" Madam yahan pe subko tension hai. Koi khush nahin hai," my auto driver tells me voluntarily. A few weeks ago, when an old friend told me that Mumbai is gone down the drain, there’s too much anger and conflict, in a pub off Piccadilly, I put it down to the usual middle class whingeing.
Somehow, I’m beginning to believe him. Okay, so Mumbai ain’t India. I know that as well as Rahul Gandhi does. London ain’t Newcastle, either.
However, it is held up as this shining example of the new, growing, wannabe global power that India wants to be, the story Indian corporates, politicians, dignitaries and I are always telling westerners. And okay, I’m here in the middle of the rains, everyone’s grumpy.
Still, as usual, it’s the cabbies and auto-wallahs who have their hand on the pulse of a place. I dunno what it’s like in Delhi or Bangalore, but if I had to identify a single strand that stands out on this visit, it’s that I see absolutely no sign, on the ground, among the rich or the poor or middle class of this alleged prosperity we write about.
All I see is almost hysterical greed and ambition, frustration, and increasing polarisation between different sections of the population.
Everyone’s not just unhappy, they’re living in a state of permanent anger, angst and stress. The polarisation between the haves and have-nots is beginning to burst out of its seams.
So this is anecdotal. But in just one week, I’ve heard of at least three cases of randomised violence and armed attacks in the streets of Mumbai, in broad daylight. And this used to be a place a woman could travel alone at midnight. I don’t have the crime statistics, but I bet they’re stratospheric.
There’s an epidemic of dengue, malaria, and god knows what else, diseases that were eradicated 20 years ago which is killing off both the rich and the poor without discrimination. Neither the public health authorities, nor the medical and healthcare system is able to cope in any way. More on that next time.
Customer services, something I always claimed was way better in India than in London, is deteriorating to, as someone told me, ‘third world levels like where you live’. Take telecoms, an example we use globally to show off India’s homegrown business success.
‘India’s telecoms industry can show the world how to do business,’ we tell the world. Now, that bane of the developed world., “please hold on, your call is important to us”, that too in an American accent, has arrived here with a vengeance. I didn’t realise that there’s a shortage of people in India, so everything has to be automated to total incompetence.
The rip-off culture has arrived too. Whether its clothes, property, eating out, movies, or basics, the prices are off the wall, even by sterling standards.
The value for money culture, which gave the world the concept of sachets, something we again tell western corporations to learn from us, has given way to outrageous pricing. After all somebody is willing to be ripped off to assuage their wannabe aspirations.
Kids, no wonder they keep killing themselves at exam time, are under inhuman pressure to compete, succeed, and then what? Live a life of even more stress.
In the business sector, I thought, people should be fine. After all, those delicious growth and profit rates, all those economic indicators. But no.
Everyone I meet is frustrated to killing point, working 18-hour days, hating every minute of it, but unable to get off the corporate treadmill. Of being seen as ‘successful’. In one era, we Indians had to struggle for basic survival. Now, everyone has to struggle even harder to live with alleged prosperity.
The worst thing is, nobody seems to care. When I ask these questions, it’s met with a shrug. The middle class has too many problems of its own to be bothered about the poor, the poor are getting angrier and desperate, the rich, as always, don’t care.
For a while now, ‘feel-good’ has been the holy grail of media and establishment. It’s almost a national conspiracy, let’s ignore the warts and bad things, focus only on those glitzy nightclubs and idolise success. I live in a society at the other end of the rainbow, where success is looked on with deep suspicion.
Where the perils of affluence have turned full circle and come back to bite those societies in the tail so badly, that David Cameron had to coin a concept for it. ‘Broken Britain,’ he called it. You can argue with him, but he’s right. British society is pretty much broken, socially and economically.
‘Broken society’ is the only word that comes to mind to describe what I see around me, already and not after half a century. Okay, inclusive growth is a buzzword, but most people think it happens somewhere to tribals in Orissa. It’s happening right here, in the mega-cities that are supposed to lead the charge that will make India a world superpower.
What, exactly, is the purpose of all this economic growth if people are going to die of primitive diseases, and struggle even harder than previous generations did to survive?
No politician or government can fix it. They tried that option in Britain, and look where it got them. It’s high time we stopped blindly celebrating success, and paid attention to what’s happening to people’s lives, and our society.
Apropos the last sentence, Who is "we"? Let "you" & "me" start at " you" & "I" and influence "your" & "my" family and children. Let "you" & 'me" not suck up to the corrupt and patronise them; ignore their display of "success" - in short shun them / boycot them - laugh at them rather than adore them. At least that will be a humble beginning.
Posted by Manab Sarmah | 16 Sep, 2010
The current so called generation is encircled in a vicious circle of ever increasing needs and the mad race to fullfill them at all costs. we all seem to be surrounded by so called our own people but each individual has remained nothing but a lonely shadow of himself.
