Monday, January 16, 2012

A simple life with many gadgets

Location: Rajkot

As the pink hue of the sunset slowly fades, silhouettes of figures standing on their roofs with their kites wafting in the still air can still be seen; its like Diwali in Reservoir Hills but instead of fireworks, there are kites. It's Uttarayan (International Kite Festival), a public holiday on which everything closes and everyone, rich or poor, at least attempts to fly a kite. Broken kites or kites that had been cut by another kite (a game that they play) hang from the trees and street lights or lie discarded on the streets.

My dad told me to be prepared to sleep on the floor as our plane landed in Rajkot.  The airport looked like Pietermaritzburg airport, if not smaller, so i expected to eat on the floor, bath outside and perhaps even tackle a long drop.

As my uncle drove us to their home, my dad didn't seem to recognise his  home town, which he had visited twice before over ten years ago. Then we drove into a huge complex, walked up marble tiled stairs and entered an exquisite modern-styled apartment that gleamed as brightly as the five star hotel.

In the last ten years, Gujarat has developed rapidly and, like most cities in India, Rajkot now consists of an old Rajkot and a new Rajkot. Like Delhi, new Rajkot has wider tarred roads, skyscraper apartments and International branded stores like Blackberry, Subway and Reebok while old Rajkot has narrow, uneven roads, littered with cows roaming around and multitudes of small street shops. Houses look like little cement boxes, blackened with age, each like the next with the remains of old writing and chipped paint distinguishing them.

My uncle took his family (of around 20 people) and I to their old house to celebrate Uttarayan. By lunch time, most of the boys had hands covered in cuts and after some arrangement (that I didn't understand because everyone here only speaks Gujarathi) it was decided that we would have a picnic lunch on a friends farm.

When we arrived at the farm I didn't understand why everyone had been excited about going there. It was just a house on a farm... With locked doors, an empty pool  and no amazing view. As they sat on the floor on the porch digging happily into their food I realised that, despite all the modern influences and latest technology that engulfed their lives, they still contained the same values and enjoyed the same simple pleasures that they did in their matchbox house in old Rajkot.

And that's the main difference between Indians in India and Indians everywhere else in the world - the global Indian is scared of losing their culture and hang on to it as tightly as they can but the Bharat Indian embraces the contemporary world and walks along with it...

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