India is known worldwide as a country that promotes “unity in diversity”. Well, I don’t know about unity, (or to be more specific, I’d rather not talk of it) but ‘diversity’ — that I can guarantee.
It’s not really a surprise, is it? India is a diverse land, that’s what we’ve been told all our lives.
Now, a few days ago, I had to travel to Chennai from home. A journey that, on Indian Railways, takes 5 1/2 hours during the day and around 7 hours after sun down. On that day, I was on a night train, a non A/C compartment.
It was my first time travelling non A/C. Now, I love third class A/C. (I haven’t been on the first and second classes, so I can’t compare.) You have a bottle stand, a book stand, a comfortable white bed sheet and a super-warm blanket. Sounds cozy? Yes it is.
I, being oh so naive, expected at least a bed sheet in non A/C. Disappointed, I was. As always with Indian Railways.
There was no bottle stand, no book stand, no bed sheet and absolutely nothing warm. And it didn’t help that ‘twas the coldest month of the year here in the South. There were quite a lot of mosquitoes though — OK, I don’t blame the Railways for that — but for the rest, I wouldn’t say I don’t.
But there was one thing on the non A/C compartment that wasn’t on the A/C ones: ceiling fans! And guess what, I got the upper berth. Some good guy thought it would be warm during the night and decided to click on those switches.
Oh, yes it got worse.
Having no book stand, I didn’t know where to put my specks, so I clutched on to it in my hand and tried my best to fall asleep without shattering it. The good thing is, my specks remained intact, but I lost sleep. The cold was too much.
That night was an eye opener. (Literally as well) I thought of all those days I had comfortably settled in the A/C compartment, when there were people, just compartments away, shivering.
OK, maybe that sounded more emotional than I intended it to. It’s the cold fact.
That night, I was reminded how much we value money. If you have more, you get to be comfortable, if you’re willing to spend a little less, then settle uncomfortably. There’s the first, second and third A/C, and then there’s the non A/C. Not to mention the unreserved compartment where you’re not guaranteed a seat. Such diversity. In a single train.
It’s the same nation-wide. Every day, we see incidents, people and habits that are so diverse in nature. And although it’s common world-wide, India always has a special place in my heart.
Not much of a surprise, right? India holds the record for most number of castes in the world. And no two castes are similar. I don’t even need stats to prove it.
Then there’s the financial status. I don’t think I have heard of low class, middle class, lower middle class, upper middle class or the upper class, all mentioned in one place.
Incredible India, huh?