Saturday, November 24, 2007

Disparity and Us

It's so evident that it is ignored- the disparity in India.

The disparity of being in India is so shocking and so true, that it lurks around perhaps each and every socio-economic issue which India faces.

We are progressing. O yes, we are. Mall culture is in to stay, KFC, Pizza huts and Coca-Cola. I love these, I spend my money just to bite that succulent KFC chicken knowing fully well I am paying at least 200 % more than the actual price. I eat for I can afford. Simple! No more logic required. But was it always like this? Did my parents spend money simply because 'they could afford?'. NO

We are growing rich by the day, richer by the night. Clich├ęd but true. And as we celebrate all those landmarks of being enveloped in a prosperity circle: sensex crosses 20000, rupee to become stronger and so on, our vision becomes more and more myopic.

In Pune, we had the opportunity to listen to Lyla Bavadum- senior correspondent for Frontline. What she said created such a powerful imagery that it has been impossible to shake it off:

'If you want malls, expressways, and all that development, go ahead, have it. But the question is how? Do we push aside all those people whose land we take for these projects behind aluminium shanties? The foreigner will see everything that is posh and developed, but behind those barricades, will lie a different world, unseen, undisclosed and uncared.'

The above line is definitely not verbatim, but it is in accordance with the powerful scenario she managed to create in front of my eyes. So much so that every time I see those silver aluminium barricades hiding a construction site, I imagine not the SEZ or multiplex that will stand there in a few months, but thousands of sick and sad men and women huddling close together with blank eyes hidden somewhere out of my sight.

We are a highly populous country. But where does the development and share-market figures percolate- the top niche. We still have a healthy population of under-nourished, of illiterates and of those millions unemployed men and women whose faces we rarely see. Our development on the area of education and health is restricted to more reservation bills and more free lunch schemes for rural students. Visit a local municipality school sometime. You will be humbled by the dozens of children who really want to study, but give it up mid-way for the teachers are never present, the syllabus is beyond their grasp and they cant afford the books and stationary. Education, by far the most respectable occupation, has been digressed to an institution of economy that is utterly fake, over-priced and not to mention, unethical.

The other day, I was buying vegetables outside my flat. Tomatoes were at 20/kg. A man was passing by and he suddenly stopped seeing the bright red pile of tomatoes. He wanted just one piece. Imagine how would it be to buy daily grocery within such strict monetary budgets? Back in Ahmedabad, it was not uncommon to see construction site daily wagers buying oil worth five rupees, dry red chillies and onion worth another two. At nights, as the women cooked their mearge meals while the dozens of babies crawled around naked, the bright-red blaze of the make-shift fires haunted the construction sites. Disparity glares at us from each and every crossroad. It's just that perhaps we have become immune to see or imagine someone else's state of being.

What do we do, if we care? An individual, like you and me, may feel helpless. Many off us may shake off such facts by an indifferent shrug, not because we don't care, but simply because even if we care, we don't know what to do.

I have boiled down to one power which can come handy- Money.

Earn, Save, Donate.

Spend on yourself, pamper yourself and go on shopping binges. You earn and you may live it. No need to dress in khadi rags to prove you have an ethical and moral responsibility. Simply surf the net, you will find many NGOs who will do the bidding for you and reach out to those who really need some help. Just keep in mind, at the end of your splurge, contribute to welfare organizations whatever your conscience urges you to.

-- Gauri Gharpure