Having spent most of my life in progressive cities or atleast cities which think they are progressive. These cities fight hard to break away from the old ways. whether it’s food or clothing or mode of transport. They believe in killing the old.
So home cooked food takes a backstage when kids want to go out and have food at MacDonald’s. The traditional Indian dresses have long been gone and replaced by Denims and Tees. Similarly bicycles are no more trendy, motorbikes and cars are the way of life.
Specially last 15-20 years have seen too drastic a change. We often refer it to as the Mobile Generation the “mobile” coming from the Mobile Phones. Alongwith these attitudes a lot gets lost without realisation everything happens bit by bit. A person realises only when one sits in the time machine and goes back a few decades.
Well everybody is not as lucky as me.
YES. Recently I did a bit of TIME TRAVEL.
It was not so high-tech as it sounds. Infact Time Travel can be done in a much more LowTech manner. Recently I chanced upon to visit a place called Shantiniketan (West Bengal, India). A small sweet town better known for it’s red soil and it’s gifts to Literature & Art. Leave the centre of the town and you are in a world which runs on bicycles. Yes Sir, the main mode of transport in this town is not cars, not scooters but bicycles. that does not mean the city is full of prehistoric creatures. In contrast average people of this small town will be probably more “literate” than in the big progressive towns.
“Literate” may not mean they have attended school, but surely have learnt much more from people around them and the basic aura of the city.
It’s strange in India to expect a Rickshaw Puller to quote poetry which most of us school goers may not have heard about. Well I guess I am not wandering to far from our core that is the Bicycle. Just think of a city where there are no cars, which means no Big Cars vs Small Cars which leads to less social inequality. A Postman or A College Professor or An Architect when all of them ride similiar black bicycles they all look to be of the same social strata and they blend much better into each others life. Which leads to better sharing of knowledge. Hence a more literate society if not more educated.
Not just that i realised the pace of a bicycle is more conducive for a creative soul. A person is more relaxed and free to think on a bicycle than a car. Probably that makes Shantiniketan one of the creative hubs of the country.
This little town seems to be India. India, the way it was till the 60’s or 70’s. The way it was supposed to be. People lending a helping hand to his fellow citizen. Not running away by showing off how fast he is.
Over here people are less scared of honks and speeding cars. Which means they love singing a song to their fellow bikers as they ride along the red soiled earth.When was the last time any of us did it?
A moment which may haunt me for times to come. Even though I back from my Time Travel he haunts me. A Rickshaw Puller who pulled our rickshaw all the way to a river bank and then he sang a song of joy. A song written on the same river bank a couple of decades back by a famous poet of those days. Time hadn’t stopped. But still people in Shantiniketan sing their own Song of Joy.
One day you may chance upon a city like this while doing some Time Travel till then Sing a Song of Joy to your fellow cyclist.
All these pictures are from Shantiniketan and nearby villages.