Namaste. Today is August 15 – India’s independence day. Iconic images of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel flash across. I salute those leaders for what they have achieved 60 years back. Vande Mataram.
We have come a long way since then on the economic front, thanks to the path of reforms espoused by successive governments since 1991. I wouldn’t blame Nehru’s mixed economic policies and principles of non-alignment that we followed earlier since it suited us well during the times of cold war. Education, poverty and healthcare are areas where there’s still a lot of work to be done. But transformation of a nation with 1.1b people, 270m below poverty line, ain’t easy. With a sixth of humanity living within its borders, the nation is more linguistically diverse than Europe, a continent. But, apart from a few hiccups along the way, it remains one of the most stable and unified societies in all of Asia. I shall raise a toast to that, any day.
Western tourists and Non Resident Indians complain about the poor infrastructure that India has and grumble at the relentless hype that goes on about India and China. You can’t blame them because the image they carry is of a land on the threshold of change, presenting a model of a resurgent future, entirely self-built after years of colonial repression and that’s got to look like something incredible. Yet when they land in Delhi or Mumbai, the first things that hit them are the clumsy and unhygienic airports, unhelpful staff, primeval cabs and a few scheming cabbies. Is this the changed nation – that was once known for its lot of snake charmers, naked saints and rickshaw pullers – they wonder. At that moment, the bill boards of leading private airlines, Kingfisher and Jet Airways – between them having ordered more than 150 airplanes from Boeing and Airbus – that rise above the clutter of shanties below remind them something – “don’t be fooled, here everything co-exists”.
That sums it up. No city in India is ever going to look like a London or New York. It’ll just be a prosperous Indian city, with a lot more confident people living in luxurious apartment blocks that exist side by side with the shanties of its poor millions struggling to make ends meet.
May be a decade later, if this blog post survives the frost of time, let’s do a reality check. I’d love to stand corrected. Jai Hind !