India turns 60!

Indian embassy in Bangkok had arranged a nice function! I thought it was nicer this time. The usual crowd could be seen. Jagjitsinghji and his students rendered the National anthem and other 'Deshbhakti' songs. Tara and Viji were part of the women's club group rendering a medley of 'national' songs in different languages! Music guru Archana Kanhere was in the forefront and we could see men represented by Aditya and Raghavendra. There were many more who participated. It was good hearing these well rendered songs and it still makes us emotional.

I was lucky to see, for me the first time, the tri-color unfurl as I entered. You cannot see the flag if you are seated inside the tent. You can, only if you are standing on the steps. This vantage area is also occupied, as I have seen through the years, practically by the same group of people. They can see and be seen as well! I saw only one 'freedom fighter' dressed in his INA uniform in the front row. There used to be more. Some youngsters were seated in the front row, normally occupied by elderly. A change of guard was evident and is to be expected. It has been almost twenty years for me here in Bangkok.

H.E. Latha Reddy, the Indian Ambassador read the PM's speech and was dutifully heard. There was the usual Samosa and Gulab Jamoon, which I did not eat. (Rohini are you surprised!). I heard that the 'Dome' the most swanky restaurant in town had sent a cake.

India, according to a scribe (I forget who!) is entering its Teens, while I retired at Sixty! Nandini celebrated my 60th Birthday by arranging a trip to Yellowstone National Park. A memorable trip for the whole family. I still thrill at the memory of vast horizons, beautiful and dramatic surroundings, waterfalls, a few wild animals. The most impressive, of course, was the 'Old faithful' geyser and the still active volcanic area surrounding it. It brings into clear focus how beautiful and how fragile our earth is and we feel grateful and fortunate to be a part of this, at least for a while.

There has been a lot of positive media coverage about India. While I am lucky to pursue my hobbies and enjoy my leisure, our country, ready to take off, must work hard if it is to become a super power. I watched the Independence day celebrations this time with a feeling of pride. Our PM Manmohan Singh is a dear man and looks as fragile as the mother earth did in Yellowstone. I felt that it is to our credit that we still have people like him at the helm and an ex-president like Abdul Kalam.

This euphoria did not last as I briefly watched the National channel the next day. They were covering the Parliament 'live'. The parliament had to be adjourned due to the 'utterly disgusting behaviour' (I quote the speaker) of some of our leaders blocking the proceedings by continuous shouting of slogans. They had brought the street to the parliament. Whatever the reason, it was a dismal scene.

It proved to me that the country for all its achievements was still very fragile. If we deserved people like our PM and our ex-president, we also deserved the thugs and the probable convicts who managed to get elected. I am sure that the electorate who chose these candidates are not ignorant of the real nature of the candidates, unfortunately it does not seem to affect them or their decisions. Whether, we have chosen these undesirable characters with knowledge or due to ignorance we still deserve them. The results truly reflect India, its systems and its values.

I heard the PM speak the usual rote about our achievements and things to do! I used to hear these speeches in rapt attention as a kid! My mind wandered to the days when our street in a new extension in Bangalore had mid sized houses and no cars. I remember the throng of young hungry children who would roam the streets and collect discarded banana leaves and make a meal of the left overs! A very disturbing sight and sometimes they were driven away as it upset the people who were celebrating. The same street is unrecognizable and is full of cars! Hopefully the kids of the poor do not go hungry anymore. In any case I did not see them scavenging for food.

Things definitely have changed in India. It is heartening to hear people talk: 'Who does not have a car now!', ' The pub scene is great and every one eats out nowadays', 'We pay so much these days for maid help, they have become sooo greedy!' 'No need to smuggle goodies from our western trip. We can get everything and more in India'. 'India is the best place in the world to live, if you have money'! The list is endless and we can really be 'proud to be an Indian'.

As I continued listening the read speech, I remembered a book which my sister had as a text 'Our India' by Minoo Masani. It was a simple book with some facts and figures. I wondered how these numbers compared with the present and if it were possible to set a basis for our Governments to be measured for their performance. A 'Then and Now' chart and one for the future as a target.
On search, I found a copy of his book on the web, unfortunately without illustrations. It is really a sweet book and worth reading again! Then I read this article from Antara Dev Sen called 'The itsy bitsy Indias' again on the web. She has quoted some numbers and here is my attempt to make an 'Then and Now' chart using the figures given in these two. I am also uniquely placed as I was just nine when India became independent and am the beneficiary as well as a victim of all that happened to India and Indians.

