Apr 14, 2002 :: To Goa by Qualis
I have just completed a 4000kM road trip for GNI through Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa , amidst disquieting news of berserk mobs in Gujarat using communal identities for rioting, looting and blood-letting. It was—and is—a moment to ask, “Will India ever let go of its periodic spells of madness and uncilivilsed behaviour? Are the stories in GoodNewsIndia likely to sound escapist and unreal?”
My answer after 18 days on the road is: “As real as the reports of violence, are the sagas of quiet Indians working beyond the insane din, on missions of their choice that add positive value to India. To linger among these folk is my right, as much as joining the sufficiently developed debate elsewhere on the violence, is my duty.”
So thinking, I made my trip. The roads are getting better. The truckers and farmers on tractors, for all the unjust notoriety heaped upon them, are in fact disciplined road users. [If there are offenders, they are the state transport buses, small vans and neo-riche louts with over priced, over powered cars.] There is discernible improvement—at least, to my 60 year old eyes—in the sense of well being among people. Everywhere public phones and internet kiosks abound. General sense of hygiene is better too, save in the noisy small towns, where heady commerce has no time for graces. Frequently there is the sparkling village, tempting you to stop. There was near Hampi, a quiet eatery in a bird dense mango grove, some 40 feet above the Tungabadra with rice fields on its banks, all together conspiring to mock the cynic and ask him whether he would include this too as evidence before he pronounced his judgment on India. And oh yes, the smiles everywhere are electric as ever.
What I report is no illusion. Most of India is in calm repose, expectant of prosperity. In most unsuspected places you find those heroes of GNI’s pages: the silent, unsung Indian committed to concerns beyond his home and doing something about it.
Thus I found a group working to settle street children, an illiterate couple planting trees on public roads as service, a 74 year old man --an ex-corporate senior—running a vocational school for rural children, busy middle income groups running a huge consumer co-operative, two young ladies trying to clean up slums, a shy scientist putting India on the world map and so on. In the coming days their stories will appear in these pages.