor were both red with rage, not only because she had already deboarded without a ticket at her stop but also because she communicated in Hindi. There is something in this part of the country that makes me feel alienated. The female had broken a rule and spoken rudely.
Nonetheless, the reaction of the driver-ticket collector duo left me in anguish. Before my stop arrived, there were numerous other halts and signals without any designated bus stops where the bus halted to allow the passengers to board the bus. There were no Hindi speaking people on the bus. The conductor kept yelling and cursing about the girl. It was time for my stop and I was supposed to get down at the signal.
We were three people and when we asked the conductor and driver to open the gates while the bus stood at the signal, the answer that came from their end was, “Weren’t you asked to get down when the bus had stopped? This is not where we should be allowing the passengers to get down. Hence, you need to get a ticket for the next stop”.
I did not see the point in arguing with the man and handed him the amount. The second guy was a Bengali and he yelled in his broken Hindi mixed with English. All in vain. The poor fellow suffered due to us and could not get down at the 30-second halt at the signal and ended up walking 2.5 km to his office. The third guy, however, was not asked to pay just because he was a native of the state.
The issue is not of buses, neither of the people, but something we have been brought up with. Of course, it is impossible to learn every other language on the planet. This does not imply one disrespects and discriminates merely on the basis of place of origin. This issue prevails in varied forms that remain unnoticed and are not discussed even in the urban areas. It also prevails across the country, throughout the globe. Trade flourishes due to the exchange of ideas, customs and travel. The purpose is not to eradicate oneself from one’s native land. Instead, the agenda is to accept and let live. We should let the foreign ideas thrive while keeping integrity intact.
Long live India, but will it?
Travel without restrictions, but do we?
Accept without conditions, but can we?