The father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi, once said that the villages were the heart of our country. But with the advent of globalization the pulse of our fast growing economy runs through the cities.
In the early eighties and nineties, if you had asked a wayfarer the names of major Indian cities, his answer would have been: Delhi, Bombay, Madras & Calcutta. However with the turn of the millennium the answer has expanded to include new names.
With the arrival of the IT, cities have turned into a fast multiplying species. As for the heartbeats of our country, the villages, well let’s just say that they are endangered now. The growing gulf between the rich & the poor has now turned into the gulf between the city dwellers & the rural immigrants.
So what are the advantages of the urban life, the so-called ‘high life’?? One of the merits of living in a city is that there are numerous ways to survive. From rag-picking to fashion designing to picking pockets, there is a mind-boggling variety of jobs. Therefore it is easier to find food & clothing. However, other amenities like shelter & sanitation often take a back seat.
For a person living in a city everyday is an assault on the senses.The exhaust is so thick that the air boils like a soup. Life in a seaside-city isn’t an option either for the only time most people get anywhere near the sea is for an hour on Sunday evening on a filthy beach with the rest of the populace. It doesn’t stop when one is asleep for the night brings in mosquitoes out of sewage-clogged water-bodies to your home.
The cost of living in a city is very high. The ‘high ‘income one earns is partly or fully utilized to provide the barest necessities. Though people living in the footpath may have to combat the police and drunk drivers to survive, those living in a fancy apartment in the same street are not spared either. The moment you step into such a place you would have to pay a lump sum as apartment maintenance. If you have a car, what better excuse to charge extra for parking for fuel? Thus, the fast life of the city promotes stress, tension and frustration. For those without yoga classes and aromatherapy the options are limited- complete burnout or suicide.
After all this, rural life seems so relaxed…the clean air….the greenery… what a way to cool the mind! But reality beckons us. 70% of a rural economy is agrarian. Rural workers are seasonally unemployed. Often there are three people working in a job meant for one i.e. disguised unemployment.
The bitter truth is that villages offer very little job opportunities. Poor nonstructural development has marred the development of health and other such sectors.
However, property rates in rural areas are not very high and they are not overcrowded. Once you gain the acceptance of the conservative community you can actually lead a happy life in a brick house with two mango trees and a view of the hills.
Though deforestation and pollution may accompany the urbanization of the planet, it too has its silver linings. When people move to cities, per capita incomes rise. On a larger scale, this shows that international emigration is one of the best ways to tackle poverty. Migrants ensure that money is spent efficiently by their families. In many places up to 66% of income remittances go to rural areas, a classic example of self-help.
Today we have enough money, food, resource and technology to rid the world of hunger and poverty. It is just that some key people have to make up their minds. The Planning commission of India must therefore work efficiently to meet the needs of both the urban & rural population.
As a parting note, we can say that though urban life is advantageous, rural life does have its merits. With proper development of infrastructure even rural areas can become as good as urban areas.
As for now, let me just turn off the lights, the electricity bill might shoot up…
(LibZine Literary Prize 2008 Entry)