Sunday, November 10, 2013

India: forward or backward?

I am in the middle of a five week trip to India. This is my fifth trip in the last four years. Two things that
are really clear about India today.
First, it is rapidly changing.
Second, it is struggling to cope with change.
Rapid economic growth and restructuring is being accompanied by rapid technological and social change. Institutions, all the way from the family to the national government are struggling to adapt. On this trip I am reading the newspaper, The Times of India, everyday. It accentuates the above observations.
In the Western world, dramatic changes associated with globalisation, economic restructuring, and technology are also happening. However, I feel that the change is happening at about one-tenth of the pace in India.

Is all this change positive or negative?
It depends on your perspective.
I thought the following quote from the book India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation's Remaking
was particularly interesting. It compares the problems of the old India, where life in villages was dominated by caste, to the new India, where life in the cities is dominated by capitalism.
this narrowing of tasks, while making things more efficient, also made it harder to find meaning in work. ... what caste did flagrantly, putting humans into their different boxes, globalization was doing more artfully: giving every worker a sliver of a specialized role, making him work harder and harder, depriving him over time of a sense of the whole, and eroding his connections with other humans. ... cousins in deprivation [are] the labourer driven from his land for the software company and the software coder who writes his narrow code, slogs for people he has never met, and suffers the fate of the new-economy worker bee: fifteen-hour days, bumper-to-bumper traffic, sexual and marital frustration, children who ask, `How come Papa never comes home?'
When caste wanted to separate man from man, it used the concept of dharma.. When capitalism wanted to separate man form man, it used the concept of production, of higher consumption, of better livelihood - whatever. The end result was separating human being from human being and erasing the socialness, the human essence, from the human being.
This is not the author, but someone he interviewed. You will have to look at the book to see who said it. That makes it of even greater interest and challenge.

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