Monday, 26 May 2014

The village to the city ...

moving to the city … Sukanya moved to Tirupathi for her nursing course and subsequent nursing job. Vishnu moved later to Tirupathi for her ITI, after her tenth. Turiya moved to Madras at the age of ten. The three best friends spanning an age gap of ten years, would meet in the village. They would tell each other how they intensely they miss the village and share notes on their city experiences.

From the nurses at the hospital  to the upper middle class children in Chennai, their observations about city children were similar. Sukanya would quote her fellow nurses as saying, “We are wearing the smallest pair of gold earrings we have. We have five other pairs at home.” Turiya would say how her classmates in Chennai would lie to one another about the sizes of their homes and about the cars they possessed. Sukanya told them how the other nurses had driven her to tears by sneering at the big grained rough rice she brought for lunch. And how her mother then offered to buy her costlier rice for her tiffin box if she wanted, and then how she decided it was not worth spending more than they could afford just to impress others. Turiya told her how her friends sneer at her tiffin box because her mother does not send Maggie noodles or Lays chips. And how they even taste some of the chappati, and spit it out saying it is awful. Vishnu saw her past catch up with her as the  fact that she had studied in a Telugu medium school meant that she found the learning more difficult here. She said the teachers were also biased against her as the other parents who came to see their wards would meet the teachers and impress them and in her case, it was obvious that her parents were dalits and uneducated. The other children also did not speak with  her. Turiya, Vishnu and Sukanya realized that the  lack of culture they face in cities is a general issue, and that it is not anything to do with them particularly.

Another common conclusion they reached was that all city children dislike work and pretend to have never worked. Sukanya’s fellow nurses would say how they did  not ever cook in their homes and how they did not even know how to. Vishnu’s classmates would say how they have never washed  dishes. Turiya’s classmates would discuss how they never lift their plates after eating, and how they have never held a broom in their lives. All these three children have grown up working, and somehow all of them seem to have stood up to those pretences and asserted there that they themselves do do work.

One point that seems to emerge is that the urban poor has a different ethic from the rural poor. The poor children in Turiya’s school and the nurses who work with Sukanya have a common contempt for work and a pretentiousness about possessions. The rural poor are anchored in work and have less pretensions. Also, the richness of rural life which expands the soul, may not be available to the urban poor in their slums or crowded houses. Even at a very prosaic level, the former has a good wood fire to warm himself, while the latter often has to burn wate paper and plastic waste if he needs a fire …

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