“Everybody is special. Everybody. Everybody is a hero, a lover, a fool, a villain. Everybody. Everybody has their story to tell” – V
Gujarat – Bapu’s birthplace, jewel of the west, Surat for textile, industrial hub, land of no power cuts and Ahmedabad the model city for development, Sabarmati riverfront, Dhoklas, the flawless roads, BRTS, Seva cafe. The prejudices painted in my mind by the knowledge fed to me were too good. I did not dare to look beyond. I did not dare to ask questions that would’ve defied my ‘not-to-the-cynic-road’ knowledge.
A week has passed in Gujarat, something was amiss. My journey to the backward regions of Sabarkantha where the crude helplessness of the government officials beyond the red tapism was stopping the implementation of the government services; the mild and failed attempts of NGO’s to try and bridge that same gap; the Rabbari community living in the encroachments with their pastors, with whom when I wished to converse, was warned by a colleague to be careful as they were weird people; the ‘mini-Pakistan’ at Juhapura where people still remain divided (but shhhh … we don’t talk about it) introduced to me by a frustrated member of the Muslim community, who happened to witness the riots and is now waiting for the opportunity to leave his nation in hope for a safe future; the sadness in the otherwise graceful eyes of Laxman bhai, who has left his agricultural fields in Rajasthan and where rains are no more, to serve chai to ‘the people who are trying’ to bring water to the tribal community regions but least does he know that were actually falling behind months on deadlines on reports to their funding agency, the citizen leaders of the tribal community who stand up against all odds to do good, the dedicated field officers who have left their families beyond to live in remote villages hoping to make a difference, the unheard stories of people continued to flood me. From the village community to the government officials, from the NGO staff to the daily strangers I meet … each had their stories for me to hear and see. There is little I can do by hearing and seeing. But the beauty in the minds of the unheard and unseen, the deepness in their daily worries, the hope in their hearts for a better future, the kindness in their soul to still have faith in the system that one day things will be better, the little gesture of smiling at me despite me being a stranger, the courage to be vulnerable and take that chance to share their stories with me and the willingness to let me into their community … these gave me billion reasons to find the million me. So I decided to march on, till every stranger I meet hereafter is not a stranger anymore. For I was there to listen to them and to see what they see. Nothing more.
“People are strange when you’re a stranger.
Faces look ugly when you’re alone,
Women seem wicked when you’re unwanted
Streets unoccupied when you’re down,
When you’re strange
Faces come out of the rain
When you’re strange
No one remembers your name
When you’re strange.”- The Doors