By Saurabh Chandra
Thoughts on our 67th Independence Day.
In this day of Breaking News and the feeling of being always live, connected over the ether with all happenings in the world via internet, our senses are bombarded with tragedies. Mostly, it is the out of the ordinary and the tragic that makes news and catches our attention. Amidst so much despair, it takes conscious effort to retain a sense of proportion.
Following too much ‘news’ can be injurious to the state of mind if not balanced by a personal assessment of world around us. The world doesn’t lack tragedies and new lows but the trend for India is unmistakably upbeat, and upwards. For example, in Jammu & Kashmir, where around a decade ago the state suffered 4,500 casualties, last year saw only a little above 100. Every death is a loss but the 4,000+ lives not lost are also worth celebrating and our security forces deserve our heartfelt gratitude for that.
Now that 2014 election fever is about to start, the biggest decline in poverty our country has experienced in recent decades has become a statistic of mockery. If the news of crores of Indians living better than they ever used to isn’t worth cheering, I don’t know what is. Most mocked is the figure of Rs 32 per day per person, which translates into a spending of Rs 5,000 for a family of five per month. If families spending Rs 3,000 per month get to Rs 5,000, do they not deserve our encouragement? Should we not ask how to accelerate the conditions which helped them get there? The mockery of the absolute number does great injustice to the march that the Indian poor are making.
Statistics has to translate into some personal experience to show us what it means. For me that happened when my spouse recently visited the home of our domestic help, Nagmani. Nagmani had invited all the ladies with whom she works for a pooja at her house. All of them visited and had dinner at her place. Nagmani has recently moved to a good 2-bhk apartment near Jakkur airport. The apartment was a little bigger and better (in construction but not yet in interiors) than the one we used to live in a few years ago. All her children are graduates and work in blue collar or white collar jobs. One of them wants to leave the job and start his own business. I remember, 20 years ago, visiting the house of the lady who worked with us and it was a thatched place with no door, no electricity, no window and no rooms. I can’t help feeling happy with this transformation.
There are so many stories around us if we care to ask. I remember a young kid whose family income jumped from Rs 20,000 per year to Rs 25,000 per month once he landed a job in a software company. Do only such stories make India? No. But the right question to ask is how can we create more such stories.
To end on another personal note. Yesterday, stuck on a traffic light, the ill-famed auto-drivers of Bangalore seemed to be the only folks who were buying the Indian flag. Most of the folks in private vehicles were checking their phones. This 15th August, they will be driving their autos with the flag waiving on it. I plan to cheer them all.
Happy Independence Day.
Saurabh Chandra is a Bangalore based technology entrepreneur with an interest in public policy. He tweets at @saurabhchandra.