Problems in a furural city (& is it possible to solve them?)

“In India, I found a race of mortals living upon the Earth, but not adhering to it, inhabiting cities, but not being fixed to them, possessing everything, but possessed by nothing” – Apollonius of Tyana

[I am not sure if the quote above is true anymore. People of India are definitely not possessed by nothing. Talking about being possessed, poverty and mediocrity are two things that come to my mind. Hope as well along with religion and prejudice.]

People have hope only when they truly believe that they are moving forward. We look at a problem and try to solve the problem by coming up with ideas. The process of problem solving is mundane & arduous unless we innovate. The act of getting down to business & truly taking steps towards making the problem go away needs creativity. How do we do this?

I have been wondering about many such problems ever since I moved to India. I had been used to many luxuries in my previous life:

  1. Gym – getting a good work out
  2. Supermarket – having a great shopping experience
  3. Child care – finding nice entertainment & brain booster for my son
  4. Transportation – enjoying great music in hassle free traffic
  5. Food – relishing great variety of produce & having delicious meal every day

It makes me sad that these basic needs are luxuries in India, more so in furural cities.

If you are wondering, a furural city:

  • is a term I just coined to denote a “fucked-up rural city”
  • is neither a village nor a city and still making up its mind
  • is slowly progressing towards becoming a city but can’t let go of some prejudices yet

It is a fact that my needs are extreme luxuries for countless families and individuals in India that dare to live on less than $2 a day. My problems are nevertheless problems, for me.

Furural problems

Fitting in

This has been one of my major problems in life. I have been trying to find the place, people and area where I fit in. Place in terms of where I want to live. People in terms of who I connect with. Area of expertise in terms of where my skills fit in. I haven’t found much success in this aspect so far.

I don’t fit in to large groups. I don’t fit in rural areas. I don’t fit in jobs that require one to conform without reason. But that’s not the problem. The problem is with me approaching it as if it’s my problem alone. Everyone has problems – with people, place and work. People adapt and adjust or move. The problem has been that my approach is somewhat flawed and narrow.

In order to solve a problem one needs to have complete understanding of the domain. In this case, that’s me. I am now mature enough (unlike years ago in my teens) to understand that it is ok to not fit in and I precisely know why.

No gym? Try a work-around & work out at home. Not like the real deal, but it’s something.

No supermarkets? Drive to the city once a month for specialty shopping. Not like whole foods, but it’s what’s available.

Child care? No gymboree close by, but what I have is the best. My own custom-tailored entertainment for my son that I’ll be proud of, for years to come!

Transportation & food – I am so far off in solving this problem for myself & my family. For now, I just suck it up & drive in crazy traffic when needed. But I do try to schedule my outings in such a way that I leave during off-peak hours. Who knows, may be I’ll get used to driving here soon. Food is still an issue because I crave for healthy vegetarian & vegan items now & then. I miss feeling light & content at the same time after a delicious, nutritious meal.

Third-world problems

I had been so used to figuring out solutions for first world problems like “why is my skin so dry?” or “how different can i cook this pasta next time?” or “what new step can i learn in my flamenco class this week”? and all of a sudden I am cast away in a place where people are worrying about how they can make ends meet that week or how to avoid pits and ditches in a flooded street after a full night’s rain. They are worrying about just getting by and providing for their family while I ponder over how I’m going to get my toddler to stay quiet in his car seat. It felt at first like lack of empathy and indifference, for instance when my cook would frown at me for throwing away leftovers from the night before. But of course, it was lack of empathy. From my side.

So many people do not have food to eat, but I have a cook. That’s not to mean that I think I’m supposed to ignore my problems. My needs, wants and problems make me what I am and they help me grow. But just being aware of the fact that people are suffering around me makes me a little bit more responsible and cautious anytime I take the next step.

