Thursday, May 08, 2008

The divide and the diversity

One of my friends asked me how the move was and how I was feeling.

Somehow when I saw the phrase "How I was feeling", it prompted me to give her a response that I haven't given earlier to anyone. And that is of the great divide in India. Its wide and its growing. I have been thinking about penning it down for a while now but didn't really know how or where to start. So below is a random collection of thoughts. If it looks like its not trying to make any point, well, you got it. I am not trying to:)

Whenever we step out of the house, I immediately see it everywhere. Its the great divide. Between the IT and the non-IT crowd. By IT I mean anyone working in the IT industry and not necessarily the techies.

I don't know if its the new-found independence of just having finished school and gotten a job. Or I don't know if its just the headiness in money. Twenty-somethings and early thirty-somethings spend like there is no tomorrow. When I left India, it was still a conservative economy, with savings being the mantra. Now the mantra is "Have money, will buy".

How else can I explain that dinnerware from Corelle selling for 7K?

Then there is the non-IT crowd. The whatever-collared jobs in other industries. They haven't seen anything close to the IT explosion consequently leaving them in the same "Saving is the mantra" mentality. And I am not even talking about my maid or my friend's driver. That divide is way wider anyway. And it was traditional in India, came down from the past untouched.

What happens to people in other professions I wonder. Since everyone seeks to attract the IT crowd, the prices and the offerings also cater to this crowd. Everywhere I go, people only sell fringe goods, highly expensive, very luxurious, and extremely far away from being "necessary". That is where the money is. People are willing to spend for luxury and that is what sells. But what about people who don't need luxury and just want to buy something they can afford. All around me things are getting expensive and every day I read something or the other about inflation.

So we had this already wide gap only being made wider by explosive and concentrated growths in cities.

I wonder and I feel sorry for it. I wonder some more and I feel guilty about it. I wonder a little further and I feel outright sad about it. Till when I see that "Standard Sale" shop on Airport road which sells Cotton shirts starting at Rs 29. And stands right next to that swanky Woodlands outlet (and some other myriad host of outlets). And yet has more people thronging it than any hep store can boast about. And then I stare in wonder. Every day and every minute this country amazes me. People just go about their business no matter what. Everyday the Indian microcosm carries on with this delicate balance extremely deftly. The guy selling plastic toys on a wheel cart survives just the same as the guy sitting in an air-conditioned office. The guy selling plastic toys eats Idlis at the thatched hut and the guy in the air-conditioned office eats off Leela Palace's buffet (Ok, not everyone can eat off Leela Palace's buffet I agree, but that is just a depiction of the other extreme end;) . Both survive. In their own bands. Both get on with their life. In their own brackets. Both socialize. In their own circles. Both are happy. One for his extremely good sale, one for his extremely fat bonus packet. Both are sad. One for his neediness. One for his boredom and stress. I find it mind-blowing how every strata in our society finds its own nice slot. And lives on.

Of course, there are people who die because they are poor and can't afford a proper medical treatment. Of course there are people begging on the streets. And of course, this is disturbing. I know something needs to be done about it. But every time I see someone trying to make a living in the hot sun, it first makes me very sad, then makes me wonder just how, how do they manage? It inspires me to see a survival story in them. And all that I feel is amazement at the end of it.


Anonymous said...

Yes, the divide....It was there 8 years back, when I was still in India, and I can't imagine just how wide it must had gotten now..

I guess looking at the lesser mortals, would keep me grounded and be thankful for whatever I have and whatever I am.
Now, that paints such a sad picture of me, but that surely helps me in being a better person..hopefully.

DivSu said...

Hi Anonymous

On a side note, that tells me you were one year my senior in JNTU.(You said you were in India 8 years ago:) ) Would you mind leaving your name? Or maybe I should guess that next? :)

Anonymous said...

yeah guess..Good Luck!:)

Kishan said...

India never ceases to amaze. The IT explosion IMHO has only made the divide wider.

Nisha said...

You bet!!.. it just gets wider.. Yet amidst all the chaos, amidst all the differences, i still feel at home there :) There is something about India, where a bullock cart can share the road with a truck.. n yet move at its own pace, undeterred by the honks, by the sneers.. life just goes on..And u see people(atleast most of them)still have something to cheer about, something to celebrate. I was surprised when I moved out of India Last year at how less people in US smiled( well, your experience could be different, but this is something I observed). And how forceful it seemed. I guess when there is a vast difference in attitudes in culture of two different places, it takes much longer than a while to get used to it. btw when did u move back??

DivSu said...

Hi Kishan

Yes, definitely wider.

Hi Nisha,

I moved about 2 months ago. Yeah, life in the US used to feel plastic, inorganic. I am happy to be back! What do you do in the US?

dharmabum said...

imho, no point feeling sad or sorry unless we do our bit. we can't change the face of the earth, but we can do tiny bits that may make a change in a few lives.

i also think this is more because of the westernization of our culture. we are simply fascinated by everything western, where consumption is the mantra, because at the end of the day, they are a materialistic culture, as opposed to the east which is basically spiritual. now there is a conflict of identities...

DivSu said...

Hey DeBum, can't agree with you better. But unless you regret something you are not inspired to do anything about it. What say? :)

Your point about West being consumptionist and East being Spiritual is very very true. Its sad to see the just-acquired-wealth generation go the West way, nothing more regrettable than that :(

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