Reading Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul’s books on India, one gets an impression that the author is somewhat disillusioned with India. He speaks highly of India’s past legacies, but calls it a wounded civilization. Well, Naipaul is not the only one to get disillusioned. India has disillusioned many, and she continues to do so.
In the recent times, the British were first to get disillusioned, for they thought India would not be able to hold her independence for more than a decade. The economists of yesteryears have been proven wrong by the latest development and progress made by the country. Foreign diplomats stationed in the capital New Delhi keep trying to make sense of India’s Incredibility!
“India is at danger of losing her identity,” says one of our foreign diplomats stationed in New Delhi, “because of globalization and western impact”. Perhaps so, but we must also remember that India was invaded many more times than perhaps any other country in the world, she was ruled by the foreigners for almost millennia, and yet she has managed to retain her identity.
Unlike our Kebaya, Kain and Sarong, her Sari, Kurta and Pajama are still as popular as the Western Ourfits. India’s “Continuity in Change” is visible in the streets of large cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkatta – not to speak of smaller cities and villages.
“Incredible India” is not just a slogan adopted by the Indian Tourism Board, but a fact that the entire world is confronted with. Like it or not, the Incredibility of India shall sooner or later affect us all. It may already have. What to make of it?
The automobile industry is already threatened by India’s entry as the manufacturer of world’s cheapest car. The environmentalists are rightly cautioned because more cars on the road mean more pollution. But, it is not just the automobile industry – India is a threat to many other industries, several other sectors.
India is rising.
Along with her, hundreds of millions of people who were so far living under the poverty line are rising. And, these are the people of the largest democracy on earth – people who are free to talk, to express themselves, to travel to any place and invest in any country – unlike the people of China who are deprived of many such rights. Indians at home and overseas consist of one fourth of world’s total population. Their sheer number is incredible!
Republic of India is rising…. And, her rise may fulfill the dreams of many Indians. Nehru, the First Prime Minister and the Architect of the Modern Republic dreamt of industrialization, and his dream has clearly been fulfilled. So are the dreams of his grandson, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who worked hard to open up India to Modern Technologies, Computerization and Foreign Investments.
Current Prime Minister of the Republic, Manmohan Singh dreams of economically strong India. His dream too is coming true. No wonder he is so confident that in the coming years, not a single Indian would be living under the poverty line.
First Industrialization, then Computerization, now the Economic Growth thanks to Foreign Investments – the question is where and what is the Indian Republic heading to?
Decades ago, the Nation’s Father, Gandhi, the Mahatma, the Great Soul warned his countrymen, rather warned us all: “Industrialism is, I am afraid, going to be a curse for mankind. Industrialism depends entirely on your capacity to exploit, on foreign markets being open to you, and on the absence of competitors…A vast country like India cannot expect to benefit by industrialization. In fact, India, when it begins to exploit other nations – as it must do if it becomes industrialized – will be a curse for other nations, a menace to the world. And why should I think of industrializing India to exploit other nations/?”
I discussed Gandhi’s philosophy with an Indian diplomat, and he very lightly remarked: “Those were different times. Life was simpler. Things were not as complicated then….”
In other words, “Mr. Gandhi, you are now irrelevant to India!”
Consider the Climate Change and its impact on all of us, above all the root cause of the change – and you can clearly see how much more relevant is Gandhi today…. Consider the UN and Environmentalists’ Slogan “Reduce, Recycle, Reuse” – and Gandhi begins to make sense:
“What is the cause of the present chaos? It is exploitation, I will not say, of the weaker nations by the stronger, but of sister nations by sister nations. And my fundamental objection to machinery rests on the fact that it is machinery that has enabled these nations to exploit others.”
Now, consider China: Its uncompassionate industrialization, exploitation of its own people, over production and unfair dumping worldwide in an unprecedented scale resulting in the mass-killing of local industries everywhere. And, suddenly Gandhi becomes alive!
“Little do town-dwellers know how the semi-starved masses of India are slowly sinking to lifelessness. Little do they know that their miserable comfort represents the brokerage, they get for the work they do for the foreign exploiter, that the profits and the brokerage are sucked from the masses.”
Change the word “India” to “Indonesia” and Gandhi becomes relevant to all of us. Our farmers can no longer sell their products to us directly; they must go through hypermarkets owned by the foreigners. We must buy our own drinking water from the foreigners who bottle them.
My last trip to India has disillusioned me greatly about Indian Growth and so called Progress. It is not just the Economic Growth and Material Progress, but the Growth of Human Greed and Spiritual Regression. The taste of wealth has not appeased its hunger, but has made it greedy and wanting more and more. Religious rituals and traditions may still be alive, but the spirit behind those rituals, the Culture of Spirituality is fast diminishing.
The trip finally led me to look within, to look at the present state of my own country. How are we faring? Badly. We are not in a better situation.
In her unawareness, India is presently mortgaging her soul for silver. We, on the other hand, may have already sold our soul. Hypermarkets owned by the foreigners which had so far no access to our smaller lanes and streets are now entering those lanes and streets by gaining control over our local retail chains.
So, what is to be done?
Can we stop the giant wheels of Globalization? Should we say no to foreign investments? Should we reject industrialization and computerization? And, if we do so, how do we then address poverty?
Gandhi says: “Pauperism must go. But industrialism is no remedy. The evil does not lie in the use of bullock-carts. It lies in our selfishness and want of consideration for our neighbors. If we have no love for our neighbors, no change, however revolutionary, can do us any good.”
Sometime back, I was discussing these very issues with Professor Emil Salim, once Indonesia’s Minister for Environment. He was right in saying, perhaps quoting Gandhiji, that India may need many more colonies than the West, if it does not check its wants. I agree. I can hardly imagine the consequence of 1 billion people turning greedy with ever increasing wants.