Relationships have been confined mostly to mails and each one is so hard pressed for time that he/she seems to have everything except time. we are becoming nothing but computerised robots.
If a few people holding on to the major portion of the nations wealth is progress than we have progressed.A majority of the population still struggles for their basic daily needs and middle class is worst pressed .The rising so called revolutionary movements are a clear indication that our society is running out of patience.
The entire responsibility is not of the goverment but if people in power cant do it who can. A society survives more on its internal strength i.e, morals, patience, patriotism,quality of population rather than mere materialistic progress.India was once termed a Golden Bird more for its strength of culture than anything else.
Posted by Jitendra Kumar Arora , Deputy Manager (North) at Vdma | 15 Sep, 2010
Must congratulate you on an excellent piece and the equally perceptive reactions to it. You have raised the questions and posted most of the answers, though sometimes erring a bit on the side of caution. I was in Mumbai at the time of the deluge a few years ago. Very upmarket young people were wading through ominously polluted flood water and tending to the marooned and sometimes serving them food and water. Plainly another side to ‘Shining India” which even its apologists appeared to have overlooked. An auto rickshaw driver told my bewildered wife he had also heard of “Amrutsen” and “vikas”. The long and short of it is that we are living through difficult times. We know precisely when newspapers and the electronic media get drowned in other abstractions, though they still manage to remind us of our collective plight. The real vanguard exists in the affinity between people like your respondents and those close to the popular pulse – people who dare to think independently, question fearlessly and have the ability to express themselves. Circumstances have made people go against their vital powers and driven them to alienation, and now a global depression. Social scientists and psychologists are reminding us that empathy and cooperation are more intrinsic to human nature and endeavour than the strife and conflict of zero sum games, that it is discourse and resultant course correction that will help us turn the corner.
Posted by Uttam Sen,|14 Sep, 2010
where it will end . everybody is running for money ...money ...money...earlier days it was plan living and high thinking . but everythings has change . rest less world. expectation become high to touch the sky.people want easy money and fast .
Posted by salil | 14 Sep, 2010
The problem with Indian people is that the educated people do not want the other to become more educated. The rich people do not want other to become more rich. We are governed by handful of people who do not have love and affection for their country and their countrymen. We are imitating west in all other things except honesty and discipline. I will be happy when Swiss Bank is asked by our government to declare the accounts of Indian people.
Posted by D.V. Gokhale | 14 Sep, 2010
Looking Back In Anger-
No I am not telling you’ll the drama by Osborne, but it is more or less the situation in current India faced by every Indian. No body is satisfied. Some of the blogers have mentioned it rightly, if the governance is not in accord with the people, there is chaos and disruption. In India the development that has happened is only in the Metros, and the rest of the states and interiors are in the drain. Unless development and progression happens equally and holistically in each and every state and village in India, the anger and the agony will remain and some time it will burst as it is happening in Kashmir now. As it is diversity in each state is prevalent, in the form of language, religion culture etc. If this is not set right at the crux, it vents the discrimination further as well as the anger.
The post World war II, period which Europe went through it is a similar chaos in India now, where people know what they want, but do not know how to get it and the governance instead of adapting to the change in mindset, is still following the old itinerary.
Posted by Shiuli | 14 Sep, 2010
When a hand full of people decide for a whole nation there is bound to be a disconnect. In our strife to ape the west we neglected the village and look where we are? The culture that is slowly gripping our society will gradually alienate us in our own home town. We need to accept that we are catching up with the world at a fast pace and I am sure with our people we will overtake it and then we will have no one to ape and then the road that will lead us back to our roots would be so corroded that we will be in a dilemma that what hit us.
The problem with us is that we do not want to become rich or prosperous. Instead we want to see others as poor and unfortunates. If this is a mind set how can a society grow? The Politian’s whom we elect are all running a business in a garb of helping people. All the big projects are either owned or managed by the family of these 500 odd people sitting in the parliament. Pehle hum Angrejon se darte the ab hamare he numainde hame darate hain.
The Police is also working to exploit people. Where ever you see corruption is blooming. Even to join the forces to get yourself killed in Kashmir, or by Naxals one has to bribe the officers. WHY?
Mr Kalmadi licked the tax payer to over 2000 crore what happened? Nothing. WHY? Because I am sure he has invested the amount in Party fund to fight future elections. why will his colleagues make him sorry for helping the root cause of they being there? This is just one of the cases that we can discuss at this point of time.
AAP KAMATE JAO AUR DOOSRON KO BADTE DEKHTE JAO?
WE NEED A NEW REVOLUTION. A NEW BHAGAT SINGH, A NEW CHANDRASHEKHAR AZAD, A NEW RAJ GURU WHO WILL DRIVE US TO A NEW INDIA WHERE ALL WILL BE PROUD TO SAY I AM INDIAN FIRST AND THEN ANY OTHER RACE CASTE OR CREED.
