In this honest/reflexive search, the author has looked at the struggle of the subaltern in this scorching heat, and critiqued the middle class obsession with comforts.
Kavita Saxena is a banker situated in Noida, Uttar Pradesh.
I am a middle class professional living in an aspirational society. I love my ambition; my demands are infinite. No wonder, I always complain. There is scorching heat; the temperature is rising every day in this terrible summer. My air conditioner is not functioning properly. Why is it that the mechanic is not coming? ‘These poor people’, I tell myself, ‘are useless; they have no sense of professionalism’.
Moreover, there is power cut–massive shortage of electric supply. What is the Kejriwal Government doing? No fan, no AC, no possibility of charging my electronic appliances. Yes, water too is a problem. The corporation is not supplying it adequately? How do I water the plants in my kitchen garden? Life is really hell in this bloody country.. Now I realize why Swapna–my university friend– chose to remain in the United States. She is happy; she need not confront the kind of difficulties that I face in this chaotic land.
Yet, something has happened to me. This morning as I move towards the local market for buying fruits and milk, I see a sweeper sweating, and moving towards his workplace – the site of dirt. ‘Namaste, Madam’, he looks at me, and smiles. I am perplexed. How can he still smile, bear this heat, and work without complaining? These days I am always bitter; seldom do I acknowledge the presence of the others in the street. Yet, here is a labourer (I have forgotten to see him as a human soul; he is merely an abstraction, a category) who smiles; and his smile, despite his dirty clothes, and sweating in the scorching heat, is infectious. He has puzzled me.
This is 1.30 pm. Imagine the dazzling sun in the sky–the heat wave,the pain of intense humidity.I need to go out for some work As I lock the door, and come to the street, I see the postman: a middle aged man with khaki dress in his bicycle. Yes, this species, despite the aura of the digital age, has not disappeared. He moves around, delivers registered letters, parcels etc. Once again he smiles. ‘Today, there is no letter for you’, he tells me. ‘This is extremely hot. Do you carry water with you?’ I ask him with my cultivated mannerism. ‘Don’t worry, Madam. I have just taken a glass of lassi’, he communicates with pure contentment. He takes his bicycle, and disappears in this sunny afternoon. Once again I am perplexed–ordinary people, despite hostile circumstances, working without bitterness, and people like me never tired of desiring more and more, and complaining perpetually.
Here is an auto driver–old, tired, and possibly taking a nap inside the vehicle. I need the auto; I have to meet somebody. ‘Are you ready to take a passenger?’ I verbalize quite loudly my right as a consumer of services. He gets up, smiles.’I am ready. Where do you want to go?’ he enquires. I mention my destination. The auto starts…
I keep reflecting. These three men–a sweeper, a postman, an auto driver–have possibly emerged as the messengers of truth which people like me have forgotten because of our indulgence with desire and greed.
I need not visit any temple. In this scorching heat I find a touch of the divine in the struggle of the subaltern.