I am a middle-class citizen of India, a country that is expected to become a superpower in a few years. The newspapers and television tell me everyday that I have lots to be proud of as an Indian. My heart swells with pride.
Then, I fold my newspaper, switch off the television set and move out into my balcony, which overlooks an empty plot of land. This bit of land serves as the colony's garbage dump. Peels of fruit and vegetables, rotting cooked food, broken light bulbs and tube lights, old tires and rusted tins litter the entire area. Shrubs and small bushes proliferate. They serve as a cover for people who sit amongst them every morning to answer nature's call.
However, we rarely see plastic bags. No, my neighborhood is not an environmentally conscious one. Rag pickers come early morning and gather each one of the godforsaken coloured bits and stuff it into their sacks. I know that these are sold at a price to people who recycle them, but, without proper sterilisation, thus, increasing their hazardous effects.
The roads in the city silently beg to be repaired. Mishaps are a common occurrence. Underage children driving vehicles recklessly are a menace to one and all. There is dust blowing in all directions. It is easier to breathe inside a house with the doors and windows shut rather than outside.
People have computers and air conditioners but they are difficult to run. Voltage fluctuation necessitates the purchase of capacitors. Constant power cuts lead to the purchase of UPS systems. Despite owning power dependant electronic gadgets, one feels "power"-less.
Families gather round the TV in the evenings and watch attractive people in expensive clothes and exotic settings act out heartbreaks and emotional traumas. Poverty is discussed by people who have probably never missed a meal in their entire lives. Advertisements of water parks and resorts make you wonder if it is the same country where people fight over a pitcher of water.
Hotels and restaurants advertise diverse cuisine and health clinics guarantee weight loss. It is the same country where millions of people find it difficult to eke out two meals a day and do not have access to civic amenities, education and health care. On the one side are the poor, battling with every calamity, be it natural or manmade, struggling to survive on the other side are the rich who speak incessantly about how well India has done for itself.
The economic chasm that divides the two is so deep that it is impossible to view one side from the other.
My life has become an incessant struggle to ensure that I do not go down to one extreme, knowing that I am definitely nowhere near the other. I am not poor enough to deserve attention and neither rich enough to command it. I am a middle-class Indian. I am the indispensable slice of tomato that must be squeezed between the upper and lower crusts to complete any sandwich but remain invisible.
Jyoti Jadwani is a resident of Indore, Madhya Pradesh and can be reached at email@example.com .
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