“Namaste”, the person greeted me in a typical Indian way; though he was surrounded by crowd.By reflex action, I too greeted him, but I did not know him. So I asked a stranger sitting next to me, “who is he?”
“You don’t know him?” he was surprised. Naturally, because it appeared that the person was the chief guest of the program. “He is our MP (Member of Parliament)” he explained.
I could immediately understand why the MP greeted me. In the pavilion, we were only two women. The other woman was the Chief Executive Officer of the district, she was on the stage with the MP and he obviously knew her. I was sitting in the crowd; talking to people; taking photographs and writing important points in my notebook. Because of camera and notepad, people always assume that I am a journalist. Today, even the MP assumed so. That must be the reason of his greeting.
The MP was curiously looking at me simply because he was unable to locate me in his memory. He called someone and asked him something. This person asked another person. I had no work, so I was watching the chain of communication. As expected, a person sitting to my right asked whether I was a journalist. Knowing that the answer would finally reach the MP, I briefly explained my identity – not in a spiritual way but mundane! I watched the message travel back and noted that the MP considered me a citizen with no nuisance value.
I was in a small village in Rajasthan, in an inauguration of road construction under the Prime Minister Rural Road Scheme. No, I had no direct or even indirect connection with this scheme. However, while traveling into remote areas, have always seen lack of ‘Road, Electricity and Water’ as the key barrier to Development. Especially in the absence of a good (or even functional) road connectivity girls and boys have to drop out of school; sick people do not get timely and adequate treatment; vegetables are thrown or used as fodder for animals because they cannot be taken to the market – one can only imagine what the villagers must be thinking in such situations. I have favorable opinion about this scheme and I had never attended its inauguration – so I was excited with this opportunity.
When we left the highway, and turned to left, this suddenly was visible – allover. The crop of Mustard looks so beautiful.
Since it was a Government program, we were moving in a large convoy of cars. On the way, everybody in the villages stopped doing whatever they were doing and looked in bewilderment to the passing cars.
We again turned to left and I saw an empty pavilion. First I thought it must be for a marriage ceremony. Later I realized that it was the venue of the inauguration program.
We crossed the pavilion and continued to travel by a road, which was a typical village road. I saw lot of men smoking in a relaxed way. It had rained recently, so there was no work in the farm. Because of rain, winter had become more severe. Our car stopped at a palatial house. A well dressed, English speaking person, about 55 years old, received us. He was one of the senior officers in Delhi and this was his native village. A small villager person being in a distinct and prestigious position in the Capital of the Country was a journey worth appreciation.
Within couple of minutes I realized that the PMGSY road that was to be inaugurated passed the house of the official. In fact the road was being constructed to make his home coming comfortable. Many senior government officers were present and listening to their discussion was very educative. Quality of cement, inter-locking tiles, load taking capacity of the road, the arrangement and space for taking into consideration the need of local farmers to put irrigation pipes across the roads … the senior engineers and experts were discussing a lot. I am not sure whether all roads are constructed by taking into consideration all these quality aspects.
After the round of tea, the servant of the house arrived with another tray full of something. It attracted my attention because none from our group picked up anything (and secondly the servant did not offer me). The servant went amongst the large crowd waiting in the front yard. I took this photograph when he returned.
A lot is being spoken about the “dangers of smoking” – all that is futile – I realized then and there.
We went back to the pavilion. With the arrival of the MP, the place was overcrowded within no time. Then one by one, many people spoke. Fortunately, all the speeches were brief, but they were informative. The progress of PMGSY in the state was presented and the numbers were overwhelming. For example, I remember one official telling the crowd that in last eleven years 8860 new roads were constructed. These roads together sum up to 34795 kilometers and was able to connect 10703 villages. Impressive, isn’t it?
I could see the unknown faces in those unfamiliar villages and could imagine how their life could have changed because of these roads. There is a point in arguing about destruction of ecological system and all that – but why apply this parameter only to rural roads? They are lifelines for many.
After the program was over, I saw many women standing behind. Whey they were not invited to join the main function? Whey they are always invisible? I spoke to them for a while.
We consumed typical Rajasthani food – Daal Baatee and Churama Laddu.
By the time we started for Delhi, the pendal was in the process of removal. Only the tablet of inauguration remained there.
Will this PMGSY road be ever constructed, or it will always remain inaugurated – I wondered.
May be this one will come into reality – because it is a native place of a senior government official. And since his brother lives in this village, the officer regularly visits this village.
However, I am aware that all those roads whose plan is “inaugurated” are not lucky enough to come into Reality! They die premature death!