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Two Indias

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.

Two Indias
Nino Pagliccia
22 September 2011

I have always had a special affinity with India long before I married my wife who is originally from India. I have often joked that in my previous life I was born and lived in India. I love India and her people. 

I first visited India in 1987. I am now back again after my last trip 14 years ago and I try to sort out the new from the old. The India I read about in the mainstream media, boosting economic growth and friendly to the US, and the India that I remember.

My first impression landing at the new modern Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi raised my hopes for a new India; modern, fast and where her wealth is shared by all. But just outside the airport I saw pretty much the same old India I remembered; hectic, run down and where only poverty is shared by the large majority. Apparently the new prosperous India has not reached far enough. 

An Indian friend described to me the existence of two Indias in a very practical way in reference to his attempt to bridge the two in his daily management of his business. He explained that there is one India symbolized by its total embrace of the world of high tech by Indian entrepreneurs with fast computers and smart phones, and a second India that is still burdened by heavy bureaucracy - paper records, huge accounting books, carbon paper copies and lengthy proceedings.

As I travel and talk to people I seem to confirm that dual view but in a more dramatic way. On the one hand I notice the superficial changes such as a modern well maintained metro system in Delhi; or the numerous new buildings built on the steep mountain sides of Shimla seemingly defying gravity; or the huge billboards that advertise products by light skin color and western looking Indians; or the many well dressed people using the most modern electronic devices; or the MacDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets serving new generations of meat eaters in a country largely vegetarian. 

On the other hand and alongside this new India, I also recognize very familiar images that seem to be unchanged over time such as hundreds of people sleeping on the streets; or large sections of deteriorated infrastructure; or the many people including children hustling to earn a few rupees; or the crowded curry houses; or the free roaming cows competing for space with cars and people. 

Fourteen years later I see two parallel worlds that, although coexisting, do not seem to intersect. On the contrary they are divided by a wider gap. In Marxist terms I see a typical capitalist contradiction of an affluent India for a small dominant minority and a timeless poor India for a large ignored majority.

The mainstream media only speaks of one India. Not the India I have come to love. Not the India that Mahatma Gandhi died for. Not the India of those condemned to abject poverty. But the India of multinationals. The India of those who have been co-opted to a new form of colonialism. The India of those who have traded the dignity of their people for economic status. The India where the only presence of Mahatma Gandhi is the one printed on the Indian currency bills bearing his image.  

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