No water, no medicines, no schools — we tolerate it all

  • Manas Chakravarty
  • Updated: Nov 29, 2015 08:48 IST
Many Indians live in damp hovels in fetid slums with sewage running in open drains in front of their homes while their children play in the filth. How do they survive all this? (AFP File Photo)

So you believe Indians are intolerant? You have no idea what you’re talking about.

How do you think they are able to live their entire lives in damp hovels in fetid slums with sewage running in open drains in front of their homes while their children play in the filth? How do they sleep packed 10 to a room where they can’t turn on their sides without touching the person next to them? How do their kids study in the one room that serves as a kitchen-cum-bedroom-cum-living room, with a tiny curtained-off space for a bathroom without running water? I’ll tell you how they are able to live like that — it’s because they have an incredible capacity for tolerance.

If one of them falls sick because of living in these hellholes, when dengue and cholera and malaria strike, come and see the blood on the floors of their public hospitals. Come and see how the patients lie on the floors in the corridors, come see the cockroaches and the rats and you will learn how tolerant our masses are.

Have you seen the long queues for water in front of the municipal taps? Or the mad rush that happens when the taps runs dry in summer and the municipality deigns to supply them water from tankers? The women shriek and push and shove to get at the water. Do come and see it. It will give you an idea how tolerant the womenfolk are, the same women who have to get up before dawn because there aren’t enough public toilets. The same women who escaped getting aborted before they were born because of their sex. These womenfolk are amazingly tolerant.

Look at the inhuman conditions where they work. They work with hazardous chemicals and heavy machinery without protection. Sometimes when they tolerantly cough their lungs out from silicosis or some other deadly disease they got from their work they even make it to the headlines.

Remember the rush of millions of people, including some PhDs, for a peon’s job? Recall the stampedes while recruiting Army jawans, sometimes with folks being injured. People travel vast distances to take up jobs as watchmen or labourers in the cities, staying away from their families for years to send a few rupees home. In spite of decent jobs being that hard to come by, see how tolerant they are.

Awesome champions of tolerance live in rural India. Health centres without medicines, ramshackle schools without teachers, our rural brethren tolerate them all. They do back-breaking work to earn an uncertain pittance, borrow from moneylenders when the crops fail. When they reach the end of their tether, do they lose their famed tolerance? No sir, they merely go and kill themselves. What could be more tolerant than that?

Does it matter to them that the richest 1% of the population enjoy half the nation’s wealth, while their own children are malnourished and stunted? Not at all, they tolerate that too. They will wait patiently for the crumbs that fall from the rich men’s tables.

It’s time to break this ancient curse of tolerance.

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint. The views expressed are personal

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