Sitting in plush AC class rooms, living off luxurious apartments on campus and then subsequently working from swanky offices in big Corporates or self-owned companies, the ‘elite’ of our country, represented in this case by a graduate from ISB (Indian School of Business), is as far removed from reality of a Mamooli-Aadmi as the sky is from earth (not using ‘Aam-Aadmi’ as I find the term abused beyond redemption). Yet, it would not stop this elite from waxing eloquent on the problems of the poor living in distant villages or writing consulting papers on rural economy or perhaps even drafting critical public policy documents for the rural folk.
Please do not ponder much on the ISB grad in question – it’s me. And let me make a confession here – ‘ISB,’ has been added in here only to help gather more attention and more ‘eye-balls.’ Who would read a post from a nobody called Ashish, otherwise. Also, ISB can easily be replaced with any premier institution of India- IIT, IIM and others.
Having worked in my family business, I was never as far removed from reality as many of my other class mates were. However, I too still lived in an urban cocoon of my own. And this, I came to realize only after I started an industrial unit in a rural area and came face to face with rural life.
Looking at the difficulty faced by the labourers working in my unit (most of them come from UP & Orissa) in transferring money back home, I got Bank Accounts opened for them in a nearby bank, way back in 2014 when PM Modi was running the Jan Dhan Yojana. Life, or at least money transfers, would become easy for them, or so I thought.
The very next day of opening the bank accounts, my main foreman Ranjeet, an extremely intelligent & skilled worksman, came running to me – scared as hell. “What wrong have I done done Sir (Saahab, humau kachu kiye hai kya)?” he asked showing an SMS he received from the bank. The SMS by itself was a simple Welcome message that any bank sends out on opening of an account but it was in English, a language which was beyond comprehension for this ‘Mamooli – Aadmi.’ Awe of the entire banking system exaggerated by a foreign language was such that a simple SMS scared the wits out of this otherwise reasonable and very balanced man. The ‘Urban Cocoon’ or, should I say, the ‘Urban English Cocoon’ in which I lived, broke open in that one moment.
In that one moment, I realized the injustice that we as a nation have been perpetrating on the ‘Mamooli Aadmi’ for all these years. 70 years after Independence from the ‘Angrez,’ we are still not able to give a person the right to go on with his life’s mundane, daily transactions without ‘Angrezi.’ Think about it, would you be comfortable to receive your phone bill, electricity bill, water bill, bank statement, judicial proceedings etc. all in a language you do not understand in your native country? What makes it worse is that we, the so called ‘educated’ elite, do not even see this as a problem that needs correction. On the contrary, we castigate the mamooli aadmi for not having the aptitude to learn English.
I, myself for instance, never employed even a security guard if he couldn’t write in English. However, after this incident, life changed. Language was no longer a barrier. My security guards started writing the ‘inward/ outward register’ in their native language Telugu and my foremen started writing the ‘production-logs’ in their native language Hindi (See attached pictures). Two years since then, Ranjeet, the security guards and most other workers continue to work with me. But now they work free of the inferiority complex, of not knowing an alien language and work with more confidence, zeal, motivation & loyalty. A simple change in the language of work brought about much greater peace, prosperity and happiness both for me and my workers.
I now wonder how much more prosperous and developed our nation would be if only it could get rid of this inferiority complex of not knowing English, from the hearts and minds of the mamooli aadmi and also similarly rid of the Superiority complex, of knowing English, form the mind, body and soul of the ‘Khaas (Elite) Aadmi / Aurat.’