Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fighting to shut out the real India

More often than in years past, I get to read a piece about India in the NYTimes or the Economist. More often than not, these articles talk about the huge economic disparity in the world's most populous country, and how the minorities are exploited for more than just monetary gain. This piece by Manu Joseph for the NYTimes starts out with the premise that affluent Indians find every way possible to isolate themselves from their less privileged kin.
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 article goes on to back this hypothesis up with examples of people seeking refuge in their air-conditioned homes, their cars with windows raised, their exclusive clubs, etc. Having lived in the US for more than 10 years, I don't see how this is different from American society. Let me back my claim up with some data points:

1. The affluent live in the suburbs. The poor live in the inner city projects. This division brings itself to bear all over the country with a few exceptions. There is little to no inter-mingling between the 2 strata of society.
2. The affluent send their children to private schools if they can afford the exorbitant tuition. The public school system is broken in ways that doesn't really educate the poor. The public schools in the suburbs are among the best in the country, but accept pupils only from nearby localities, not from the inner-cities. The city public schools are under-funded and are in municipal regions that don't receive too much help from tax-payers (poor people don't pay high taxes, which means there is less tax money to go around, which means ...)
3. The rich live in gated communities or by the water-front and hire the poor as nannies or butlers or gardeners. I don't think the immigrant or blue-collar population in America can dream of being affluent. They dream of meeting their daily needs and not being caught into the debt trap that has ensnared so many Americans.
4. This leaves the upwardly-mobile middle-class: people like you reading this post and me, its author. There is an entire population of Indians just like you and me - not living on the fringes, yet not living in the lap of luxury; making a little more than we need, using some of it and putting the rest of it away for a rainy day.

Social structures exist everywhere, for reasons that can't be dissected or fully comprehended. It grinds my gears when authors present just one side of a story, especially when they are being critical.

1 comment:

  1. Do you know ANY society that is entirely different?