Friday, July 06, 2007

The land of the poor :-(

“Jobs arrived in India barefoot and threadbare. This is how he chose to dress, as an expression of a specific ideal or aesthetic. In India he was confronted for the first time with people who were poor – not the way California hippies were poor, by choice, but poor by fate. It was an eye-opener for him. The complete contrast with the material comforts of American life was intense and shocking, and it challenged everything he thought he knew up to that moment.”
The above is an excerpt from the book iCon by Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon. The book is about Steve Jobs, the man behind the company which challenged the way people thought and gave them things beyond their imagining, Apple. He came to India much earlier than he became the man the world recognizes today, in search of peace, in search of true knowledge, in search of his ‘guru’. It has been many years since then. Governments have changed, people have become more ‘educated’, industries have been flourishing; money has been flowing now in India like never before. Today the world talks about Ambanis and Mittals and the world of technology has had the Indian impact in the western world which even Jobs recognizes today.
So, what would be the picture in front of Steve Jobs if he happened to visit India in the near future? He would perhaps land on the Mumbai airport, his plane caressing the world’s largest slum, Dharavi. He would then be escorted to his hotel and along the roads would notice small children thrust into begging. As a face of the technology world, he may want to visit the mecca of Indian technology, Bangalore. He better choose either to go on a chopper or make a trip at the time of a public holiday else the traffic would kill the good old man! And ironically, these are just the few of the ‘best’ places that any visitor to India may want to see. The Himalayas and the other tourist attractions are replete with so much commotion nowadays that the ‘firangis’ are easily baffled.
Today we may be able to boast of some of the richest men of the world belonging to India, but the fact remains that poverty is not abating. The number of people living below the poverty line is increasing by the hour. ‘Every fourth poor is an Indian’ has become a cliché (and is sadly true). Diseases like AIDS, cancer are engulfing the urban and rural alike and we still feel ashamed to discuss sex in front of our children while make no fuss about the tobacco that we smoke even with little children at home. Beggary is a bigger ‘industry’ than 'khadi'. The money is indeed flowing into our economy and India is getting rich but the percolation of this huge wealth is not yet happening. Add to these the troubled borders of India. Surrounded by arch rivals, petty beggars, infiltrators, have-nots, politically unstable nations and those that have a long history of stabbing on the back, India is indeed not in the situation which most of the European nations enjoy (with all of them surging forward competitively). Add to this our internal security threats and civil agitations like the ‘gujjar’ uproar recently. Sadly for India, though a lot of positive things are happening, we still are years behind the true independence that every human being dreams of; the true happiness is still elusive.

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