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January 19, 2005

Money-minded and proud of it

While coming to Bangalore, I was doing the ritualistic scan of all flight magazines (I am one of those traveler who just run to grab all the magazines and hoard them till I am done reading them. In Singapore Airlines you get plenty of good magazines on East-Asian events, sometimes I just enjoy the font and pictures in those local language magazines!).

One essay in Newsweek caught my attention, it was Fareed Zakaria's coming of age piece on India. His point was that the recent Tsunami event is showing the signs of confident India. Country, despite all the historical problems, is poised to claim it's place in the global economy.

During my days in Delhi during mid-90s, I used to read Rafiq Zakaria's column in Times Of India. Senior Zakaria was a politician and a fine writer. He used to have very refreshing viewpoint during those dull years. His  anti-partition stand was the highlight. Father and son may very well be the showcase example of what has changed in India and it's Diaspora.

It's the parting shot in Fareed's essay which caught my attention:

Fareed writes :

In some ways India's messy development resembles that of another large, energetic, chaotic country where society has tended to loom larger than the state the United States of America. It is a parallel to keep in mind

And messy it is. Or maybe messy with a big M. As I was telling my friend the other day that if you just stand at one place and look up you would get the impression that Bangalore is booming. The moment you start walking or driving then reality catches up. Roads are a mess. In some strange revenge state government's machinery has revolted against all the dollar rich lords.

All the right things are here in this booming city. All the right visitors, right companies, right dollar amount, right food and right weather. What is missing is government. Under normal circumstances you would feel happy for it. As Mark Tully commented in his recent book that India has made progress wherever government sector was weak or absent. So it's good that government is MIA in lot of places. But now we need them and need it now ! Roads, electricity, airports, company affairs and telecom are all due for major work.
Without all that this country will just spread the mediocrity all over the country and completely miss out on the quality one gets from a fine ecosystem.

As old school is on the defense, there is this confident new generation which knows how to work the system. You just need to look at Sania Mirza to realize that this time the confidence is natural. They don't need system to go on to their daily life. They need system's lubrication in order to run and shine. Bangalore's messy potholes and speed breakers are symbolic of India which can be revengeful and dangerous. This country may not realize but it's slowly building a generation which is suspicious of government's role and would rather prefer controlling it's own destiny. Just give them broadband, decent infrastructure, primary education and they know how to handle their affairs.

Indian media is also adjusting and there are lot of new quality channels. Byline of a program in recently launched business channel - Profit - sums up the mood - "money minded and proud of it". Only a generation ago this free agent pursuit of money was considered a sin bigger than poverty. I am glad India is changing that without making  Rich Dad Poor Dad a best seller in this part of the world.

If we have to sum up the developing parallel between India and US then following threads standout - deep mistrust of government, messy and chaotic, "money minded and proud of it" and strong democracy.

As Fareed said, this parallel will be worth watching.

January 19, 2005 in Social angle | Permalink


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