The Visibility of the Invisible

 Invisibility is a condition of existence for the marginal. Or rather the erasure of uncomfortable truth by the society’s fortunate. It is rather troubling to know that while we sit enjoying the cadences of falling raindrops on your window sill, many others are grieving the washing away of their huts. The jarring fact that while dine-outs may be a luxury of exercising our taste buds, for several millions the task of merely appeasing their growling stomach with a square meal is a futile loop -a Sisyphean task. This parallel existence of unimaginable riches and ragged poverty and the embodiment of these societal inequities are best looked away from by a turn of the head. This selective reality where world is just and happy devoid of suffering and pain gives us a sense of solace from our pinching conscience which secretly knows that the divide is too fragile, too chanced. There are worlds within worlds, cities within cities and cultures with cultures which exist in parallels. When they intersect, they wipe off the farce of invisibility and produce debilitating tremors of reality.

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“That’s enough!” the Mumbai C.S.T  local wailed in pain. But the crowd continued to swell her. The horn trumpeted through the noisy clamour of the phalanxes and the aggressive pushes of the vulnerable passengers holding on to the pole in a desperate effort to get in.  Naturally, a mad riot ensued. People ran helter-skelter to find a spot to position themselves through the bludgeoning rush. A vacant seat was nowhere to be found.  At a far end of the corner,a mother had retired herself to a cosy sleep while her four children played violent mischief with each other much to the annoyance of the bystanders.  Soon enough, their loud romping and frivolity drew a lot of scathing glances. But it was not their loud bantering that had won them hard looks and muffled sniggers. For these are not uncommon encounters in train travels. Their ruffled, unwashed hair and snot nose had a different story to tell .They were possibly the very people who we encounter at signals or in the subway pleading or coercing for money or food. They were the house help or the rag pickers. The fruit seller or the tramp. The ones who usually squat near the gangway and work in squalor.

The people who we had made “invisible” had obtained the prerogative to bequeath our place. The comfortable invisibility had transmuted itself into a pinching presence. Sandhurst Road Station.The train halted. The “invisibles” descended easying the tension that filled the air.And the two worlds that momentarily met diverged once again.               

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Education has informed us greatly about the marginal in our society through statistics and theories, our course books have enumerated their social problems and economic conditions. However, it has told us little about them as people. Education that is too tall to look below and too shallow to look deeper blinds us to reality creating invisible walls between us and them. This is indeed a dangerous trend as the category of what comprises as “marginal” keeps shifting.        
               

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Supreme court’s recent decision upholding the validity of RTE’s mandatory reservation in private school has led to a massive surge of discomfort from principals to academicians to upper class parents.Their main fear it seems, is the dilution of merit and quality of education-a digressed culmination neither beneficial for the disadvantaged or the fee-paying students.

However,“at the heart of this resistance is”,as Harsh Mander writes “the unwillingness of middle class Indians to accept the idea that their children ,the children of domestic help and a street child,will sit on the same school bench..” The momentary usurpation of our seat in local trains has now swelled into a law permitting rightful admission in our elite schools. In its affidavit, the Union government states the rationale of the new law as “development of more heterogeneous and democratic classrooms,where children of all social groups and categories learn to interact with each other,develop respect for diversity and differences,and move towards building a more tolerant and humane society.” This change requires embracing the law in its glorious spirit instead of subscribing to circumvention like the Delhi elite schools that have opened separate afternoon school for the disadvantaged.