San Nakji has put up a link to the Make Poverty History on his blog and that made me think about the campaign all over again. The most popular part was the white band with the same words carved on it, just like the yellow Livestrong bands of Lance Armstrong. Anyway, it was a campaign to rid the world of poverty. This evening I got myself a Livestrong band that I now sport around my wrist. I wanted the other one though.
Poverty brings me to the condition of the people of North Karnataka. Now, the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore, is the capital of the state. All the major offices are here. All the politicians worthy of their (mis)deeds throng the corridors of the Vidhana Soudha (the seat of power) doling out oodles of sycophanic banter to ensure that they continue to stay in power. Politicians will not be the subject here. What they tend to do, regardless of from where they are elected, is formulate plans and release crores of rupees to develop Bengaluru.
The people of north Karnataka have long been agitating for a separate state or atleast a High Court bench there so that some developments might take place.
This time when I was touring in those parts, I had a first hand experience of what they go through every day. We are usually so far away that the biggest of their agitations are almost always tucked away in the corner of the newspapers. There is nothing there. People are so poor that the very sight of even some of the bigger towns is heart renching.
We drove through Hubli, a major city. In no way did it resemble a city. The roads were narrow, dusty. In none of the towns did I see really big cars like we do even in Madikeri. Bijapur, another major city, has nothing that resembles what we would call roads. Horse-driven carriages are still a favourite means of transport, among the tourists as another anachronism, among the locals a necessity. I wonder if there are really rich people there. Oh wait! They are all politicians now in Bangalore! The IT bigwigs complain of bad roads. They ought to go up north.
We found that the people are not very enterprising, at least in the tourism sector. The food is amazing. There is the usual fare that you get elsewhere but they dont use baking soda in their cooking, so you can actually eat your fill. Feels like home food. The little kids who sell yoghurt, souvenirs do not pester with tales of woe and make you feel guilty.
In Bijapur I felt guilty about the money I was spending. The cheerfulness with which they live with poverty does that to you. The money they demand for a carriage ride is dirt-low and they are willing to settle for far less. Poverty has never touched me this close. I shall not claim to be as affected as Prince Siddhartha was, that would be plain exaggeration and my mind is numb with media conditioning. But it made me think, about the unfairness of it all. The worst thing is that I cannot do anything to help those people. The helplessness is all the more disturbing.
Every year in the summer, people with land to till and a roof to cover their heads migrate to the southern parts to labour for the rich man. They live on the sides of roads with the Earth for a bed and the naked sky for a blanket. All because of the drought that cripples them every year. This year, thanks to the torrential rains elsewhere, however destructive, there has been rains. Hopefully they will not migrate.
The culture is amazing there. In modern terms, they may be termed backward but are in no way so. Africa is, like I said, close to my heart but closer to me are my people in a distant part of my own state. Poverty is the worst disease that could affect societies, it robs people of their dignity, of their culture and of their will to live. Make Poverty History. Everywhere. To get back your own dignity. To look them in the eye and not be forced to look away quickly. Please.