Ever since Mr. Devi Lal pointed out that to be a leader of men you require a village postal address, I have been trying to find out mine. And I find the only address I have is Bombay and that too South Bombay.
I have never really lived in a village, not even on a holiday. And the nearest I have come to being in a village is a hill-station, at the peak of summer, with a lot of Bombay citizens summering there.
Most people, at least of my generation, were born in villages. I was not. And most people have relations in villages, old grandmothers and great-grandmothers tucked away in some ancestral home. I do not. In fact, I do not even have relations in Bombay. Though, about this, sometimes I am happy.
In India, in offices government and private, we have this absurd practice, when going on leave, to fill up a form with a section that inquires: Reason for leave? I believe, once you have earned the leave, by working for the previous 11 months, nobody has the right to ask reason for your leave. In any case, when it comes to reason, most of my colleagues write: "Going to native place" I cannot write that.
I have no native place. Not in a tiny palm-fringed Goan village, as all the Mirandas and Rodrigues and D'Cruzes and Vernejars have, or in a tiny palm-fringed Keral village, as half of Bombay has.
Not only do I not have a village postal address, but I do not think I have ever visited a village with a postal address. The only villages I have visited have been on television, along with Mr. Rajiv Gandhi and Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar and the others, when they were on a village-visiting spree.
I have passed by a few villages, when driving in the highway, tho9ugh most of the villages are now set well away from the highways. Still, when one is there, a fleeting glimpse. An ST stop with men siting on the ground, waiting for a bus, children running out of a village school, and, at the end of the village, a girl selling wild flowers.
I have seen cows, but never patted one, and definitely never milked one. I would not know how to. And I have seen bullock-carts, even attended a seminar where the expert explained how rubber tyres would revolutionise the bullock-carts, but I have never sat in one. Which must be a shame, since I know that more than three-quarters of the population of this country travels by bullock-carts and would continue to do so into the 21st century.
I have no village postal adddress. And Mr. Devi Lal is right, I do not quality to be a leader of men. If I was a minister, I would resign this moment.