The Land I Grew In

If someone had asked me a decade ago if I were political, I’d have merely laughed and shook my head. I was more ‘politically aware’ than my contemporaries then… but that came from merely sitting through discussions about the current happenings.

When I was reading the paper today, I realised this is no longer something that we merely discuss over a cup of coffee and forget about it. Is it the winds of change in India or have we just grown up?

Every time I read the newspaper an impotent fury grips me about the way the country is headed.

For instance, the new discussion about the poverty line. We are adopting Indira Gandhi’s ‘garibi hatao‘ statement in a new avatar – we are choosing to reduce the standard by which we measure poverty, so we can publish statistics stating only 10 percent of the Indian population is below poverty line and isn’t that awesome!

The truth lies far from these researched and published statements. As inflation insists on looking upwards, Rs. 32 is no where enough to sustain oneself in this country. Perhaps in a little village in the back of beyond. But in most cities, even tier 2 cities, it is simply impossible. The cost of food and transport itself crosses this mark.

I am aware that I perhaps never ate food at the places a lot of these people have… but some context – late at night, when you want that cup of chai… you all head to the same guy standing at the street corner who charges about 5 bucks a cup. An omelette costs 10 to 15. And that’s a meal for ONE time. How much further will the other food carts be?

***

But as always, we continue to be a country of contradictions. We finally accept gay people, and we are confused about what rights to give women at all. We ignore some parts of our country and flourish in some others. We do not know how to handle all the MI flowing our way but we do have the best defense forces in the world.

Is it just our generation that is so confused? Caught between the old and the new… or are the ones following us equally confused.

After all, we did live in a time when there were no cellphones, really slow internet and no Google and Facebook (even if we refuse to remember it). We cannot do without any of this now.

All this technology has managed to bring India together in a way no ruler had been able to. We are aware of what some North Indian and South Indian cultures are, we celebrate each other’s festivals (least the fun ones) and mingle a little more easier, even if the old stereotypes come out in the form of jokes (aren’t we racist!).

At the same time, morons like the RSS and Shiv Sena are gaining a stronger foothold and religious fundamentalists are also getting stronger. Technology sometimes manages to filter the wrong messages (Facebook, are you listening?). So for every person who is free-thinking and liberal, there is one with the same level of education and everything who believes that India should not be secular and the minorities have no place here.

A cultural theorist once wrote that when people sense change, particularly to things that have long been familiar with, they react strongly against the change by getting more traditional and cultural. In theory, it sounded weird. It looks weirder when you see it happening around you.

***

What exactly am I trying to say? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps this is my reaction to the awakening I had. Reading newspapers is depressing again. It does carry only news about crimes, political scams, idiotic ministers trying to come up with idiotic rules using even more idiotic excuses.

I read about ‘improvements’ everyday but the cynic in me sees the million other things around it that lie undone. Farmers go without electricity and high interest rates on loans. Ministers have 5 cars while the public does not have a decent transport system. Children go to school to eat meals and never bother finishing basic education. The girl child is still not given an equal chance to finish her education. There are still too many children being born and not healthy enough. There are always skirmishes in the name of religion, motivated by politics. There is always a minister, an auto driver, a peon who wants some extra money to do what he is supposed to do.

True, there have been so many glorious changes. But if we stay happy with them… just stay there… I fear we will stagnate.

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