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Living in India: So What Do I Care?

By Anamika Majumder

Summary: Anamika Majumder, the founder of One Billion Literates, explores the values that unify India, a nation increasingly divided by extreme wealth and extreme poverty.

Living in India - So What Do I Care?

You must have read a lot about the two Indias that co-exist and have come into prominence since the economic reforms of the early nineties. Yes I am talking about the difference in lifestyle of the people living in India where they shop in malls and supermarkets and ride luxury cars even when they are just going around the corner from that of the folks living in Bharat where getting a balanced nutritious diet is still a challenge, the only option to get rice, sugar and kerosene is when they stand in the blazing sun all day in front of government subsidized ration shops and where parents are in two minds whether to lose an earning member and send their child to state run schools. Let me take this a little further by associating the majority of our affluent class to be apathetic about the plight of the common man in the country hence completely ignoring their social responsibilities because after all the onus is on the government.

There are certain values that unify our diverse motherland. But why are values like tyaga (renunciation), dana (giving) and satya (truth) that our country is known for disappearing so fast? Why is it becoming so important to buy bigger houses and cars than our 'friends'? It seems displaying one's wealth has become the in thing from someone like Mr. Ambani to the nouveau riche. Agreed, Mr. Ambani is employing 600 people just to maintain Antilia for which he spent for than $1 Billion (note that a huge number of people in our country earn less than $1.25 a day), however will we ever see some of our super-rich businessmen mingling with the common man just like Bill Gates did in rural Bihar? In a country where public health statistics are so grim, why do our physicians on an exchange visitor program in the United States and required to return to their home country where they should be physically present for two years before they can go back to America, seek waiver to this home residency rule by 'serving' remote areas of the United States like North Dakota and Montana with a shortage of medical professionals?

While the common man swears by Bollywood movies which are his major source of entertainment, how many 'stars' perhaps with the exception of very few names that come to our minds like Rahul Bose, Shabana Azmi and Waheeda Rahman, do we know from this industry who earn in crores (Rs 1 Crore roughly equals USD 240,000.00) lend a helping hand to the underprivileged? In contrast, we know of several celebrities in Hollywood who not only endorse social causes but also contribute millions of dollars to organizations that are trying to make a difference. How many sports people and socialites do we know in India who are genuinely trying to make an impact?

Our esteemed builders are cutting trees relentlessly to build high-end apartments that are getting taller and better whether or not there is a demand, and assure prospective buyers there will be no water issues because they can dig deeper so what if the water table is going down? All our breathtakingly beautiful tourist places are strewn with garbage and non-bio-degradable plastic bags. We have been constructing dams reducing the flow of fresh of water into the seas and displacing poor people living in those area. Also as we try to industrialise and improve infrastructure several acres of agricultural land is getting acquired affecting poor lives solely dependent on them forcing them to migrate to already overcrowded cities. No matter how much we litter in parks and on streets we make sure to yell at our maids to keep our houses spic and span. All this and a lot more is continuously deteriorating our physical environment and there is a lot of evidence that climate change is reaching a point with potentially devastating consequences for the poor.

So I would like to appeal to the elite Indians – as we throw lavish parties, trash the pasta untouched by our children, not bat an eyelid as we spend thousands of bucks at the mall and get upset over a miniscule raise - let us just for once keep this apathy aside, step out of our gated communities and air-conditioned sedans and figure out a way to bring a smile in an under-privileged child who is not as fortunate as your children. Perhaps, you could start with simple things like donating the money obtained by selling your old newspapers or e-waste to a non-profit organization or sponsoring a child or distributing books and notebooks in a nearby slum. At a time when the sportspersons of India are bringing glory to our motherland and people have started demonstrating that they have had enough of scams and corruption, can we urban elites not come together and show that we can make a difference? Believe me we can and it is about time we did!

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About the Author

Anamika is a Software Engineer and has several years of experience working in companies like Sun Microsystems and Omgeo LLC (a subsidiary of Thomson Reuters) in Massachusetts, USA. She has an under-graduate degree from the Malaviya National Institute of Technology, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India and a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Anamika has moved back to India after 12 years in May 2010 to start a non profit organization called One Billion Literates whose mission is to improve English and impart technical training in rural India.

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First Published: Apr 10, 2011

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