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NYTimes exposes India: Fighting to Shut Out the Real India
« on: April 08, 2011, 09:54:01 PM »
Fighting to Shut Out the Real India
By MANU JOSEPH on April 6, 2011

NEW DELHI — On Saturday night, when India lifted the Cricket World Cup for the first time in 28 years, the nation was filled with rare collective joy and a deceptive sense of wellbeing. Firecrackers exploded in the air. People from all classes celebrated late into the night. Sonia Gandhi, president of the Indian National Congress party and the country’s most powerful person — and probably the only woman of Italian origin who comprehends cricket — was seen in her car showing a thumbs-up sign to the delirious crowds on Delhi’s streets.


It might have appeared on Saturday that there is much that connects the different rungs of the Indian society and that cricket is the proof. But the truth is that cricket is the only manmade phenomenon that connects the nation’s upper classes with its vast masses. There is absolutely nothing else. In fact, daily life in India is a fierce contest between the affluent and the educated on the one side, and the brooding impoverished on the other.


The pursuit of India’s elite is to protect themselves from India — from its crowds, dust, heat, poverty, politics, governance and everything else that is in plain sight. To achieve this, they embed themselves in their private islands that the forces and the odors of the republic cannot easily penetrate.


The islands that protect Indians from India are simple and material: A luxurious car with an unspeaking driver who works for 12 hours every day at less than $200 a month, or at least an S.U.V. with strong metal fenders that can absorb routine minor accidents. A house in a beautiful residential community that the Other Indians can enter only as maids and drivers. Membership in an exclusive club. Essentially a life in a bubble where there is no sign of the government except for the treachery of the service tax.


This is not the life of the terrifyingly rich alone but also the skilled middle class employed in the private sector.


Shekhar Gupta, editor in chief of The Indian Express, described this population in one of his columns as “long divorced and insulated” from the Indian government. “All of us learnt to become individual, sovereign republics. We send our children to private schools, get treatment only in private hospitals, have our own security in gated communities, never need to use public transport, even own our own diesel gensets to produce power, and in many parts of the country, arrange our own water supply, either through our own borewells or tankers.”


The numbers of these “sovereign republics” inside India are small, and there are islands within islands, each one characterized by how much money it can invest to make its walls higher and thicker to keep India out. The best protected are, of course, the 60-odd billionaires and almost-billionaires, who are even shielded from the justice system. They escape India even when they go to meet their gods in the country’s holiest temples. While hundreds of thousands jostle for a glimpse of the deities, and scores routinely die in stampedes, the rich are whisked away from their choppers for special appointments with their benevolent gods.


Then there are the 170,000 dollar-millionaires, according to a 2010 Credit Suisse report. It is a small figure compared with the 230,000 dollar-millionaires of Switzerland, whose population is less than 1 percent of India’s. Then come the 4.5 million small entrepreneurs and highly skilled workers who own assets worth more than $100,000, a mere fraction of India’s 1.2 billion people.


Rags-to-riches stories in India are popular but rare. The tiny Indian elite is largely an inheritance economy. Its members have inherited their lifestyle and instincts from their parents. They derive their confidence to spend not necessarily from how well they are doing but from the assets they have inherited and will inherit from their families. This is why India’s upper classes are recession-proof. It would take an absolute catastrophe for the upper classes to be thrown out of their islands and merge with the Other Indians.


There was a time when the master of the house and the maid used to watch the same film in the same theater, though in different seats, of course. There was a time when Hindi cinema was about The Angry Young Man, social injustice and even parental love. There were innumerable stories in which the protagonist sold his blood or his kidneys to bring money to his widowed mother who was perpetually toiling on a Singer sewing machine.


But Hindi cinema today is more joyous, and its characters are modern and Western. The film industry has become a hip cultural island. It is a more profitable strategy because producers earn more from expensive multiplex tickets in the cities than from the cheap tickets of small town single-screen theaters.


The bubbles of the elite have strong walls, but the realities of India are so potent that they very often break in. There is a limit to the isolation that the back seat of a Mercedes can provide. The odors of the driver; the crippled urchins knocking at the windows; the million honking horns; the smog of unmoving traffic, these are the relentless forces of the nation seeking to breach the walls of the elite.


For long, schools have been among the most important islands of the affluent. Junior elites went to schools where the hefty fee was a guarantee that the children of the Other Indians would never show their faces. Not surprisingly, a recent law that forces private schools to reserve 25 percent of the seats for financially disadvantaged children has become controversial. It is common to hear elite parents say in private that they fear their children might be corrupted or infected with strange diseases by the poor.


Reflecting parents’ fears is the circular of the Karnataka Unaided Schools Managements Association, which asks, “Will not such mixing of children from different strata of society create conflict, discord and controversy among children and parents in your school?”


Life goes on this way in the great republic with a perpetual battle between the island people and a sea of humanity.


Manu Joseph is the editor of the Indian newsweekly OPEN, and the author of the novel ‘‘Serious Men.’’

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NYTimes exposes India: Fighting to Shut Out the Real India
« on: April 08, 2011, 09:54:01 PM »

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Re: NYTimes exposes India: Fighting to Shut Out the Real India
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2011, 10:23:43 PM »
Unfortunately this is very true. Elites really don't have to interact with the government. (not that it is a very pleasant one).

I can so relate to this as I have seen this happening -

Quote
“All of us learnt to become individual, sovereign republics. We send our children to private schools, get treatment only in private hospitals, have our own security in gated communities, never need to use public transport, even own our own diesel gensets to produce power, and in many parts of the country, arrange our own water supply, either through our own borewells or tankers.”

Offline Jhanda_Amli

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Re: NYTimes exposes India: Fighting to Shut Out the Real India
« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2011, 12:13:06 PM »
Quote
The pursuit of India’s elite is to protect themselves from India — from its crowds, dust, heat, poverty, politics, governance and everything else that is in plain sight. To achieve this, they embed themselves in their private islands that the forces and the odors of the republic cannot easily penetrate.

[/size][/color]
[/size]This might include most of us - Foreigners - Elite group. [/color]

Offline @SeKhOn@

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Re: NYTimes exposes India: Fighting to Shut Out the Real India
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2011, 08:56:38 AM »
,,its true dat we r making our own islands ,,,everyone is proud to named  as gujrati ..marathi ..punjabi ,,telegu .etc .. ,,,but no one says dat we r indian ,,we always talk about disparity in cultural diversties ,,, ,,,,but we still fight on name of religion ...the main thing where we behind is lack of respect to humanity ..we judge people from its clothes nd his caste ...even in punjabi janta ,,,people feel proud to say american ,canadian ,,but no one ever say indian ...may be we feel shame ,,dnt know ,,why?

 

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