Posted by Manmohan Singh D Sohal | 14 Sep, 2010
Dear Ms.Sudeshna Sen,
Sub:Your article : It’s broken society everywhere!—a feedback
I have seen your article "It’s broken society everywhere!" in the ET dated 13-09-2010 with curiosity. Yes,you are correct. This is my intellectual observation drawn from my research and realization for the last 30+ years. Eastners thought by praying every ill will go from individual and society.Westners thought by labour,they can eradicate problems at individual and social level.But the point is – no body knows what the problems are?They only know symptoms. In oder to give an alternative, I have registered Materialist Spiritualist Mission Trust as a public charitable trust on 11-06-2003 to research on holistic issues concerning society and individual. Substantial material with feedback from several world renowned professionals is given in the feedback.
please visit www.materialistspiritualist.org and I will be thankful for your comments .
I have given a feedback to you on WEF founder chairman Klaus Schwaub’s article in the ET dated 25-01-2010 on "New ways of global co-operation" which is given in the articles part of the above website as article 1. I hope this may be useful.
Thanks & Regards
Posted by Venkataramanaiah Chekuru,CEO at CVR SYNERGY MANAGEMENT SERVICES|13 Sep, 2010
The problem is we don't believe on truth but keep praying by all means.even god don't want such prayers from these
types of people. In India no one respects truth inevitable if its corporates,politics,government and religious people just only money speaks with some chum Chas around for their own appraisal so u can expect worse and worst only.
Posted by jyothikumar varma,Director at C-Media Networks|13 Sep, 2010
Yes. The people of India are pathetically a divided lot.
There were profession-based divisions in the society earlier but the people were united. There was goodwill among them. The social hierarchy operated without ill will and had not sown seeds of dissension among the people.
The foreign rulers poisoned the atmosphere and deliberately divided the people so that they could rule easily.
The saddest thing is after Independence also, our politicians follow the same policies more forcefully. Hypocrites they are, they have perpetuated the divisions used by the British and in their own narrow political interests spoiled the national unity. Does any of them passionately promote patriotism today? Is there a single political national leader today, who would be recognized in all parts of the country?
If the sacred peaceful India was exploited by the aggressive foreigners, it is now being simply uprooted by the corrupt politicians of today, who divide the people of India, on the lines of language, region, religion, caste and what not.
As Mr. George Varuggheese has pointed out the grand mission statements made in 1950 have become empty words.
Mainly the corruption at high levels is destroying the foundation of democratic institutions in India; we are being surrounded by inimical forces on all sides but there is no political will to face the challenges. People are allowing themselves not only to be divided but also to be converted into sworn enemies of one another, deliberately by political sinners.
Very unfortunate indeed.
Posted by Kumbakonam Sambasiva Venkataraman,Associate Editor at Dynamic Youth Online Magazine|13 Sep, 2010
We, the people of India are divided into religions like hindus, muslims, sikhs, christians, dalits and all are thinking separately and all fee that their religion is in danger and then we are dividedd into castes .It is also on record that some are rich, some are of middle class, some are of below middle class and some are in no class and are poor, illiterate and not recognised. Sso these division are so permanent that they establish their own colonies and do not mix with others. Therefore,w e can say that India is a broken society. We are at division level and there are chances that it shall break fruther;
Posted by dalip singh wasan , advocate at writer | 13 Sep, 2010
So you have noticed the crux of the problem. But what is the use if only one Sudeshna Sen had understood what the darned problem besetting Indian society is? Is there a way how the entire 'we the people of India' come to know what the real problem is? But what exactly is the problem? The real problem, let me tell you, is that we in India never made an effort to create a new independent India on the basis of the grand mission statements we made at the time of making it a republic in 1950. We handed over the control to the erstwhile rajhas and zamindars who controlled the people along with the colonial rulers. Our Founding Fathers were interested only in getting administrative control from the British. They made grand mission statements in the Constitution they drafted and adopted ...See More alright but they never wanted that to be implemented. Or else why would they retain the feudalistic control structures designed by the colonial rulers?
Democracy is rooted in the concept that all men and women are created equal and they have the inalienable right to pursue happy and fulfilling lives and the administrative, judicial, and police structures should have helped in translating this concept in to daily experiential comforts for people.
So long as these structures are feudalistic, we will continue to experience fissures and divisions across all classes, castes and regions. Poverty induced terrorism like Naxalism and religion driven terrorism such as the Islamic, Hindu , Jewish and Christian varieties are all rooted primarily in the lack of understanding what true democracy is.
posted by George Varuggheese,President at Godimages Good Governance Society|13 Sep, 2010