To Thiruchendur on Independence Day...
Today, as I crossed various towns to reach Thiruchendur, I saw schools with the national flag hoisted, some shops displaying the tricolor and some students having them pinned onto their uniforms. One lady was actually drawing the flag on the entrance of her house, with color powders. I also saw several peacocks and peahens on the way. All of these scenes made my heart glow with pride and the feeling of belonging to a nation full of people who respect the same things you do. But my spirits came down as fast as they had risen.
In the highways, there was a traffic jam. This was a surprise to me. I didn’t know that there could actually be traffic jams in highways. It wasn’t because of any freak accident.
Instead, what we saw, was a police man in between, stopping the trucks. Could this be to just distribute flags to everyone? Even inside my head it sounded crazy. If they were, then I guess I must have been ashamed of such stupidity. But then, what if they were just trying to get bribes? I put this thought away, because I knew it would trouble me a lot, and it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to think about on such a special day.
Then, we crossed a couple of roads and once again, there was traffic in the highway. This time, because a highway patrol police man had actually parked the jeep in one of the lanes. I sighed and turned away. Surely, ignoring bad news today couldn’t be too bad. But soon, as my critical mind wandered away from my fantasies once more, I began to notice how some of the roads were so bad, they looked 50 years old. Then I noticed the open drainage, the dilapidated buildings, people in tents, and it was rotten news all the way. But this was just the beginning, I suppose.
We reached Thiruchendur and what I saw there is the most disturbing. There were beggars along the roadside, most of them young and strong enough to work. I was very uneasy as they came after us, begging for money. I was partly irate to notice that some of them were even stronger than I was. They preferred to beg rather than work and eat. It was quite upsetting. What was more upsetting was the temple.
People jostling each other, yelling at others, pushing and fighting… It was more like a bazaar than like any holy place of worship. There were special entrance tickets for 250 rupees, which further perturbed me, ‘cause it seemed very much like discrimination based on economic status. Then there were the priests who expected money for their ‘services’. Honestly, This Independence Day wasn’t my happiest.
I could have turned my face away and ignored everything, but that was easy… and wrong. To understand and get to know of the problem is hard and RIGHT. Nothing ever came out of ignorance or indifference. So this 15th of August, I’ve just been inspired to work harder and faster for achieving our collective dream of a glorious India in the near future. In my opinion, India can never be glorious as long as there is poverty, injustice and ignorance prevalent in the country. Let’s hope we have the strength to eradicate them… For the future’s not very far away.