My father traveled to our hometown (Purulia) from Bangalore earlier this month, and immediately fell critically ill. From not finding a wheelchair at the appropriate moment at Bangalore airport, to the difficult moments at Howrah railway station, travel is not easy for old people. He could not be treated at Purulia, and had to be shifted at Bokaro, which is one hour away. I rushed to Bokaro.
It was a nostalgic visit to this part of the country, after a long time. There were refreshing experiences – ICU costs at the hospital were Rs 800 a day, and the “hotel” I stayed in, just next to the hospital, charged me Rs 350 for a double room. Anyone you meet is extremely courteous and very eager to help. Food is delicious and inexpensive. At the market, you get fresh vegetables and you can savour Bengali sweets at unbelievable prices. Ittar or Attar (perfume oil made from flower petals – essentially Indian!) is available at 10 rupees a small bottle.
On the other hand, nothing seems to have changed over the decades, but for more congestion. Coming from Bangalore, it does look like multiple Indias co-exist. Did not spot a KFC or a Pizza Hut, but did not miss those. In Purulia, after much effort, I could find only one outlet that provided internet access.
Will some parts of the country, then, be left behind? I believe there is cause for optimism here. The hospital had a competent doctor, even though the approach was different. Probably, he was not used to being questioned, so I had to extract every little bit of information I needed, but he did his job quietly and efficiently. All the hospital staff were polite and approachable, too. If this is service industry, they are ahead on the human aspects of service, though quite behind on ambience or appearances. But the most striking part was the sight every morning of neatly attired children going to school in school uniform. In their grooming and purpose, there seemed to be no difference from any other part of the country. The people of this region may be tolerant of the indifferent progress around them, but are serious about educating their children. This leads me to think their future is secure, as they have their priorities right. Their children will not be left behind!