Disparity and its Disturbing Depths
The Yin and Yang of Life in India…an apt title, even if I do say so myself.
In this country, disparity is everywhere you look! But there are some areas where the disparity is not only acute, it’s an incongruity that becomes distressing to observe.
Over the past few decades this country has gone from being considered a third-world developing country to an emerging economic power in the new world. Thanks to progressive economic reforms a couple of decades ago, a transformation has occurred. This has meant significant, visible progress and wealth generation. In some quarters.
While wealth is being generated at an incredible pace, the poor seem to be left behind at just as amazing a rate. The dichotomy and gap between the poor and the wealthy is ever-expanding.
Just talk with any visitors to this country. They are startled and completely taken aback by this extreme disparity, as they go back and forth between the chilled luxury of their sumptuous five-star hotel to the somber city scenes right outside that fort.
Not that I am wealthy by any means, but I am certainly better off than so many not as fortunate in India. With the incredible numbers and statistics here, how can I not be! In most other country, perhaps I would be considered moderately better off, but here? It’s off the scales!
Where else would I feel that the evening outing that I just paid for (for argument’s sake, let’s say that was $100) was equal to or more than the monthly income of about fifty percent or more of the population of the country where I am a temporary resident? Wow!
Is that why I feel an unusually high level of discomfort when stopped at a traffic light in Mumbai in my comfortable air-conditioned car and poor kids flock to the windows looking for handouts? All the while, willing myself not to make eye contact. Oh no, but that would never do! 😦
I think what it is new for me in this new India is the absolutely new shocking contrast between the poor and the rich. Don’t get me wrong. The contrasts were always there. Yet, today, ironically with the increase in prosperity in many sectors, the differences are more obvious and the extremes more extreme.
Wise Confucius has a saying that goes like this:
“In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.”
I read it recently and it got me thinking long enough to prompt this post.
Now, whether a country is well-governed or not is never an absolute. In fact, it’s highly relative. Let’s just agree that India is on the low end of the spectrum. I can’t imagine anyone saying that this is a “well-governed” nation!
Yet, here’s the dilemma. People who have become wealthy by working hard or working smartly as the country progressed economically – should they or anyone really be ashamed of that wealth? Absolutely not. [Unless, of course, you are one of the many politicians who steals from the country to create your own wealth bubble].
The real question is whether the government of this complex democracy is doing enough, fast enough to help make the poor better off, at the same time that they are helping to make the wealthy even better off? The answer to this is obvious. Absolutely not.
And, until that begins to happen, yes, in this badly governed country, wealth in all its forms but especially the loud and ostentatious Indian kind, will always be something painful for me to watch.
It’s the more piercing side of the yin and yang of living in India – one that I am yet to get completely sensitized to (and am completely sure that I don’t want to).
Beggars: By Jorge Royan (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Posted on September 9, 2012, in demographics, india, people and tagged Mukesh Ambani's ostentatious house Antila, poverty in india, street beggars in India, the contrast between poor and rich in India, the extreme disparity between wealthy and poor in india. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.