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A Step Forward

Posted on: 01 December '09

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!

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  • Geetha

    Dear Mr. Banerjee,

    Yes, optimism is our staple diet! And as parents, all of us always strive to do our best for our children.

    I do hope and pray that your father is better now.

    Thanks and regards,


  • Sanjay

    Does lack of internet brings more human aspects of service and give less preference to ambience or appearances. When these kids go to different world in future, how would they react, will ambience or appearances change their originality ? How does parents / teachers handle such issues and prepare those kids for tomorrow ?


  • Hi Kalyan,
    I am so glad that your Father is better. As regards education, I think India needs more vocational training courses, so that people can be self employed, else my greatest fear is a paucity of jobs for the ever increasing educated workforce.

  • Radhika

    Hello Kalyan,
    I just read about your experience and similar thoughts echoed in me when I visited a hamlet in Uttarakhand. I have shared it in Petals published as Minimalism (not a compulsion to read though:))

    It is so true that multiple Indias co-exist and it also seems true that human aspects seem to be more prevalent in such small towns.

    Hope your father is fine


  • Somenath Roy

    Hi Kalyan,

    It was nice to read about your experience though I know its a bit late. I’m from Kolkata and I have been to those parts many a times. Reading your blog took me to those places in my thoughts. You know I have been to Sunderbans on a three day trip. I went to small villages there, where hardly 10 to 15 families used to stay together. There also I saw small kids going to school nicely groomed with whatever they have and seeing this gave me immense pleasure. Though I don’t want me to be sounded as a pessimistic but still the thought comes to my mind is to how much extent they’ll be able to carry there education against so many odds. But still believing that God will give them the grit and determination to go against all odds. Hope they keep there priorities right!!!


  • Just caught up with this blog. I sincerely hope that nothing would have changed in Purulia in the past four months to perturb its serenity and simplicity of life. These human aspects of service, tolerance and priority in education priorities are worthy of emulation!

    – Benny

  • Uttam

    Dear Kalyan Da,
    I also belong to Purulia, presently working in NTPC, Delhi. I also came across the same experience whenever i go to Purulia. I think GHB factor is very very high there. GHB is good human beinng. i enjoyed reading this piece.