Update: This highly relavant article exemplifies what I am attempting to say below.
After having posted slightly cryptic updates on my reading when I visited my home country for the fourth time since I came to the land of dreams, I thought it may be a good idea to simply hit the keyboard and type out what comes to my mind — as a final wrap up on what was the longest trip (2 months, yay!) that I took back home. Before imagination starts to impinge visions of me going to a series of houses for what is generally termed as “bride hunting” into your mind, let me dispel any doubts at the outset. The two months were not for bride hunting, they were just because I wanted to. Plus, possibly the longest vacation I could take for the foreseeable future. Also, so many friends getting married at awkward times had to be pooled into the trip. So many birds in one stone!
The trip was awesome and I do love my home, but there are occasions when I seem to hate it like with a vengeance — I hate it, like I love it. As I flew into the Mumbai airport on a clear morning, I happened to glance out the window as the plane was landing — something I rarely do nowadays — and noticed the beautiful pagoda that Goenka has built on an island just outside Mumbai, close to Essel World (financed by the Zee group) and I could not help but smile at the beauty of the landscape surrounding the place. Large tracts of green, virgin lands surrounded by rivulets and streams that meandered through the vegetation at a languid pace and a smattering of beautifully maintained houses, surrounded by manicured gardens and large tennis courts. Just as I was enjoying the fascinating landscape that Mumbai has to offer, the plane got nearer to the heart of the city and the filthy, squalid mess that is Mumbai tore out the calm beauty of the land that had preceded it just a moment ago. Small clogged roads, demon-like construction machines, unfinished tracks for the monorails, all surrounded by the small squats of fetid slums. The airport loomed next — a piece of large land that has managed to survive the filth of the slums — and I was pushed back from my reviere into reality.
As much as I loved the city when I was small, I have started to hate it. I cannot tolerate the traffic, I cannot jostle with the people, and most of all, I cannot nonchalantly ignore the poverty that is painted on every corner. When you live in the city, you get inured to the abjectness, however, spend a long time away from home and you suddenly start to realize that the city of your childhood, the city of dreams, the city that never sleeps, is not a city but a breeding farm for poverty, destitution and inequality so drastic that one not help but wonder at the nonchalance of the Mercedes owner as he bulldozes his way through a narrow lane dotted with slums.
No, this is not the repetitive rant of a NRI-type boy who only sees the negative, but that of an Indian who cannot bear the sight that he has been told to ignore anymore. The more I read, the more I see the world and the more I understand of it, I cannot find even one suitable explanation to the question — why are we, as a nation, where we are today? I am a realist, and I do not wish to color the narrative of truth with the palette of imagined spirituality, a technique that seems be a standard baton with which journalist write article on India. The truth is simple, as it is apparent — to me at least. We as a country have failed miserably. In every single measure of success as a nation, we have failed. We have failed to create opportunities so that vast hordes of able, intelligent workers have migrated to better opportunities across the globe, and we have failed to raise the standard of living for the poorest of our society. As this wonderful article demonstrates (http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?278843), there is not one measure by which one can call the Indian story a success. Literacy is abysmal, female children are butchered wholesale, “lovers” are massacred by khaps, rapes are rampant, life expectancy is below average, and nutrition is completely absent. If you as an Indian have not seen this, then you belong to the small minority of the society that has managed to evade the deathly grasps of poverty. Our bureaucracy is inept, as is our government, and the corruption so acute that even the best planned schemes are derailed by the time it reaches the needy. There is no better example of ineptness and inability to do anything correctly than the infrastructure in Mumbai. The monorails were supposed to aid the burgeoning traffic, however, I have not seen any improvement in the state of construction around my locality in Mumbai for the past three years! Every time I think that Mumbai cannot get any worse, I am proved wrong by my annual India visit.
I am not pessimistic as a human being, however, the current state of affairs is intolerable — at least to me. I cannot believe that we Indians are incapable of running an efficient country — countless successful companies and empires are testimony to the fact that we are efficient and highly capable. So what is stopping us from becoming the super power that China (a ruthless neighbor if there ever was one) already is? To me the answer is simple. Apathy. We have a ‘dont-care’ attitude. This is evident when someone breaks a queue, and then argues over it, or when someone (pretty much the whole country) fails to follow traffic rules and decorum. It is not a question of authority, simply our attitude. We are apathetic to the misery of others. If *I* have to get to a place in time, then I shall force my way through, with no concern for the person next to me. After all, *my* life is the only important one. Our apathy to fellow human beings is contemptible, and as long as we do not change this attitude, I do not see our country going anywhere. I fear we shall head the way of Africa soon.
As I said, I shall not cloak the naked truth in a garb of polished epithets that reflect that there are better parts to India too — even if that may be true to a certain extent. Our country is going to the dogs, and a change in attitude is possibly one of the primary needs that may save it from extinction.
ps. I did not intend for this blog to become so acerbic, but apparently I feel strongly enough about this to be so negative!