Lack of knowledge & experience

I was born in India. I grew up here. I lived here for almost 20 frakking years before I moved away. I wasn’t raised with the knowledge of family values, money values, adjusting or accommodating to situations here. Nor did I learn that myself. The almost-8-year-hiatus didn’t help much either. So coming back, especially as a family came as a culture shock to me. I have been a total failure in terms of my understanding of what people expected out of a grown family woman vs a carefree little girl and the many many skills needed to survive here. But just knowing that I do not have the skill for something helps me analyze if and how I want to make myself better. Now I know I care about not giving a hard time to a couple of working class citizens that I perceived to be rude. At the same time I do not care about a family member that is cross with me for not complying with their outdated practices. It takes a lot of work and a lot more of my energy thinking through this stuff every single day but I’m hoping I’ll be good enough at this so I can share & pass this on to my son or anyone from his generation when the time comes.

Communication gap

I have very few friends because I am very finicky. Also I don’t fit in large groups. But that’s not a problem with furural city. It’s my problem. But at least in the city (or if I were working full time) I’d have some deep meaningful conversations about things that matter. Because all I find around me are moms and grand moms that stay at home and talk about their kids, house and family. I have no real connection or conversation anymore and fear turning into a bore. I have nightmares of my brain rusting away and suddenly I am unable to speak or write anything intelligible. I have no solution for this yet except for writing my heart out, blogging and reaching out to like minded virtual friends. (And yes, moving away to the city is a solution, but at least not right away.)

Quality & competency

This is another problem that I have no solution for yet. The quality of things, integrity and competency levels are far too low. By now I have an understanding of why but not sure how I can make it work for me. People’s lives are so mundane and hard that the work they do is not enjoyable anymore & almost no one here has the option of not doing a work they don’t like. Also, they are not raised to be proud of what they do or taught to be perfect at any job they take up. This makes it hard for a person to keep up his spirit and be great at his work day in and day out while going through the washing cycle of life and responsibilities.

Focusing and solving my problems one at a time even at a snail’s pace helps me understand what people here go through thereby focusing on the bigger problems of society.

Do you have furural problems? Or any problems at all?

4 thoughts on “Problems in a furural city (& is it possible to solve them?)

  1. interesting post. i was in india last week and can really identify with what you are saying. i think furural exists in pockets inside big cities as well. it could also exist within some communities within larger cities.

    what are you thoughts on energy, water, and communication infrastructure in furural citiies

  2. The areas that I have a vague idea of how to solve things are: transportation & trash.
    Right now the number of energy efficient cars are next to nothing in India. Also, with the increase in number of cars per household, it would help to have exclusive lanes for cars. Like in Europe, there could be incentives for driving bicycles or battery operated scooters and tax deductions/rewards for hybrid vehicles. One would think that smart cars would be a common buy considering the space (or lack of it), but people go for bigger cars because the average family consists of 4. [Most people in my neighborhood are a joint family of 5 or more]
    The cities are improving in terms of flyovers and bridges, but the furural areas have no space. My approach would be to clear out the garbage dumping grounds & put them to use. Underground & ground level, the waste could be treated and the floors above could be used for car parking. Anybody (including the residents) would be off limits to drive regular cars in to narrow lanes. The idea is that each furural city would have this parking garage. Residents park their cars & use something similar to a zipcar (energy efficient of course) or a 4-seater/6-seater solar powered rickshaws to get to their destination/homes.

    I have just begun the process of doing this for my household & I believe the underground/ground level waste management could be done by vermiculture. I was surprised to find out that a woman in Pune has been doing this for well over a decade (yet, not many are aware of this process).

    As for energy & water, I’m not very informed on this topic yet. I’d heard a lot about rain water harvesting few years ago, the CM made it a point to implement the process across South India at that time. But after moving here, it doesn’t look as prevalent as I thought. There are loads of information and many organizations that offer equipment and services, but awareness seems to be the problem here. Same goes with solar energy. I learnt about this company called Selco during my recent visit to Bangalore & they seem to be doing good work. But with India and its population there needs to be countless people working on millions of little projects (sadly those are not the numbers reflective of the current situation). The few organizations that do good work need tremendous support, the student population could be of great help but it takes special talent to convince them (Who needs social service & struggle when there are pubs & malls? I know I didn’t do it when I was in school or college). The problem now points to the education system which is unfortunately not geared towards social awareness as it is supposed to be & instead makes the students better at a useless skill-rote learning.

    Lot of problems & I can easily get my hair tangled just listing them, let alone thinking of solutions 🙂

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