Perpetual Struggle to Persevere
By Gauri Naik
Not so long ago, we made a devoted tryst with destiny. As the rest of the world slept, we rose to a life of liberty. Released from the clutches of colonial injustice, our fierce hunger for freedom was satiated. We won ourselves the capacity to dream. We promised ourselves we’d labor and work hard to give reality to those dreams.
History had witnessed a fundamental transformation. In our perpetual journey of being hungry for time. At large, society seems to have benefited from that, but it has also given rise to distinct multicultural socioeconomic contrasts rooted deeply in daily Indian life, evolving at varying speeds. change, the developments we’ve seen unfold in India, have catalyzed change further over
Next to one of the busiest roads of Pune filled with multistoried brightly lit malls, lie the small lanes of ordinary life. Such places represent the glitter of a life well-lived, coexisting with spaces that mean the extreme opposite. These spaces are a part of the 26.9% estimated Indian poverty, as determined by the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS).
"No home from the slum area surrounding These commercial centers of hedonism will have such squeaky clean glistening floors, despite the irony that, it is the people living in these homes cleaning those floors.”
One of these people is a worker in a college nearby, Rekha. In her 40s, always dressed in a saree and grey coat, she’s a single mother. While she runs menial errands of fetching tea, xerox papers, and wiping tables, her daughter attends a Marathi school nearby. On a paycheck of 5200 INR, she’s the sole breadwinner for her family of 2. Her husband passed away in an accident within 3 years of their marriage.
With rent & utilities taking up a major chunk of the sum, her savings are conditional. Her male counterparts in the same institution earn 800 INR more. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) revealed the gender pay gap in India to be at 27%. This number is so dire, it has encompassed even the micro level of the country’s working world.
For the students attending the institution, that’s the price of a medium-sized pizza. For Rekha, having it would mean a priceless difference. Her daughter is underweight with a compromised immune system, and Rekha herself suffers from muscle weakness and other deficiencies through malnutrition. A local doctor treats them without taking money.
National Family Health Survey, NHFS-5 (2019-21), found 32.1% of children below 5 to be underweight. Similarly, 18.7% of women in the age group of 15 to 49 years suffer from malnutrition.
" Rekha is just one of the many represented facelessly in these statistics. She does not have the freedom to dream of a better life when the systematic reality of her life prevents her from accessing her share of Roti, Kapda & Makaan.
76 years ahead, the words ‘freedom’ and ‘dreams’ no longer mean what they meant in 1947. The realities that our ancestors dreamt of actualizing are still not present. “The hunger for bread is greater than the hunger for freedom.”
Hence, the luxury of dreaming isn’t guaranteed.
Is freedom only definable when one is nestled safe & secure in one’s cocoon; belly full, bed made and check-out carts emptied?
Or is it so that the capacity to want it stays muted and sidelined by the insatiable painful hunger for bread?
With so many people hungry to survive, how independent have we truly become?