Thursday, 30 April 2015

Hemantha Kalam - 30 'What Change am I talking about!?'

It has been a few months since I had posted my blog! My last blog was on Change and this blog of mine is also on Change. Only that this time, I am making a somersault and taking a volte-face!:-)

There are changes and there are changes.

Some of the changes are positive and some of them not so positive and some changes do the exact opposite. Now consider these.

When I was a child, I had to cover some 13 kms both ways everyday, 6 days a week, for going to school, excepting on holidays when I need not go to school. Normally I used to take a bus to go. The bus terminus from my house was about a kilometer of walking and the bus fare from the terminus to my school cost me 22 paise. If I got down one stop earlier and walked up to school, it cost me a fare of 18 paise. So most of the times, I used to get down one stop earlier and save 4 paise. In the evenings, most of the times, I used to walk home from the school and save the 22 paise too.

My father used to give me 50 paise everyday (in today’s value it is about Less than one US Cent – about 0.80 US cent) on the school going days and this way I could save about 32 paise every day. On the pavement I then used to buy a second-hand (already read) comic for about 25 to 30 paise depending on the quality - Phantom, Tarzan, Classic Illustrated, Magnus, Mandrake, Little Lotta, Richie Rich, Sad Sack, Ripley’s Believe it or Not comics and many more. Western and Battle field comics were my eternal favourites. Tex Willer my hero. 

After picking up the books, I used to read them while walking, lugging my box of books and a hamper of emptied food containers and for sure, by the time I reached my house I would have completed the comic. I became almost an authority on Texas, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Mexico though, till date, I never visited these places. (Interestingly, more than a thousand of all these hard earned comics are still with me and I am aware that these could fetch me a fortune).

Of course all this was on the sly, as my father’s temper those days was something to watch out for and I used to be pretty scared of him and his belt. Had he known, that I was walking home from school every day, I could not hazard a guess on what could have happened to me. One thing I was sure was that I would have lost my dear pocket money of 50 paise for a day and might have ended up getting just 25 paise.

Those were the days that I used to dream of having a racing bicycle; a dream that I could, till date, not fulfill and later as I was growing up, the dream graduated into acquiring a ‘Yezdi Motorcycle’ - another wish I could not fulfill to date and further later, dreamt of a car. This dream I could fulfill and I am now going on my third car - so far.

Those were the times that I used to take some 50 minutes to walk home with gay abundance. A week ago, I was driving home in my car from my school area and it took me over an hour to reach - thanks to bad roads and undisciplined traffic on overcrowded roads.

While walking, I used to save money, health and even time. Now I spend through my nose for the gas, taxes and maintenance of my car but am obese, suffer from diabetes, cholesterol and related ailments, and worse, still spend more time while going in my car. And gone are any more dreams.

So what change am I talking about?

Today, after keeping the car at house, as I normally cannot find a parking place at my destination and always run the risk of getting my car towed off by the traffic police, I more often travel by the bus again.

So what change am I talking about?

When I was a child I used to do most of my homework sitting in the bus, while riding to school. Now, the other day, when I was travelling in the bus there were more than a dozen passengers speaking loudly over their mobile phones - nonchalantly letting all other passengers very much into their personal affairs and lives. The din in my ears kept ringing till I walked all the way from the bus stand to my house. And as a child, I could walk almost in my dreams while reading my comic book all the way home traversing some 6kms odd.

So what change am I talking about?

I have a relative who started almost with nothing in his life, excepting confidence and an understanding wife who also struggled much along with him. In their earlier days they used to get poor quality of wheat which was given in the ration shops at a much cheaper price than rice and used to bake ‘Phulka’ (Indian dry bread without any fats like butter or oil) and eat the meagre ‘Phulkas’ along with onion and green chilies, as side dishes. Chilies add up to thirst and so with little solid food and a lot of water people could somehow manage their hunger and lives. Later these relatives of mine steadily grew wealthy by their work and could acquire quite a good amount of property etc., could provide well for all their children.

One day he had a heart attack and the diet given to him by the physicians was the same old ‘Phulka’ with as much vegetables as possible without any fats or oil content. I was present at the hospital as a visitor when this diet was being doled out to him and I thought ‘what the heck’

So what change am I talking about?

This is not only about individuals. It is also about governments in a democratic country like ours. If one government rules and tries to do some good (among many bad things), the next government formed by a different party laboriously tries to undo all good things of the earlier government and start some new programmes. In the process, there is always a static reality hanging around while everybody will be braying of developmental, positive changes!

So what change are we talking about?

I was visiting Laos, a favourite destination of mine for visiting often. The Vientiane Times (national daily of the country) of 21st January, 2015 announced that the vehicle registrations slowed down. It went on to explain by giving a string of statistics to prove the point. But Vientiane, the capital city is increasingly facing congestion and traffic jams at peak hours and parking place is becoming premium stuff in the country. Most shocking is the steady increase of fatalities on the roads of Laos and especially Vientiane, now.    

I am sure that readers can find million such contradictions in change, in their own lives, experiences and countries.

So what change are you talking about, anyway? You tell me! 

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Sthoothiy (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai) and Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino)

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy

Chennai, India