Then: Have used the 'Our India' copied from 'vidyaonline'
Now: Have quoted from 'itsy bitsy indias' (comments in Brackets are mine!)

Then: Indian Population 400 Million ( Before Partition!)
Now: 1100 Million (Dalits 200M and Muslims 140M, 760 M ..?)

Now: 300 million below poverty line, 300 million middle class (What about the rest 500 M?)

Then: Unemployed ?
Now: 300 million ( 300 M, whether unemployed or below poverty line or both, is almost equal to the population that remained as India after partition. At the same time a lot more have prospered!)

Then: Average monthly income of a family of five is Rs.27.

Then: Av. life expectancy 30 years.

Then: 90 out of 100 live in villages and 72 depend on Agriculture.

Then: 700,000 villages.

Then: Between a quarter and a third of our cultivable land is lying waste and the cultivated area produces Rs. 56 an acre

Then: land less labour 291 in a 1000 (Year 1921 figures)

Now: Human Development Index 127 out of 177 countries.

Then: 946 females to 1000 males (Approx)
Now: 933 females to 1000 males.

Now: 30 farmers commit suicide a day ( Reported to be coming down, really a number that should be zero, PM has outlined a number of measures obviously to alleviate the lot of poor farmers. Will it go the needy? One hopes so.)

I know the comparison is far from satisfactory! But the available numbers show how enormous are the problems! No wonder we blank them out from our minds and speak generalities and use platitudes. Obviously the new liberal policies have created more wealth while creating greater disparities. Definitely better than the times when we were busy distributing poverty! Let us hope there is a fairer distribution. Hopefully it is shared before it is coerced.

Our PM has big plans as outlined in his speech. He speaks of 'Bharat Nirman' his effort at bridging the urban rural divide. We wish him and ourselves all the luck. We need it, lots of it.


Rohini said…
Then: 946 females to 1000 males (Approx)
Now: 933 females to 1000 males.

This is suprising to me. Recently there have been a lot of stories of foeticide.


ps: why didn't you eat the samosa and gulab jamun?
srinidhi said…
Hi Rohini
If you consider the total population it amonts to 14.3 million less females in real numbers!Approx 240,000 less per year.
I just had my breafast!
rohini said…
Just saw this article on bbc news.

Girls at risk amid India's prosperity.
srinidhi said…
Ram Said:

Thanks Nidhi. I read the whole thing even though I am not in BKK.. My comments, which I did not know how to register on your blog (ie the mechanics of writing a blog comment):
India is a bewildering country with it's disorganized chaotic 60 year existence but what amazes many in the West is that despite the corrupt babu's and politicos, Mumbai mafias, real estate thugs and petty criminals of every shade, it moves ahead willy nilly into a brighter future. Looking back 25 years we used to say that India is a basket case and would remain that way for all time to come. Numerous academics in the US were intently studying "Where is India headed!!" "What can be done with India" "What is the matter with India" etc etc
It must be the collective consciousness of the people of India that propels the country in the right direction even though at a snails pace. Currently the battle in the Lok Sabha over the nuclear fuels deal with US speaks volumes of the way the government Raj works. We saw a scene with fist fights and chair throwing at each other. It seems to me that we are forever lurching from one election to the next with near zero stability at the top. While all this insanity is continues un-abated giant industries are on a roll producing fantastic goods and services for the masses, every other country in the world wants to do business in India and an average citizen can feel the palpable changes taking shape.
So yes we must feel proud but just imagine IF the chaos did not exist and IF the government was there to help than to hinder... IF wishes were horses........
ps: I am also puzzled about the samosa and ghulabh Jamoon bit!! What is the matter with you. It is sacrileges to refuse such delightful offerings!! specially on India's 60th. JAI HIND!!
srinidhi said…
Rama Gopinath added;
Enjoyed reading your India blog. My Dad and Minoo Masani worked together as Swatantra party members. We too wish India all the luck in abolishing poverty and electing more selfless and honest politicians.


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