This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
and shifted to Delhi. The early seventies were the time of State monopoly in employment. Any lower middle class youth looked upon a Govt job as an end of his career. My father also took up a job rewarding him much less than what he was earning as a lawyer in Patna. But the value of a secured Govt job could not be undermined. He was one of the first one to move out of Bihar in search of a living from our patriarchal family. He went alone to join the job and make arrangements for us in Delhi. Delhi in those times looked too huge in concept when communication channels were not as developed as today and there were few and far migrants to Delhi in those days. After a few weeks of confused living in Delhi he fixed up a one room house in a lower middle class colony in South Delhi. We joined our father after about a month. The house he had taken on rent had just bare minimum facility. It had a reasonable size one room and a kitchen with shared toilet and all other spaces in the house. The house owner was a Punjabi family running a tailoring business on the front of the same house. They had a family of three daughters and a son. They occupied the prime part of the house which also had two more tenants besides us. The large courtyard in side the house served as a playing ground for all the children of the house. We all belonged to a middle class background and probably had moderate earnings. The four families living in the house had diverse background. We were from Bihar which was an unknown territory for Punjabis at that time. Another family was from UP who lived on the first floor of the house while third tenant were a Christian family. In that big house there were many children who would assemble to play together oblivious of their caste, religion or regional identities. We were only friends at that time. Since I had gone to Delhi while my elder brother remained in Patna I had no choice but to join the group for any games. We would share space, eat together anything given by any of the mothers. Despite my mother’s conservative way of life at that time I don’t remember having ever told by her not to share anything with my friends. Our parents never separated us on parochial lines. I can claim that it was one big house representing India with all members sharing joys and sorrows of one another.
When we had move to Delhi I was in standard IV. I joined a local convent school which was walking distance from our house. I believe my father didn’t have enough means to send his three children in good convent schools. That’s why I shifted from that local school to a govt high school in class VI from where I passed out my 12 th standard. I grew up in that house without knowing my caste, regional or religious identities. I grew along with my friends looking at my school books which taught us basics of education. When I was in class VI my social study book had a map of India which we studiously understood to draw during exams. We learned to draw the outlines of the map difficult. In fact drawing the outlines of India map could be one of the more difficult jobs than of any other country. In fact when my sister would to make chapattis and would fail to give it a proper shape we would always taunt that it’s India’s map which we are eating. After some time it used to serve as a game for children to try and locate places on India map. We would play it in school as well as in the house among our friends. It used to be a fascinating exercise to find a small river or mountain peak or a small town in an obscure corner of the map. Despite the difficulty in finding a place on the map we could identify ourselves with that map. Some times we felt how big our country was and we owned it. It was all ours although on a piece of paper. The map was ours. The country was ours. We identified ourselves with that map. Nobody could say that the map of US is his or her. But the India map was ours. Children would take pride in claiming the number of places they had seen and would score over their rivals by showing it on the map. The name Kanniyakumari and its distance from Delhi would enthuse all of us. That is the end of India on map for us not knowing about political boundaries. If some one had seen Madras or Kanniyakumari he would be respected for his achievements among the friends. I can recollect the pride of a boy of 12 years would draw looking at the centre of the world map displaying its vast peninsular land flanked by large mass of water on both sides. India is one of the most visible countries on world map besides a few others like Australia. Not even the world’s monarch claim to have such status on map. For us the school kids all of the peninsular land extending right up to Himalayas and stretching the thread on the east beyond Bangladesh was ours. It would in fact give us some pain to look at Pakistan and Bangladesh and realise that it was ours once but no
more. But what ever was available was ours. We owned it and believed in the ownership. There was never a doubt about the identity of India as a nation. We had been told that you need permission to go Nepal or Pakistan which were much closer to Delhi than Kanniyakumari. But the physical distance did not bother. It was the mental distance. Kanniyakumari was ours. It was available on the map of India which we carried in our school bags everyday and in our psyche. We lived our map of India in schools and crossed over to college one day. The horizon of friendship extended in college where we could meet people from all parts of India. I went to Delhi University and JNU for higher studies where students represented all parts of India. The meaning of India’s map was getting clear in my mind. I could understand the regional separation on the map and in life. I had lost those friends of my extended house where nobody asked me my caste or regional background. We were all one and belonged to one India. Although we could now identify ourselves as Biharis, Orriyas, Marathas, Tamils or Keralites these identities were mere facilitators and some times helped individuals in assimilation. Since we have such vast cultural differences among different regions that it just helps a person to adjust himself in new environment through his regional identity. However in a place like JNU where we pursued higher studies it mattered little what was our regional identity. We were all Indians thinking of India, the India of my childhood map all encompassing the boundaries. We would discuss the map of India with reference to our lost land to China and Pakistan in hostilities. But these were intellectual debates more on international issues than regional or sub national issues. The India of my map remained in our mind without any doubt. I still enjoyed the sight of my country on the world map now also on a globe. It was all mines. We all lived as a community in the university. Our university taught us the values of national culture, national integration. We used to prepare for the civil services in those days and would keep referring the map for our basic level geography. Even then it was all ours. I used to visualise where we can get posted in our service and what kind of environment we may get. There used to be no doubt about a place to be in. We were prepared for anywhere as it was all our very own country. It was not only on map but in reality also. We had friends from all corners of the country fighting fro a job at any corner of the country. It mattered little whether a Mizoram student gets
