[It’s the first Friday of the month... so it’s time again for a different perspective from our guest blogger...
This month’s guest blogger is Avdhesh Vaid, a young and enthusiastic Indian who has a very interesting perspective and tells a great story of hope and encouragement... ]
I found myself riding along side a young twenty-something year old lad on a local bus from the railway station in Delhi to Ballabhgarh.
He was wearing a worn-out tee-shirt, dirty pants, plastic sandals and a new Gamcha (cotton towel) around his neck.
He rested his hands, a bit firmly,
on the new bag in his lap and seemed a bit restless.
After remaining quiet for some time, he turned to me and inquired as to the time it may take to reach Ballabhgarh.
I replied. "Twenty minutes".
He seemed to readily accept my reply and turned again to watching local scenery from the window seat.
Five minutes later, he once again broke the silence between us and asked the same question again.
This time I replied, "15 more minutes... where is your stop?"
He told me that he needed to get off at the Ballabhgarh stop.
I then leaned over to the bus driver to ask him to please kindly announce his stop as we approached it so as the young lad does not miss his stop. This seemed to reassure my new traveling companion.
The young man beside me represented the "real India" which is far removed from the bustling metropolises of the "new India".
He introduced himself as Sumesh Singh.
This is his very first visit to anywhere outside his village all alone.
As per instructions that were given to him, he needed to transfer at the Ballabhgarh stop to another bus that will take him to the Sohna area in Gurgaon, Haryana.
I asked him if he lived in the Sohna Region, but he said no.
He was from a small village called Ghinjhar.
I told him that I was not familiar with this village. He described the Ghinjhar Village location as being near Divapur... "which is close to Itwaha District... somewhere near Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh".
When I asked him as to his age, he responded unsurely with, "twenty-three" as though he was awaiting my approval before finally settling upon that number.
He told me that he was educated until the 8th year.
Not surprisingly, he told me that he was already married for three years and also was the proud father of a 4-month old baby boy.
He was on his way to the Sohna Area because he has been told by some distant relatives that there were as many as 200 new factories in this location. They ensured him that he could find a job there in a Maruti factory as an un-skilled laborer earning as much as Rs 4500 per month (about $75 USD).
I asked him about his expected expenses such as room, food and other items in this area. He explained that he calculated those to be no more than Rs 2500 per month so he should have surplus to send back to his family in the village.
He now seemed very comfortable talking with me and seemingly grew more confident when talking about his grand plan.
He began to smile broadly as he talked about his future, but then immediately grew self-conscious all of a sudden as a sense of embarrassment overcame him. He, all at once, brought his dirty hands to his face to cover his smile as though he believed a smile brought some sort of shame to himself.
I was still a stranger and who was he to describe his plans of a better future for him and his family... especially since he has not yet accomplished anything... except as to have struck up a conversation with a stranger on a bus while on his maiden voyage to a new and strange city in a very far-off place...
He belongs to a family of six - he is the youngest of four boys. All of the boys are now married.
The eldest brother has three children, his second brother has four children, and the third brother has two children plus one of his own.
A quick bit of arithmetic told me that there were 18 hungry mouths to feed each day (he didn’t speak of his mother or father so I suspected that they were no longer living).
The entire family of 18 was stuffed into a small three-room house.
The family survived on farming on a small plot of land inherited from their ancestors. His brothers and their wives were sufficiently large to tend to this small plot so he essentially had nothing to do.
The food from the farm provided the family a basic subsistence... letting them survive on a hand-to-mouth existence. They had no money for anything else and God forbid if there were any financial or medical emergencies.
This young man sitting beside me decided that he needed to take charge of his life so he left his weeping wife and crying baby and with only clothes on his back and hopes and aspirations in his eyes and set off on a journey to make a better life for him and his family. If nothing else, just to earn enough money so that they could afford to add another room onto the family home so each brother will have one entire room for themselves and their family.
I looked at him deeply and silently and admired his mission.
After a short while, the bus driver called out his stop.
I wished him the very best of luck and also felt a certain remorse that I was not in any position to help the young man with anything other than words of encouragement as we said our good-byes.
Many of us here in India often discuss how India is moving at light-speed into an industrialized society. However, with the rapid growth comes the common problems of most developing nations.
High inflation and shortages are commonplace and have affected three basic necessities of a human being... Roti (bread), Kapda (clothing) and Makaan (housing).
Crime, traffic, and pollution that once only plagued the big cities has now spilled over into all corners of India.
Today we survive, yet one day I know in my heart that we will learn to thrive.
I am so encouraged by the gigantic will of people like Sumesh Singh, who despite of all odds, have decided to take charge of the situation and with only a hope in their heart have set-forth to get their families out of the vicious circle of poverty...
I have come to the conclusion that we are all different people coming from all parts of the world, whether it be Mumbai or Ghinjhar Village but we all still want the same things for ourselves and our families...
We want safety and security
We want food, clothing, and shelter
We want fresh air and clean water
We want opportunities for growth and achievement
We want respect and dignity
I am always amazed by the human will to not only survive but lead a remarkable life.
Thank you very much for patiently reading until the end of my story!
Have a nice weekend and I wish you a happy beginning of next week...
- Avdhesh Vaid
[Avdhessh Vaid is a 32-year old, electronic engineer working with ST Micro in Noida, India for the past 10 years.
He is has been married for 5 years to Mini Khurana and they have a 2-year old son, Vedant.]