My uncle was reminiscing about life in India in the 1940s and 1950s recently. He did his schooling in a Rajasthan village. After that, he had to fight hard to come to Bombay to go to college and study medicine. It was difficult to convince the elders that further education was needed. After all, at the end of the day, he had to come and join the others in the family business. My uncle scripted a very different story for the rest of his life to become a leading radiologist in Bombay. Many of his childhood friends didnt or couldnt alter their lives. Not that they did not have dreams some wanted to go abroad, some wanted to become lawyers, some wanted to get into the Arts. For many, circumstances overtook their lives and they settled into comfort zones. Most were quite well off financially, so money was not a problem. But their potential was never fully realised.
As he talked about life then, I couldnt but think about India today. For years, Indians have tried to move forward, but India holds them back. The potential has remained just that, and the world has surged forward, relegating a once-rich and prosperous nation to the ranks of a (perennially) emerging market. This is so evident in the past few months. The burning embers of Gujarat, the drums of war sounding on the Pakistan border and our annual financial scam (this year it is HomeTrade) have ensured that we as a nation will not make much progress this year once again. We move to remain in place.
As an Indian, it makes me angry. This deadly mix of Pakistan, scheming politicians and intelligent scamsters is seemingly the story (or tragedy) of India. Whats worse is that the same set of mistakes gets repeated every year. The characters change, but the dialogues and end result doesnt. And we fall further behind in the ongoing race to integrate India into the world, and become part of the global economic village. The irony is that I am sure that the overwhelming majorities of India and Pakistan, and the Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat want a better life for themselves and their children. We all have dreams for a very different and more glorious tomorrow. But, like it was for many of my uncles friends, the past chains the future.
Tomorrow: Why Is It So?