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It was 1970 when my family moved to the Capital leaving the sweet memories of dear old Kolkata behind. My sense of belonging to this part of the country, therefore, is natural. Having been brought up in this cosmopolitan milieu, it was rather difficult for me to adjust to my own home town where I had to spend eight long youthful years in the beginning of my career. I found Kolkata unbearably suffocating, the people unendurably inquisitive and the entire regional ethos absolutely insufferable.

Yet when I moved back to the Capital it took some time for me to feeI at home. Why? Did my sensibilities change over the years? No, perhaps the estrangement from the city made me aware that people were the same everywhere. The only difference lay in the ability to tackle them. Here I knew how to protect my privacy whereas back in Kolkata I felt at a loss to deal with the ‘otherness’ – a constant reminded that I did not belong there. Oddly, I was a stranger in my own land!
There were many reasons responsible for this peculiar segregation. I could not speak the language the way ‘they’ did although I was an alumnus of a Bengali medium school. I could not share the acute feeling of deprivation that they held on to being inhabitants of a Leftist state perpetually at daggers drawn with the Centre. People I was introduced to were either in awe or in contempt of the National Capital – seat of the Political Power be wherein all resources (according to them) got deliberately diverted to bring it at par with other international cities at the expense of the rest of the country reinforcing regional imbalances that perpetuated the nation’s “Third World” tag. The rift emerged out of the misconception that Delhites en masse enjoyed star status due to proximity to the corridors of power. Laughable logic? Yet, it was this divisive notion that resulted in an unuttered social alienation fanned by the ‘red’ pundits’ raucous debate on how the abhorred bourgeoisie was bleeding the nation a deeper red in the name of democracy. In such an ethos, it was unusually hard to make the point home that it wasn’t easy for R. K. Laxman’s common man to survive, reeling under the pressure of making both ends meet, in a city determined to vie globally.
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Decades later a similar process of (c)overt cultural ostracization is being witnessed in this part of the country, fashionably known as the National Capital Region, albeit on dissimilar grounds. In spite of the territorial coverage and thriving insurgency from the length and breadth of the sub- continent and outside, the National Capital (Region) fails to accommodate the demographic diversities of a nation known for its ethnic multiplicity. Paradoxically, certain segments of the populace, unfortunately, feel subalternised not because they are under-privileged but because of lack of familiarity and acceptance by the ignorant majority.
Wonder why cultural pluralism has not been able to foster an all-embracing social milieu. It is also a matter of great concern how an unhealthy predominance of hyper-aggression is inhibiting peaceful co-mingling essential for sustaining a work culture keyed on positive vibes and irreproachable ethics. While on one hand, there is a constant emphasis on revamping the state machinery to be people-friendly, yet this grooming appears to be merely cosmetic in the face of increasing factionalism and unstopped machination of “othering”.
Against this socio-cultural backdrop, needless to say, the marginalised feels powerless. With the realisation of being denuded of power rises automatically the desire to be appropriately equipped to face, if not win over, the challenges of day to day survival in an alien atmosphere. However, given the exploitative ethos, imminent need to revisit the nuances of empowerment is also necessitated.
This brings us to the larger issues of intent and modality of empowerment. How exactly do we define empowerment? A process by which we learn to skillfully adapt to our surroundings without being intimidated by any forms of coercion? A process of becoming stronger and more self-confident in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights? The question here is whether we can really control our lives uncompromisingly and undaunted at every juncture? I guess the answer cannot be in absolute affirmative always, simply because, howsoever we may claim, a total control on every facet of life at the same time is an absolute impossibility. Fact remains we are human and cannot every time dictate our terms to the natural forces governing our existence on earth unopposed. There are times we have to bend backwards to compromise a little and on others put our foot down not to pay heed to any hurdle, human or otherwise. Yet, the question remains how much to bend and how much to stiffen our stand.
I believe, these processes are gradual and evolutionary and in contrast to the common belief, more an internalisation of core strength than a warfare with external stimuli. The barriers which isolate us from the rest are within and not without. Power is not wielded by virtue of belonging to a community of greater number. So is true for the lesser number who perhaps unknowingly garner comfort within the four walls of their confines. The other factor inches its way in this narrow no-man’s territory as both neighbours shut doors to each other. Interestingly, what escapes is the fact that ‘othering’ is a two way process. While the coerced feels isolated as the ‘other one’ in the domain of the majority, the coercer takes the form of the ‘other one’ in the eyes of the coerced. Thus, each needs to take a step forward to bridge the gap and wipe out the shadow of ‘othering’ which looms large in between for the sake of peaceful coexistence and not keep pointing a finger at each other. Remember the other end of your finger pointing outward is towards your own side!!
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About gc1963

A working woman with interests in reading, writing, music, poetry and fine arts.

6 responses »

  1. Vimala Ramu says:

    A bit heavy for my frivolous mind.But I did love Delhi for its unique charm. It is only when my daughter grew up, I was rather relieved to leave the city notorious for its uncontrollable male libido.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Read it. Loved it but with a saddened heart. More so… for having felt the same uneasiness about three decades back…and no change still!

    Liked by 2 people

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