Disclaimer: These are musings from my personal experiences and not a generalized opinion that could be applied to every individual.
Though I wouldn’t call myself a metro-city fellow as I was initially placed in Patna, Bihar but circumstances have brought me to live in one. In March, after 8 months into the fellowship, I shifted to Delhi as my organization needed someone here. It was a different time and space, as compared to the small-town life of Patna.
My initial reaction was a mix of hope and sadness. Sometimes, I would feel, “OK, this is how the fellowship will end. Maybe, I will even miss Patna”. On other days, I would think of Delhi as a place filled with opportunities. I’d get to work with my core team as opposed to working alone in Patna.
People generally have two notions about a fellow working in metro:
a) It’s easy
b) Learning is low.
Having had the opportunity of getting a first-hand experience, I would like to present some of my views.
To the first, I agree to an extent. You can find all resources, things are readily available and there is comfort of city life. However, every pro has a con. Here, it’s the Stipend amount. To live in Metro city is a struggle when you take into account the cost of living. Searching for a decent space to live is the first and biggest daunting task. I almost had an existential crisis deciding if in future, earning a lot of money should be prioritized over searching a decent place to live, and I realized money is important.
Life here is a constant struggle between abstinence to, and being a slave of consumerism. Everything is accessible BUT you have to stay away. While living in Patna, cost of living was never a major factor. It’s up to you to decide what’s a bigger worry for you – A place where you can’t enjoy luxuries of city life or somewhere you have everything but you can’t do much about it. In my case, since I spend a bit too much money, especially when it comes to food, I struggled with a lot of self-control when I initially moved to Delhi after living a simple life in Patna.
About the second notion, there’s a common belief that we get more to learn in a village, because of the available groundwork and things to do but what’s there to learn in a city. I disagree to that. While village life presents its own set of challenges, social issues are abundant in a metropolitan as well. More often than not, in villages we try to solve problems that look like problems to us, but are not for the locals. In cities however, there are issues that go unseen by people busy in their own lives. Even if it stares into your eyes, you might be too occupied with your own problems to give heed to anything else.
The fellowship has given me a lens that I had never worn earlier. I can now see two classes existing side by side and even if in future, I stop working in this sector, it will be always be hard to turn a blind again. Sometimes, it feels like we are living a delusional and hypocritical life in cities, being so engrossed in ourselves. Every day I see people who don’t have enough to get through the day, people living on sidelines, living a totally different life a few meters from me. The urban slums, a huge influx of migrants, daily wagers, homes on platforms, children begging on roads.
It’s not something I haven’t seen or felt before but it has become more real now that I’m directly dealing with it.
Metro cities give you an array of complex social issues which have no easy solution and a lot of hurdles to reach the other end. There are enough problems to solve if that’s what you are looking for.
Delhi itself is an interesting place to fuel your curiosity. It offers everything including a rich heritage and history, all aspects of modern India, governance, activism, extreme riches and people living in sheer poverty. The city has its own visible and invisible parts. There are people who have become used to being mean with no fault of their own as it may be a requirement for their survival. There are myriad opportunities in all directions. With Delhi, you will either love it or hate it. There is no mid-way and I am yet to figure out which side I’m on.