Truth and beauty, nay everything in this world and beyond, are in the eye of the beholder. To the fickle human mind perception is reality. Dwaraka, in Yudishtra’s view, was heaven on earth; Dhuryodhana however saw only evil and misery. Their cut and dried distinctive outlooks also reflected their nature and mindset.
What picture does India present on its 68th B-day? Surely, any person’s perception is unlikely to be a clear black and white choice that those cousins of Mahabharatha exhibited. Modern Bharatha confounds and confuses. It can trump the optimist and stump the pessimist. There are silver linings and also deep, dark crusts with great swathes and shades of grey in between. Even the left and right eyes will not see eye to eye! Instead, they are likely to get a squint or even fall of their sockets just watching the pendulam of Indian life swing to extremes.
The double vision starts with history. One can quote scores of modern, authentic, ‘western’ scholars and anthropologists to prove that Bharathvarsha was the cradle of human civilisation with the deepest roots into time. However, our own school texts have been telling and teaching us that India was born in 1947. No disrespect is meant for the I-day, but while world over new, nascent nations sought recourse in their native wisdom, whatever its worth, academic India chose to camouflage its past glories with the secular purdah. Such self-inflicted short-sightedness is already afflicting an upwardly mobile, materialistic generation to whom even the freedom movement is faint, faded memory. With such disregard, small wonder our cultural treasures are global smugglers’ hot merchandise!
India’s geographical diversity is astounding. There is hardly any country with such a simultaneous abundance of sun, sea, sleet and snow. This land has a sample of every possible terrain. Mother Earth appears to have decided on our motherland as a show piece, which stands enhanced by millenia of indigenous genius. However her children here have made short work of her handiwork and inheritances. Most of India’s fabulous scenic spots and historic sites are also sightseers’ nightmares. Tourism alone can make us a proud and prosperous people; but scum and slum, squalour and slime makes us a piteous, poor populace. ‘Credit’ goes to the Governments for goofing up what God gave but we the citizens for whom culture and civic are mutually exclusive, are equally to blame.
A little over a decade back ours was the most promising emerging economy. Demography and democracy were the launching pads. But we slipped. Then we slid. And when the scandalous UPA-2 was through we had slumped. The Yudhishtra in us knows those fundamentals are still strong. But the smug, seen-it-all smirk on Dhuryodhana’s face cannot be ignored. The positive larger picture, when broken down to pixels, reveals disturbing distortions. We are an unruly population, difficult to govern, and divided to the core. The differences are deep-rooted and cannot be weeded out overnight. A Parli majority after decades of sickening coalitions is a great boon but does not guarantee peace and progress; that depends on what happens outside those rounded walls. And the signs are ominous with the wounded opposition bent on raking up familiar bogeys. Some self-goals from sundry senas can spoil the party wholly!
Agriculture and SMEs form our backbone in terms of GDP and employment and represent true entrepreneurial spirit. But it is crony capitalists who call the shots and count for morale and policy. The strong bureaucratic steel frame is also a stiffling stranglehold. The forum of last resort, Judiciary, is now first in the line of fire. A remarkably free media often lapses into free-for-all. Rampant rapes, crimes, disasters and accidents dog our daily lives, but are swallowed as we stride; even those stray candles are off.
India. Colonised but never truly conquered. Rich yet poor. IT super-power but quintessentially third-world. A powerhouse of talent and intelligence, but teeming with homeless and illiterates. Modern amidst medieval. Noisy and tranquil. Ancient but ageless. Hugely spiritual, but religion is cash cow. Even gadget could be God. Throng in temples … and Tasmac too. Sages revered, scamsters rewarded. Chaos is its charm. Irresistible even if often repulsive. Uncertainty is a certainty, always on edge. The contrasts are endless. But my space is not.
India is a loaded dice that can trip not just us but Yudhishtra and Dhuryodhana too.
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