The insulation

Rohan Katepallewar, PMRDF, Kawardha (Kabeerdham), Chhattisgarh

Its been almost two years since I am in this so called ‘backward’ district of Chhattisgarh. I have been visiting so many villages. I keep meeting immensely interesting people and I do try my best to understand their stories. I don’t have access to TV (by choice). Social media and internet formulate my windows to look at the outer world. And after spending whole lot of time in taking efforts to resolve several issues; after becoming a part and parcel of this amazing world here, at times it gives me goose bumps to realize that I stand at the margins of great divide.

At one end, I see my ‘literate’ and ‘aware’ friends, constantly commenting and talking about several debates, topics ranging from ‘intolerance’ to ‘nationalism’. I do realize at times, several of the incidences / events are taking place in the ‘outer world’, which are initiating a kind of ‘churning’ processes in broader political domain. I do understand that the shouting / yelling of different reporters/media professionals/ intellectuals etc are occupying the ‘national’ psyche. But I see, these channels of information are so limited yet so strong that many of my friends believe, only these are the grave questions of today’s times! The idea is getting stronger that what happens in the capital, is something which is defining the fate of all the people of this nation.

I see the other end and I see people around me, busy in their own spheres, where-in surrounding physical world occupies maximum space of their collective consciousness. I see them worried for several daily exigencies. For me, they seem to be busy in getting benefits of schemes for their food requirements, wage employment, toilet construction and many more. Particularly speaking, this being a drought year, many communities around me seem to be ‘jobless’ owing to lack of availability of water in their lakes and pumps. Yet, I see these people channelizing their energies in several community driven social affairs, festivals and many more. Though, they are not completely insulated from outer world (they posses TV), they seem to be less involved in the questions of ‘outer’ world. What are these ‘questions’?

I understand the debate regarding the ‘nationality’ is something, which almost everyone seems to be talking about. So much so that, if one has no opinion about it, he/she might risk themselves to be called as ‘anti-national’! But may be I am slightly insulated from the greater world, I am quite non-serious about the issue. May be this insulation is taking me away from the debate regarding what the national and anti-national is. Then I see, people around me are very much part of, what we call ‘nation’, yet their issues are completely absent from the mindset of the debaters! Theoretically speaking, these people around me, who seem to be least bothered about the ‘national’ level debates, are equal part of what Rousseau calls – ‘general will’. Opinions / perspectives of these people should be given equal weight when we aim to decide the dimension of the word ‘nation’. Question of these communities must occupy equal space in the forums which claim to be ‘national’. But it is not the case. Take a simple example. I have around 80% farmers in this district, and no media house today (national/regional), give due space to ‘weather information’ which is of prime concern to these communities!

Who is insulated?

Then I realize the fact, it is not me who is insulated. But, my friends and the extended family seem to be insulated from the reality. They are surrounded by so many channels of information, which are offering limited ‘worldview’ and only few aspects of the reality. This ‘outer world’ is so strongly grappled by these channels that, they are becoming progressively blind to the questions of several communities which formulate my world, today. And if at all I could raise questions of people in the rural areas in any discussion, I get strange reactions. Members of this outer world seem to be trapped in an unique imagination. They feel that ‘charity’ is a magic bullet to resolve all these problems. It reminds me of Prof. Slavoj Zizek, who talks about the dangerous trend of ‘charity’ being the inevitable part of ‘economy’ as if it can resolve all the structural and deep rooted issues.

I believe, the debate regarding what the ‘national’ / ‘antinational’ is, seem to be taking us back to the modern world (we are now in post-modern era) and to the questions of erstwhile generation. It is not taking us in forward direction which requires us to invest whole lot of energy in devising new values and new ethos which in turn can rule out numerous structural inequalities. We must admit that, such inequalities are very much part of our collective existence and they are not being ruled out for several reasons. We must take efforts at broader as well as micro level to make this world socio-economically stable and sustainable for all the diverse communities to coexist in peaceful manner. But for this to happen, we must realize about our respective ‘insulation’. Only then we can expect that we raise ‘relevant’ questions!

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