Land of wasted opportunities

We are the fortunate ones. We are the chosen ones. For we live, on earth, on a piece of land that boasts of moderate climate, best suited for agriculture and life in general.

We can literally throw seeds on the ground, just like that, and watch a tree grow. How good is that! We can literally live anywhere here and we will have sufficient food for survival, right from the extreme cold in Kashmir to the sultry Kanyakumari. Or from the desert plains of Gujarat to lush valleys in Manipur.

And we have food scarcity. Shame on us.

This is the land that gave the world an advanced learning in science and computing. And arts, literature, psychology, spirituality, warfare, sexuality among others.

And we lead in illiteracy. Shame on us.

Who can not be moved reading Gita, Shakuntalam, Mahabharat, Kamasutra, Panch Siddhanth, Jataka tales and many more.

And we can’t agree to speak one language. Or atleast make one indigenous language a national one. Shame on us.

We have over 200 rivers in India. Innumerable lakes. Covered with sea water on 3 sides. The 4th side, Himalayan range, is the source of many of the rivers.

And we have a water problem. Shame on us.

We have access to sunshine over 300 days in a year. Not just fleeting, but full blown access. We have got places where temperatures go upto 50 degrees. We get regular wind.

And we have an electricity problem. Shame on us.

We have natural deposits of metals, minerals, soil, crude all over the country.

And we have infrastructure problem. Shame on us.

We have a talent pool of best software engineers in the world. People can code, design, lead companies and pretty much do everything that a so-called “white man” do.

And yet, we have a basic Internet access problem. Shame on us.

We have forests, wind, rains and other natural air cleaners.

And we have air quality problem. Shame on us.

We have scores of wild habitat, deserts, lakes, beaches, centers of spirituality, lagoons, mountains, hospitality centers, monuments and many natural wonders.

And we have tourism problem. Shame on us.

We are the most populated country in the world, with a history of pride and kingship.

And yet we have leadership problem. Shame on us.

Do you see a pattern here? We have pretty much everything that makes life worth living. That we aspire for. That which the “white man” is after. That which makes people kill. Everything.

Yet, we do not have anything. Because, we don’t care. About anything. We do not care if our cities are crumbling under the population pressure. We do not care if our villages are crumbling under employment pressure.

We suck at calling out the real problem.

If I were to tell you that we have an air quality problem, that we are dying of cancer because of that, and we have following options to choose from: ban crackers on diwali, implement odd-even scheme, ban diesel run vehicles, stop rampant construction or manage waste better. Which one will you choose?

We want to work & fight for the smallest of things while the country is going directionless. We are fighting for LGBT rights when the girls are getting raped everyday. We are concerned over whether there was internet during the times of mahabharat than really ensuring that atleast today everyone has the best quality internet access. We fight over meat while millions die hungry. Our food grains rot. Our systems rot. Our cities rot.

India’s air quality is worsening day by day. Water clogging in cities is regular. Cancer cases have jumped manifold. Its happening in every city. But we talk about “The spirit of mumbai” everytime there is flood there or “Dilli dilwalon ki” everytime someone talks about air quality or “Lucknow ki tehzeeb” when we complain about poor law and order or “Bengaluru’s modern life” when we take 4 hours to reach airport, sometimes even 7. Aren’t all these just an excuse? Just a way to saying that “we do not care”. That life just goes on.

We believe that population is our asset. I think it is our biggest problem. No land is large enough to sustain the mad growth in population that we see today. We need policies to control this in a way which incentivizes people to populate less. China was an extreme case, but they did manage to slow down. We are not even acknowledging the problem.

What can I even say about cleanliness. We love cribbing about dirt but we also love creating it. Consciously or unconsciously, we do. Everyone in this country does. Remember, when we go to a foreign country we stop spitting on roads, and spreading litter. But the moment we land back in India, we spit on the road and say “Now I am back in my country, feels like home”. Now, what pride is that. What stubbornness is that.

What can I say about politics. Sitting around dining table, we are all policy makers. We love blasting all politicians, left right and center. But ask if we want to join any party, and we back off. The reason — we are common men, helpless and clueless. We also want to live, not get murdered trying to change the system. Fair point. But that does not solve the problem.

I have a theory. Indians are like water. We keep moving wherever we find space. If we encounter small objects, we move over them. If something big, we sidestep and move. If an obstruction, we just stop. We do not have direction. We do not want direction, or restriction or any acceptance of things that are wrong and need change.

I have been a victim too. I have also made most of the mistakes mentioned. But somewhere things need to change, isn’t it?

Lets start with things that we control. Our room, if not our house. How many personal bathrooms do you see that are dirty? How many beds you see that are unkempt? How pathetic state of affairs you see when you enter your own room or house.

Someone I was speaking with, about this, said that they cannot afford domestic help to clean. And that everyone is busy in their lives to do it themselves. Fair point?

If we cannot clean ourselves and things inside our house, how do we expect our leaders to clean the nation? Don’t they have a reason too? That they are understaffed and cannot afford municipal corporations, town planners to keep cities and country clean?

Isn’t it better to acknowledge the problem and solve it, rather than deny and ignore.

Lets see the solutions. We, as individuals, start within our houses. They should be impeccable. And people who make it dirty should be fined. Big fines.

Then RWAs. Why can’t an RWA maintain the societies like they want to see a nation? Work of quality of life rather than just installing CCTVs or fighting over whether a society needs a new carrom board. Every RWA should ensure a clean park for children to play, adults to walk and spend time, a sewer management system, cleanliness and order.

Why can’t we stop accepting plastic, or stop jumping red lights, or stop littering, or just anything that we can do in our limited capacity. Nations don’t change in one day.

We may not be able to solve a big problem today by doing this. But remember, today’s small problem is tomorrow’s big problem. And we can definitely solve that.

I will come out with my vision for India in my next post. Until then, keep reading and do send in your comments.


co-founder, hellotravel. exploring the world, one place at a time

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pankaj agarwal

co-founder, hellotravel. exploring the world, one place at a time