Monday, April 24, 2006

Drive To The Finish

For those of you waiting for Abhishek's next Guest Post on my blog, the wait is over. Time to fasten our seat belts. Abhishek in the driver's seat.

I have been travelling a lot in the last few months. By rail, by road and by air. And when you travel, you are bound to get co-passengers. When I board a flight, I have my eyes open, "looking forward" to a pleasant flight with some pretty stranger(read female) who will bring some sort of romance to my rather mundane existence. Well mundane is only partially correct, as I generally don't have an idea of where am I going to spend my next night. But then again, working till 3 in the morning isn't the most romantic thing either. Also, factories and offices in far flung areas are not particularly high in beauty quotient. So the eyes, do look forward to some NSP(for those who don't know this term it means - Nayan Sukh Prapti) which one can usually get on most airports and flights. Hence, the "looking forward" on my part. And during security check and while waiting for the flight, one can generally identify a few "good uns" and then hope for the best. But as luck will have it my co-passengers invariably turn out to be middle aged corporates or veteran grandpas. And the "good uns" are always tantalisingly close..... a row or two in front or behind. Close, but not close enough..... But then again, that has been the story of my romantic career.... one which hasn't gone an inch ahead since I came down a mini-bus at Deshopriyo Park sometime in August,2001.

If our railway stations can screw it up, can our airport be far behind?? While waiting for a train to Kolkata at the Bhubaneswar railway station, we go to the Enquiry to know the platform no. We get a prompt response - its coming on Platform no. 2. So we cross the over head bridge(it was tempting to cross over the tracks, but carrying luggage which had our company logos, prevented us from the misadventure!!) at mid-day carrying our luggages. 10 mins later we are informed that the train will arrive on Platform no. 1, where we were previously standing. Unnecessary hassles for passengers getting baked in nearly 40* C temperatures. The next day I am in the Netaji Subhash Airport to catch a flight to Mumbai. After the security check, there is this immaculately dressed airlines official who tells me that boarding will be from the first floor. And you feel how far the railways are lagging behind their more "elevated" competitors. But wait a second mate, rather half an hour!! 10 mins before the flight when people have already begun to make a queue at the designated gate, that same immaculately dressed airlines official comes to tell the folks that the boarding will be from the ground floor!! An announcement like that can sure bring one back down to earth all those already dreaming about the sky and what they intend to do up there( people like me i.e.).

Just another topic "about being on the move", a slightly dicey one though. I spent my childhood in Patna, a city which ,despite having some fatal flaws such as lawlessness and a lack of good roads and public transport, I love the most. And I also identify myself with Biharis everywhere as my own people. And I have to say that Biharis have given me more love and acceptance than any other community. So every time I meet someone from Bihar, I feel I am meeting someone from my land. Rather, I am someone which they have made me as their own( I happen to be Bengali by birth who spent his first 15 years and 10 months as a resident of Patna). And I can instinctively recognise a Bihari, the moment I hear one speaking Hindi. I understand the expressions and the flavour too well to mistake it. The thing is from Hyderabad to Mumbai and to taxis in Kolkata, I meet lots of Bihari drivers. Poor people, who have had to leave the state to search for a livelihood. So the thoughts that come to my mind are:

1) Why should so many Biharis (still) have to leave the state and look for their livelihood by working as cheap labour, drivers etc. I am not looking down at these people. In fact I am proud of the fact that they earn their living by sheer hard work and courage. The thing that bothers me is the lack of opportunity for employment for the people of Bihar coming out of places such as Darbhanga or Bhagalpur or Chhapra.

2) Education + Bihari = Deadly combo, there is a community in Orkut which goes by this name or something like it. What is the educated Bihari youth which has the world at its feet(I honestly believe that Biharis are the smartest people out there) doing for Bihar?? In how many years will Bihar be a part of India's economic mainstream, when will people from Punjab and Tamil Nadu aspire to work in a company in Patna as they do now to work in Bangalore or Hyderabad??

3) To end on a more positive note, considering the number of Bihari drivers going around, the next Narain Karthikeyan should be a Bihari, we have a natural inclination for the wheel (think steerings, Chakka Jam rallies, Janata Dal etc).

4) Looking at the "punnier" side of things, I am inclined to say that all said and done, it is the Biharis who are "driving" our nation ahead! Forgive me for this one, I couldn't resist it.

Any Bihari or a well wisher of Bihar should at least think about what I have written and post a comment. A more proactive response is desirable, though.


Take care

Abhishek
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