India is as diverse country as one can be. Everything changes practically every hundred kilometers, including food, clothing, rituals, language/dialect, customs and culture. So it’s not surprising that ultra modern hotels and shopping malls and slum and poverty both constitute India in equal right. Yet, there is a feeling in some of us that modern India is not real India. What that means can be good question to start with. Sometimes it seems that we are so enamored of our poverty and underdevelopment that any progress seems violation of sacred past. Of course, we, here means those who are not poor. However, real reason, I suspect, is that progress robs India of its Indianness since because of whatever reasons progress has come to mean western methods and cultures. We have not been able to completely assimilate progress with Indianness, some of which is just not possible, and other is not attempted.
Whatever be reason, I feel at peace and am very happy whenever I am at railway station or in train. Railways of India represent a interesting picture of the country. Railways bring out juxtaposition and amalgamation of people, normal people, who are still Indian in many ways. It’s not really easy for me express myself but somehow I feel educated folks are sometimes so cut off from Indianness that seeing normal people is a joy. A joy, some may correctly critique, only those can express who don’t have to live in that Indianness everyday, a some kind of from the top view.
It’s not often I see women in Saris or Salwar Kurta in college campus or in offices. Seeing women is these dresses gives me peace knowing that someone is still holding on to elements of our culture. Children in public places appear more enjoyable to me than those brought up in strict polite mannerism in upper class households. To large extent, I find pleasure because I see my childhood in that. Our family travelled through rail enough that I see my family in any normal family. Regular people who think that drinking coffee at Cafe Coffee Day with 50/- is prohibitively expensive and buy food from street vendors. Regular people who mind spending 100/- for a lunch or dinner. Regular people who carry their drinking water with them. Regular people who carry achaar and pooris with them. Regular people whose notion of privacy has not cut them off from the humanity around them.
I think more than real or normal India, it is desire for simpler past, a nostalgia of earlier times, which makes me find pleasure in their company. I don’t know why, really. Though, I enjoy watching other people — which is one reason that psychology is odd man out in category of things I write — and railway crowd is best place to do that.