“The Lower Berth” !


While everyone was busy dressing-up their berths for the night’s sleep, I hesitantly requested them, “Can any of you please swap your lower berth with us? My mother wouldn’t be able climb to middle or upper berths.” And I heard a deafening silence! Many of you may have experienced the similar silence, while traveling through Indian Railways. I have had many, and it was one of those nights.

Before reaching to those “Herds of Men”, I have had made several attempts, reaching out to individuals asking for their treasured lower berth, but in vain. That uncle in blue-shirt said no, “I need to go to toilet several times, thus I can’t”! Considering his age, he sounded genuine. While the young hunks stared, I asked a young girl, “Can you”? She had a slip-disk problem, and thus she couldn’t too. I dared not asking that old women. She was lucky to get a reserved lower berth through the hara-kiri of online reservations. After several failed attempts and variety of excuses, this group of mid-aged men was my last resort in our compartment. I was expecting atleast one of those blank faces to break the silence.

Meanwhile, I was reading exasperation in my mother’s drooling eyes. My mother was sheepishly hiding herself, behind that young girl with slip-disk issue. She atleast cared enough to offer her a seat on her cherished lower berth. Today, my mother’s old-age has made her dependent on fellow travelers’ mercy. In her prime, she was a fit, active, hard-working and an empathetic woman, who lived her life with utmost dignity. But now, in her last couple of miles, she was witnessing lowered sense of core values, empathy, respect and chivalry. To her, it looked like a race to the “Lowest Berth”!

The train was about to leave its platform, and my eyes were still stuck on those men. Especially towards the man who was having his late dinner. Unlike others, he looked mighty strong and well-built to showcase his chivalry. And yes he responded before anyone did, “If no one turns up, I will”! He looked condescendingly to all men around him, and repeated the golden words, “If no one around here swaps your seat, then I will. Your mother is like my mother”! His impactful last dialogue, though filmy, reignited my faith in humanity, which was lost minutes ago. He said, “Give me 5mins, let me finish my dinner, and then let’s swap”! I thanked him, and was thankful to almighty, as I finally discovered someone (with 56-inch chest), chivalrous enough to honor my mother’s problem.

With the newly find hope, 5mins later, I went to see that man. He was done with his dinner and was casually lying on his berth. I asked, “Can we swap our berths now”? He lazily responded, “But now, I have already lied down on my berth”. I reaffirmed, “So now you can’t swap”? I felt robbed when he uttered, “No”! Though I have always been appreciated for my composure and patience, I must admit, I was about to lose it this time. His kind words spoken minutes ago now seemed a sham.

Suddenly to my surprise, the man next to his berth stood up, and said, “I will swap. What are your seat numbers”? This heavy bellied man went straight away, with me, to my seat with his baggage and stuff. Meanwhile, I prepared bed for my mother on her newly discovered lower berth, and allowed her rest her tired body. In the heat of things, I couldn’t thank that man instantaneously. I did show my gratitude later, and he chose to respond through his benevolent smile and with a “Silence”.

Action speaks louder than words! And sometimes, silence is more meaningful than rosy words! Next time, if you see someone, especially elders, in need or despair, help them. It may rejuvenate and re-assure them, that human values are still not swirling down to the “Lowest Berth”!

P.S. On my return trip, voluntarily swapped my Lower Berth with an old lady. Hope our good deeds get accumulated, to contribute in providing a better life to our loved ones!

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Why India is NOT Pakistan?


India and Pakistan both got independence from British in 1947. Both countries born together had one struggle for freedom, one civilization, and one culture. Yet after 66 years of each other’s independence, both the countries are poles apart, both economically and socially. As famously George Bush quoted, “I explained that Pakistan and India are different countries with different needs and different histories”!

But have we ever thought of reasons behind this anomaly between the two countries, which were years ago so similar, but today completely contradictory?

I have tried dwelling upon few reasons from our history in last 66 years. Here are the following:

Visionary Leaders –

India had assembly of great leaders in 1947, whose visions helped in defining India’s roadmap to recreate an exemplary civilization. Unlike Pakistan, India was lucky to have wise and compassionate leaders like Jawahar Lal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, B R Ambedkar, S.Radhakrishnan, Lal Bahadur Shastri etc. All these leaders were groomed under Mahatma Gandhi and thus always valued the importance of upholding the “Dharma” (Justice). All these leaders valued the sacrifices of Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad, Ashfaqulla Khan, Ram Prasad Bismil etc. and thus vowed to craft India a great Nation.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s Muhammad Ali Jinnah lacked both vision and wisdom. He could not create next crop of leaders nor was able to inspire fellow countrymen.

Non-Aligned Movement –

Those were days of Cold War between USA and Russia, and all the Third-World countries were aligning themselves to the either superpower. Non-aligned Movement led by Jawahar Lal Nehru with other world leaders, decided to not formally align or go against any major power blocs. Such entrepreneurial and hyperopic foreign policy helped India gain huge respect among the world leaders across geographies.

Unlike India, Pakistan chose to get associated with USA and its allies, to receive favors from the economic and military powerhouse. Today after so many years, where India is now highly self-dependent, Pakistan has ended up being a pet of USA (and also China). Pakistan’s impatience to grow faster by aligning itself to USA landed it nowhere. Whereas India grew slowly but surely, leaving Pakistan laps behind in the economic race.

Secularism –

Where Pakistan slowly turned into an Islamic country and treated minorities as second grade citizens, India chose “Secularism”. India respected people of all faiths and beliefs, allowing everyone to co-exist in harmony. Pakistan’s transformation into an Islamic country ended up mushrooming powerful religious leaders, which led to rise in terrorism and religious extremism.

India, on the other hand, kept a strict check on right-wing extremism of the majority, and also protected minorities through equal justice and supportive policies. Indian governments didn’t allowed India to become a Hindu-Pakistan, and kept restoring the faith of minorities during difficult times.

Equality among Democratic Pillars –

India always ensured equilibrium among all the democratic pillars of democracy which are Judiciary, Legislative, Executive, Military and Media. None of the five pillars was neither allowed to interfere, nor allowed to overpower another pillar. Although being parallel, all the pillars of democracy worked collectively to take India to newer of heights of being a great democracy.

Pakistan, failed in maintaining this equilibrium, and thus allowing the Military, several times, to overpower all other pillars of democracy. Pakistan had seen several coups by their Military leaders and even today, none of the other pillars had yet challenged its supremacy.

Beyond these key aspects, in last 66 years, India had been through several conflicts and issues. Issues ranged from leadership issues to secularism turned appeasement issues to pillow-fights between democratic pillars to feeble foreign policy issues etc. Yet we all have always been able to overcome all the problems, thanks to our fore-fathers, fellow Indians and leaders. We may come across several new conflicts in our near and distant future. But I am confident, that we “The Indians” will be able to solve all the existing and forthcoming problems amicably. Though sometimes slowly, but surely!

I would conclude by sharing this famous quote, “By travelling alone, we can go faster. But by travelling together, we can go farther!”

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