Breaking the Education BarrierCulture & Education | June 8, 2012
When Barack Obama became the 44th President of the USA,...
This inner-conflict that most well-heeled Indians suffer from stems from the shocking disparity between the haves and the have-nots. I’m not surprised that India’s poor are more religious than the rich – they fervently hope that at least God may give them what the government (whichever government is in power) doesn’t. To be fair, though, the Government of India has got some fabulous well-meaning schemes like MGNREGA in place – sadly, they turn out to be not so fabulous when greedy middle-men exploit them to fatten their personal piggybanks. An idea amounts to nothing without conscientious execution.
Just a stroll down the streets can make you wallow in guilt. You spot a man sleeping on a filthy footpath but there’s nothing you can do about it – forget it and move on, or else you may spend a few sleepless nights on your comfortable mattress. A child in grimy, tattered clothes tugging your arm can also tug at your heartstrings – even when you know clearly that most beggars are part of an evil underworld syndicate. It’s a little easier to assuage your guilt here if you’re smart enough to carry small packs of glucose biscuits to hand out. That way you feed the poor but not the underworld syndicate.
You gnash your teeth, scowl and throw a tantrum when the house-help does a bunk on the grounds of having the flu – but you think nothing of calling in sick when you have a tequila-induced hangover. You stuff yourself with vitamins and minerals for an air-conditioned desk job, while manual labourers who actually need those vitamins and minerals get nothing nutritious to eat. I know a terrifically wealthy lady who gives stale, ant-ridden sweets to her house-help as treats – oh, and she always proudly introduces herself to her peers as a Gandhian! Recently, my eyebrows shot way past my hairline when I read an article on how Mumbai’s celebrities maintain their toned bodies: apparently, most of them partake of slimming soup and salads at home before they go to parties. So who consumes those fancy Mushroom Vol-au-Vents, Smoked Salmon Canapés et cetera? Not India’s starving millions but municipal garbage bins, tsk.
I could go on and on about the unfairness of it all but I’m guilty once again – this time for stating the obvious. Instead, I have a suggestion: wealthy Indians should visit the West more often – not to shop and sightsee, but to find ways to help us reduce the rich-poor disparity and the guilt that comes with it. Perhaps one of the most valuable things we can learn from Westerners is how to treat the underprivileged with respect – for starters, that is! Then, perhaps we can move on to more vitally important issues like minimum wages and maximum working hours across the board. I don’t know about you, but that will definitely make me feel more at peace than hours of meditation in the Himalayas. Who knows, I may even attain nirvana!
Rupa Gulab is a columnist and the author of Girl Alone, Chip of the Old Blockhead, and The Great Depression of the 40s.
The views expressed above are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of the views of the Mahindra Group.
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