I get on the train in Prague to travel to Vienna in Austria. A train that’s clean, impeccable, almost empty, which slowly advances through the Prague suburbs, a city that you can see has open spaces, buildings painted with pastel colours, industries by the train tracks. At worst, a bit of mud, the effect of the gentle rains from yesterday.
(I get on the train in Delhi to travel to Amritsar in the Northern Punjab. It travels overflowing with people that swarm from one side to the other searching among the numerous food stands for something appetizing to eat on the journey they have to make. Our platform fills up with Sikhs, with the pride and joy of returning home to the North of India that they feel so much theirs. They shout and laugh while one train after another occupies the platforms and departs speedily to leave space for the next train. We slowly pull out of the station in a packed train. The seats are ok, as in the other classes they are wooden, we are happy about that as we imagine what it must be like to travel for 6 hours on wooden seats. The landscape is of thousands and thousands of houses on top of each other, and then the rubbish tips start. The train tracks border a large dump where a few bony cows are walking, but many more people, women, little boys and girls, searching for something among the remains that have recently arrived or maybe after a long period of decomposition. The mud is the norm, until the point that we our hearts are happy when we see a paved street, and even more when on leaving the city a new rural landscape of fields and farms begins.)
Outside Prague you can see forests, birches, pines now we cross a city called Kolin, and running through it is a river, swans float on the water (which I assume is clean). In the background on a hill the silhouette appears of a castle hidden in the mist of a gentle drizzle. Work men with orange safety jackets fix the roads. New forests, mixed with fields and farms, speak of abundance, space, care. I see some rubbish, oops, sorry, it’s an accumulation of scrap well ordered and ready to be worked on and re-converted.
(The countryside passes by with its skinny cows and some goats practically all bones. Why is it that rubbish tips accumulate next to the train lines? It happens time and again as we pass through a town of a certain size. And always children, playing or simply standing there. The people open their packets of food, and the smell invades the carriage, probably very much to the taste of the Indians who fill it. We speak with the Indian friends and we laugh, every 2 minutes someone passes tea and sweets, as we learn the tune they use to advertise it. The fields speak of a people in need, they extend widely and I think about how you go about feeding almost 1 billion Indians, how to grow, harvest, distribute, how does food reach these children of the dumps. How does rice reach these mothers who walk through the cities with one, two or more children hanging off their thin arms? The truth is that it’s admirable that they are able to feed them, until one realises that there are millions who feed off the scraps of others, off what others throw away, and you start to understand that these dumps are not the result of poverty but of a greater evil: the bad distribution of goods, worse because it speaks of a condition put there by society, by us the humans that live and accept this injustice. But at the same time it’s better because it shows us a possibility open to modification, it’s not something natural and unchangeable as some would like or as some would argue, it’s a sad condition but the ability to generate better living conditions is in our hands and in our hearts. So the strength of hope emerges, a rebellion against the establishment erupts and the desire to awaken the consciousness of so many young people, so many sensitive beings so that together we may do something to return human dignity to each and everyone of the human beings on this planet).
A peaceful and calm journey. I drink a Pepsi and if it weren’t for the fact that I’m writing, I could rest and relax before my activities this afternoon in Vienna. I think of the bravery of the young Czech humanists, of that Member of Parliament who yesterday insisted in proposing to the Czech Parliament to make a Nuclear Free Zone in Europe, in Jan Tamas who risks his life to liberate his people from a new subjugation to foreign forces. The short memory of Europeans surprises me, those who have suffered the worst wars and occupations in history, fall into complacency and their supposed external benefits and accept new invasions (that start with “innocent” foreign military bases, continue with alliances in military contracts and then end up as new threats and burgeoning wars, until Balkan-like wars break out, train attacks (oof, I’m on a train!) or sending young Europeans to foreign and incomprehensible wars). And I go to meet these humanists, other activists, pacifists, and I recognise in them, in those ahead of their time, that they are opening new paths, that bring ideas and transmit new images that will move towards a more human and dignified world.