How old is our country? A toddler, at best.
This long rambling post is where I weigh in on “India at 60”, a day late so that I can spring a surprise on my unsuspecting readers (assuming there is more than 1).
So anybody who knows me knows that I tend to take the optimistic view on this country. Lots of people have listed the achievements, then added a “BUT”, and then concluded with a “things are still precariously balanced, and hopefully the future will be positive”.
I put no BUTs in my post. This is simply because none of the BUTs are new ones. We had poverty in our country 20 years ago. We had poverty in our country 10 years ago. We have poverty in our country today. We will have poverty in our country 10 years from now. We will have it 20 years from now.
Replace the word poverty with discrimination or corruption, build up a lather, rinse and then repeat.
Here comes my BUT:
BUT – 100 years after we won our independence from the British, what will India look like?
These days everybody has to grudgingly acknowledge that India has achieved stuff. Amongst the things it has achieved is that the level of poverty has reduced. So has the level of corruption. And that trend is continuing. To paraphrase the First Prime Minister (whom I don’t really respect), we will reduce our societal ills, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.
What will we be able to say about India in 2047? Did it lose its democracy, and become a capitalist dictatorship like China? Unlikely. Did it manage to become a large part of the world economy? Probably.
We will probably mention that it went through many birth pangs. It fought a few wars, and had to find a way to get its disparate chunks to live with each other.We will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about over that northwestern border. We’ll wonder why it was called the Line of Control, and how now it’s just part of the continuous line that makes up the international border between us, and our failed-state cousin across it. We will wonder why it took 80 years to put an end to power cuts and water shortages. And laugh at the fact that there was a time when people actually got these things for free, that people could just dig holes in the ground to guzzle a common resource indiscriminately. Strange were the days of our nation’s birth.
We will enjoy the rich choice and diversity of products that we have access to – due to a strong currency, and more free trade. Old-timers will reminisce about how they had to smuggle cameras and video games through this thing called the “green channel”. They will also reminisce about the socialist-era airfields we used to have, masquerading as airports, replaced by the shopping mall/mini cities now used to handle the vast amounts of air traffic heading between the rich East, and the rich West.
As we cruise down our highways in our hybrid cars, and airconditioned buses, we will gawp at the cost petrol, currently standing at 150 rupees/litre, but still honk our way past the gas- and electricity- based cars that are hunting for a reliable gas station, or a good quality power station for their refuelling.
We will still worry about the 20% of our country which lies below the poverty line. We will still worry when an outbreak of communal violence occurs, and wonder when, if ever, Hindus and Muslims can live in peace. We will still wonder why it is that even after having achieved a 95% literacy rate, Indian men still want a traditional-yet-modern bride, with a fair and lovely complexion, and a 75″ LCD TV to boot.
We will still struggle to get into the Premier League of universities, and be shocked at the fact that they cost 50 lakhs for four years. But the quality of their education would be of the same level of Harvard, and we will wonder why it took 80 years, and lots of rich businessmen’s struggle to get clearances from a repressive government to set up a league of such universities.
We will also finally acknowledge the fact that the representation of Amitabh Bachchan in the ads and on the silver screen is just a computer-generated hologram, and admit to ourselves that the man himself died 10 years ago, having lived a happy life, survived by sons, daughters, and various flora & fauna.
We will all smash our TV sets and boycott cricket matches when it is found that there are severe bugs in Hawkeye, and that most of the LBW decisions in the Twenty20 World Cup final between India and USA were wrong (we lost).
Yep, it’s a rosy future India.
Have a happy Independence Day.