The events surrounding Anna Hazare in India has thrown up I think the two faces of India, which for me goes something like this: A big beautiful shopping mall in Delhi, which houses a Marks and Spencers store, a British high street brand. So, what happens to the cottage industries and the amazing products that the artisans produce? Then there is the palatial Louis Vuitton store; the expensive, couture high-fashion brand, and the street children running outside the store, barefoot, nowhere to live and not a lot to eat. The volume of cars speeding in India’s hill stations, which zoom around in town’s originally built for walking. Do you see the picture I am painting? It’s a picture of polar opposites.
India to me has always been many things, having many sides. People treat you according to where you are in society, your position and standing. If you are poor then sadly you are invisible. What has always struck me is that India is such a beautiful country, the Mecca of spirituality...even the Beatles came to India for enlightenment! It’s a nation where there are more religious festivals to celebrate than days of the year...yet the vast number of people that I have met in India seem to be devoid of their spiritual essence. Instead they are looking for their next bribe to help fund their mansions.
In India the middle class questions are ‘How’ and ‘When’ or ’How much do you earn? How much did it cost? What do you do? When are you getting married? The poor person’s questions are: ‘How will I eat?’ ‘When will I eat?’...you may think I am being harsh, though I do promise you everything I write here is from my personal experience and what I have witnessed over the last years 20 years.
These two faces of India now seem to be at direct opposites as the gap between the rich and poor is widening due to the growing economy, the rise of a bigger, stronger middle class, investment by outside countries and technology. There seems to be no attempt to bridge this gap...it just grows like a chasm between the classes. Unfortunately, I also think that India’s caste and class system will not let society bridge this gap. It suits the wealthy to have an under class to do the jobs that they were themselves not born to do.
There are a lot of good people, social workers working tirelessly and without thanks at grassroots, with poor communities and the vulnerable. There are people trying to make the changes...to make the two faces become one. Though they need support of the central and state governments; what they don’t need is the politics and political point scoring. I think right now in India everyone is losing unless India does pull together as one people. So, if my piece has moved you in some way, inspired you, then don’t walk past the invisible street children, stop and make a difference to them. Be the other face of India, which India can be... Make India Incredible for the right reasons.
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