Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Raju in Bengaluru"

hii folks,

The summer this year has been a great experience for me, for I have traveled to newer places and met different people from various backgrounds. And in the process, realised that I am lucky. In plain simple terms, just lucky enough to be what I am now.

It was 4'o'clock in my watch, weather cloudy and with a soft breeze blowing through me, I was feeling very good about myself. I was doing things which I never thought would be able to do. I was going to conduct focus group interviews with two groups of people whom I have never met. And the thought of meeting new people and talking to them, asking questions and seeking answers was leading to a little bit of anxiousness and nervousness!!

I was waiting at the Nagarsandra circle, wondering why Bengaluru is full of places named with "Hallis", "Sandras", "Gudis" etc. I was utterly confused when I heard the guy on the phone saying "Nagasandra" while he was actually referring to "Nagarsandra". Incidentally both are different places, something which I realised after visiting "Nagasandra" only to find that this wasn't where I was supposed to be that evening. Finally I was at the right place, waiting for a guy who was according to what the guy on the phone described was, supposed to ride an Activa in a blue T-shirt, and coming to pick me up from the circle.

I instantly recognised that guy, and he also recognised me too. I don't know whether its your instinct or something else, but once you have a description of the one you want to meet, its amazing how you can recognise them, though you have never met each other before.

He was a tall frail looking guy, but almost scared the hell out of me with his ridiculous driving skills manoeuvering the Activa through small corners and streets. It was like the Activa was obediently following his instructions!! I heaved a sigh of relief once I reached the destination. Well the initial apprehensions I had about my ability to communicate with newbies were uncalled for as the objectives I set for myself were met. Participants were telling me more than I had asked for. After a spate of emotional outbursts and jokes apart, I was ready to leave when "Raju", the guy who had dropped me asked me where I was from.

Minutes later I was at ease talking with Raju because he was also from AP, the state where I am from. It always feels good to have someone with whom you can speak in your mother tongue in a "foreign" land. You can always learn something in life by meeting new people, and that is what precisely happened with me.

"Raju's" life has been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride. Born in the sleepy town of Anantapur in a peasant family, he was only expected to earn for his family as early in life as possible. As has been the case in most of the rural India, he too was a school dropout but was quite aware of the happenings around him. "Experience is the best teacher". He came to Bengaluru three years back, with dreams in his eyes, carrying his families expectations and burdens on his shoulders. Fortunately for him, the city didn't fail him. His ever smiling face had masked various emotions of pain and struggle that he and his family had to endure in his childhood, getting oppressed and exploited by the princely Zamindaars of Rayalaseema. After working as a mechanic for an year, he now is working as a Video operator recording focus group interviews and earning a decent 3000 bucks each month. His employer has been kind enough to provide him his daily share of meals and shelter to sleep. He narrated me his entire story during the 20 minute ride on the Activa, back to Basavanagudi bus stop. Though Bengaluru's traffic was noisy enough to act as an hindrance, but still I managed to hear him throughout, even as he was evading Trucks and jumping Traffic signals with ease!!

While I was wishing him all the best for his future endeavours, he pulled out his cell phone from the pocket and asked for my number. I was shocked, but then realised that the Telecom boom had already empowered the masses. I realised that at such a young age, "Raju " has seen and experienced much more in life than I have and so here was a guy whom I admired for his courage and conviction. His family is now somewhat in a better condition because he sends half of his monthly salary back home.

The "thousand watt" smile that he had while he bid me farewell left a strong and indelible impression on me. Something which will always remain memorable for a long time to come.