Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Incredible India

Like every year, the fervour of patriotism is at its peak during the Independence week. Most of the display of patriotism is by remembering our glorified independence struggle, the wars we fought with Pakistan and out victories in them, and more recently, cleaning up the society of corruption. During one such display of patriotism on a reality TV show, I was reminded of an old song from the film "Purab aur Paschim", particularly the first stanza, which talks about how it was India which gave the world '0' and that without it, we would have had practically no new invention and no further discovery.The song lead me into some retrospection about us..

So yes, starting with the discovery of '0', it was the field of mathematics we indeed excelled at. Practically, a big chunk of the fundamental mathematics we learn today was discovered by Indians. Aryabhatta discovered 0, to signify the absent, and so important was this discovery that we sing songs about it. Going a step ahead on it, it was the Indian Mathematical school of thought which gave the world its modern numeral system, Hindu Numeral system, otherwise, we would still have been using the big, inconvenient Roman numeral system. Going forward from primary grade mathematics to higher grade, Aryabhatta again is famous for approximating the value of constant Pi up to 5 digits and even suggesting that it is irrational, an insight, which did not occur to anyone else outside India until the 17th century. The entire field of trigonometry was discovered by the Indian mathematicians, and very recently, according to a sensational discovery, contrary to popular belief, calculus was first used by Kerala school of mathematics and not Newton. However, mathematics was not the only thing we excelled at. Indian Ayurvedic system had already made breakthroughs into invasive cataract surgeries before the dawn of Christ. Historical travelers have written odes dedicated to India and its rich culture, where people respect each other, where the cities have perpendicular streets and houses have no doors, where there is abundance of food and wealth. Where the intellectual levels are incredibly high and the essence of humanity at its epitome.

In the modern times too, after Independence, after a period of a long socialist era, India opened up and so did our services sector. The IT industry has reached $100 Bn and is still expanding. India is one of the fastest growing country in the world. With every passing census, our literacy rate increases, and so does our Per capita income. Our middle class purchasing capacity has increased many folds, with easy availability of credit and high salaries at young age. Our capital, New Delhi hosted the common wealth games in all its glory, showcasing to the world the infrastructural glory it has reached.

Speaking of New Delhi, it was recently in news for the merciless rape of a girl by a group of guys. So brutal was the assault, that the girl was thrown on the streets naked, to die. The guy with the girl was confident, someone would help, but no body came forward, too busy, they said. Nature unleashed its fury on on hapless pilgrims in Uttarakhand, leaving even the Gods in slush. Many died, some survived, but in all this there are a lot who thrived. The hotels which had some supplies left, started selling their stuff for a profit, as they say. Chapatis cost Rs 400, a bottle of mineral water cost Rs 300, a bowl of Dal for Rs 450. All this from the people who have just lost someone or something very valuable and dear to them, from the people who may have lost their entire life's saving. Some bureaucrats responsible to handle the free food supplies for these people found themselves more hungry in their comfortable home and were caught stealing and selling these supplies. Stand on any street in Mumbai and watch a disabled man trying to get a cab back home. Many of them will refuse fares, one cabbie will surely stop by and act like a good Samaritan, but for double the fare. Aboard any Indian bus, elders have to 'argue' with people to vacate seat meant for them, no woman can go not being groped. A braveheart is killed, because he argued with some local bullies to stop them from harassing his girlfriend, however, the police is still busy implementing the archaic laws, arresting young party goers or girls who make 'insensitive' facebook statuses and her friends who likes it, but is too scared to arrest local dons and mafia lords, who openly commit crime and give hate speeches or even the bullies who killed the braveheart. Hygiene and cleanliness is a term which has become restricted only to ones own home, because every place other than home is a trash can or spitting bowl. Because every public utility which is installed or deployed, is up for some vandalism and destruction or at the very least a place to litter. A country, where girl child is unwelcome, so much so, that it is let to die or killed. If she still survives, she made to lead a life of suffering, first at the hands of parents and then the husband. A country, where honour is more important than the life and love of the child.

The problem with us, is what I faced in the first para of this post, retrospection. We dwell in a time which is past us and cannot return. We feed our ego with the fact that we gave the world most of its stuff. We are unwilling to let go of the past because we have nothing left of present to defend ourselves. We get offended when we are called third world, and cite cities like Mumbai as example of India Shining, but no on cares to acknowledge that it is the same city which has 52% of its population living in slums. We clean up and fix our roads only when a foreign dignitary is to ride over it. And like every other entity in country we blame, we, ourselves react and wake up from our slumber only when the house is on fire. India is not united by a billion people, but divided into a billion people. We are truly, albeit unknowingly on the verge of self obsession.          

It is introspection, and not retrospection that we need, after being independent for 66 years. Time to wake up! 

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