What gives us the moral high ground to sympathise with someone whom we ‘believe’ is deprived of societal necessities? After 2 days of talking and being with the ‘poor’ people in the Haravi village of Raichur district in Karnataka, I understood one fundamental flaw in educated thinking. Our puritanical virtue of wanting to help the poor is laughable. Here I was in a village trying to make a 15 minute documentary sequencing my video shots and extorting as much negative information as possible. The objective of covering deprivation and producing such a documentary demands some debate.
One natural element, we as an audience, want to know about the ‘plight’ and ‘deplorable’ conditions the slum dwellers undergo. It’s the most imperative norm in a film covering people living in villages. Tattered clothes and individuals at the helm of God’s mercy; our understanding of poverty is highly ignorant. My experience thought me our ‘poor’ understanding of self contentment. I might sound like a Marxist or an ardent socialist but again, our vision of development is highly contorted. When India lives in its villages and agriculture remains its chief revenue, all our budgetary allocations are directed to corporate interests and this is construed to be development. This myopic vision does not allow us to raise the most germane question; development at whose cost? What is development if it is not inclusive of the 75% of the majority?
Similarly, what gives me the right to pity people in a village and barge into their humble abodes, taking advantage of their hospitality and hurling questions at them? Most journalists and NGO’s seem to do this. We pay no heed to the success stories of self made men. They make boring viewing. We eventually end up crafting a documentary with a gargantuan amount of ill luck blaming every man around the corner, pack our bags an head home. Story over. Nothing changes. And we read the paper stating how India is heading in the right direction with a 9%GDP. Who does this 9% GDP affect? Who reaps its benefits save for 1% of the entire population? Why should stock market crashes make the headlines? A paltry 0.9% deal in stocks. Maybe even lesser. Yet it assumes national importance belittling farmer suicides and food inflation.
When all the broad plans for India are being sketched, entire civilizations and cultural marvels are being overlooked. We’ve redefined development. Our conception of development is westoxified. McDonalds and fast food joints is the new development. The much loved but poisonous word; Globalisation, is slowly homogenizing us. Its breaking how we uniquely identify ourselves from the world. Yet we are all so ready to embrace it without truly knowing its repercussions.
When Hemantharja told me that he doesn’t go for work during off-seasons, it shocked me! It shocked me much more when he told me that he was shocked that I was shocked. As the conversation carried on, he went on to tell me how he gets rice from his land, milk from his cows, government schools educate his children and he saves money during crop-reaping and agricultural seasons. Where is the need for money? Here I was, with my camcorder, tripod, fancy shoes, Ray-Ban glasses working in a scorching 40 degree heat, after which I had to edit for my video footage for 11 hours for the next 5 days staring at a computer screen spoiling my eyes, spoiling my health after twisted sleep cycles, eating junk food(sometimes just one meal a day) and all this to get a fancy job in a city filled with pollution and narrow minded twats.
Hemantharaja on the other hand is a content man. He has the birds to wake him up, the beauty of fresh mud to sink his leg into, the fresh and crisp air carrying the sweet scent of corn and a life with nature’s abundant beauty. He seems to have it all. He’s not polluted with the narrow connivance of the elite or the ever prevalent choking smoke in metros. Yet, we look at him with pity and want him to have what we think is better for him. With such ease we pass judgments on his rich life. A life rich in culture and tradition. After two days of trying to judge the poor and analyze them, Hemanthraja must have already bisected every trait of mine. Tonight when he sleeps under the bright lit moonlight, he must be feeling sad for me. He must be wondering what a poor life I live.