selected for IAS and join the Kerala cadre. For him serving the nation with pride was more valuable than thinking of Kerala or Mizoram. It was all within that boundary on the map of India. Time has passed, years have gone. I have settled in life travelling from remote West Bengal to very metro Mumbai in my job. I never had gumption about a place in my work. Wherever I have worked it’s for the nation. It’s for the same people who live in the boundaries of the great Indian peninsula called Indian sub continent. It’s for the same map of my childhood. Over last two decades lot has changed in our country, in its politics, economy, and life style but thankfully nothing has changed in its geography. The map of India still remains same as it was when I saw it in my school books. We have grown out of studying the socialist economic structure to globalisation and liberalisation. But there was no fear of studying a different map of India. Whatever we may cook in our country its boundaries shall remain or at least we have always believed so. Our map shall remain so for ever for us to study through generations. The developments in different parts of India in last 15 years have revived the worst fears in our mind and that is of loosing a part of our sketch on our map. I can see different nations growing up on my beloved map. Local, regional, parochial sentiments fuelling sub-nationalities are fast emerging in different regions. There are targeted attacks on people belonging to particular regions in places not only like Assam but as cosmopolitan as Mumbai. There are restrictions on movement of people in some states. There was a time when the nursing fraternity in any part of country belonged to Kerala and all the men sitting behind a typewriter were Keralites. It’s no more true when we witness parochial groups opposing south Indian people working in Mumbai and even threatening them of dire consequences. Now I wonder whether we really live in India as it appears on the map of India and whether it will remain so when my grandson looks at the map on India. Today the sum of all states of India doesn’t make the whole of India. It’s probably lees than India because every state is pursuing its own objectives, agendas even if they are to the detriment of the nation. There are disturbances all around. Its insurgency in one place, militancy in another, Naxalism at other place. If all these are
missing from the scene we have caste and communal disputes. What purpose does it serve to call my map my India if I can’t take my son to Kashmir, Arunachal, Kohima or some of the finest forests in the world. They are all on the map and very much part of India where we live. We may have the legal rights to visit these places but we dare not do that or do it at a grave risk of ending up on the wrong side of law and order of this country. As a grown up adult we may rationalise and bear the agony but it defies all logic when we have to explain reasons to our children. Children don’t understand the security risks and long intellectual debates on media justifying this or that. They ask plain and simple question about our inability to take them to places where they want to go. With all logic behind you can’t bear the pain of telling the same to your children. It hits where it hurts the most.. As our economy is growing fast and fast our sphere of movement on our map is shrinking. With more awareness we are getting more parochial and narrow in approach. Constant pressure on every region for limited resources further heightens the competition to retain whatever is available. It doesn’t matter to a Karnataka farmer whether a Tamil starves on a parched land deprived of irrigation water from a river flowing from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu. The river follows a course without discriminating between two countries or states. Boundaries have been created by man not by nature. We follow the boundaries drawn by man on a piece of paper and teach our children the differences among countries. A farmer growing wheat in Punjab or rice in Andhra would prefer to rot it in his farm rather than allow it to be taken to a deficient state if it doesn’t serve his interest or interest of his politicians. Today our country is producing thousands of graduates good enough to serve the nation’s demand with distinction but certain disparities among the regions have led to violent protests against job seekers from other states. We have been witness to such incidents in Maharashtra, Assam and may see elsewhere. Merit thus doesn’t prevail here, its your origin which determines from you will work. We may get a more peaceful work environment abroad and face less resistance than in pour own land. A Bihari youth travelling thousand of miles to seek some job in Mumbai is physically prevented from even entering the city, a city which is supposedly the most developed and cosmopolitan cities in India.
Today it is the job aspirants, water sharing, power sharing tomorrow it will be trade links, business links, and transportation links. The agony is endless without any sight of hope. I wish we could change all that. I wish we could ensure that none is prevented from entering a place or pursuing a career of his choice at his chosen place. Every citizen of this country has legal rights to go and work anywhere. Every citizen of this country has unqualified right on all resources of this country. Because its all ours. It’s all mine even today on that piece of paper we call map of India which I looked during my childhood and kept close to my heart and my son look at it the same way. The fear of loosing that map scars and haunts me no ends. I don’t want to separate it at any cost and would refer to give my blood than a single inch to anybody. Even if I have not seen all that we call India. It’s all ours and we own. We are not dependent on some politician to define our boundaries or separate our land. The state boundaries are created for administrative convenience not to segregate the people living in them. We are all Indians. We live and die with our dreams as Indians. The whole of India is all ours. We have seen it in our schooldays and we teach the same to our school going children. Not an inch has been taken away or fractured till date. I wish to see the same map in the hands of my grandchildren. When he comes and asks me I want to tell him to go anywhere he wishes without any fear. Let’s create an India which is free of all these ills and animosities among people. Our identity should start from being an Indian and should end as a proud Indian. The caste, religion, region, language or anything else is purely personal and should form a distant secondary identity away from Indian identity. Let’s retain our map. I want to live into my dreams for our future generations. Let’s leave a legacy to our successors to feel proud of us and not be ashamed of our deeds. India is one and shall remain one in reality as well as on every child’s map in his school bag forever.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.