To diehard Indian admirers, who cannot bear the criticisms of dark sides of this great country, this article is not for you – please hit the delete button NOW! For the rest, this narration is strictly my opinion, experiences through my eyes as a resident of India the last 3 years. I love this country, my forefathers were born here; I laugh and genuinely am happy for her in her successes and grieve when she hurts and is down. But I am no idealist, glossing over India rising, at the expense of sometimes impossible to cope and complex tribulations. Enjoy…maybe.
4. Wealth: Yes, tiny minorities of your children are making (too) much money; some so much that common sense takes flight. Would you need a 27 storied home with 60 servants, your own helipad, parking garage, etc to make a family of 6 comfortable, Jaan? Wacky, no? One can spend wealth responsibly, one can flaunt wealth stupidly. The Tatas, eager for a pat on the head by a ‘white’ establishment gifts $50 million to Harvard University! What kind of a batty gesture is that?! Why not spend the money to educate slum children living in your very backyards basic education on hygiene so they can stop defecating on the streets? Go figure! Oh well, all families have some nuts in them, I guess.
5. Education: With great struggle, I put my daughter to a ‘good’ (read expensive) school, affiliated to some prestigious Australian academia. This way, Maaha Zainab would not have to learn Marathi that is being forced down so many throats. As soon as she is in, we are ‘encouraged’ to have her take tuition classes after school at a cost almost equal the school fees. This is an industry in itself in you, Jaan; how can you tolerate such blatant fleecing of parents hard earned money? Teachers deliberately defer coaching important exam passing material to force after school tuition classes. I am ashamed to admit I have given in and dole out the moola; unavoidable, it’s the system. Have you seen government schools in rural areas of you? One word – disgusting: with absent teachers who work elsewhere and pocket paychecks from the government; non-existing books, classrooms with light bulbs stolen and desks so wobbly, so filthy, a child risks injury sitting on it. I try to find a quality medical school for my son; there are plenty. I have to pay hefty fees all right, and a donation (read bribe) of $100,000; please don’t ask for a receipt. What? Why?!!! The Principal looks surprised at my outburst. He shrugs his bony shoulders, blows garlic breath towards me, gives me a toothy smile then mutters, Our rules… This is repeated over and over again at every school we try, the donation amount (and my blood pressure) elevating along. I wonder what these graduating doctors do once they graduate; transact business to repay loans or treat your sick.
6. Apathy: The middle class are making good money in your cities and these are in a buying binge. Refrigerators, air-conditions, washers, dryers, televisions….. I buy all these; brand names, brand new with a 1 year warranty. They work fine, for exactly 1 year. And then, and then, I swear, one after another, they go kaput. I literally spend hours on the phone trying to get (paid) service. I shout, I demand, I very nearly break down in frustration. Phones are not answered; promises are never kept, ever. On lucky days, a repairman may finally arrive and fix the problem; only to have the same issue crop up again in a week’s time. Then, I am told there are no parts available and I’ll have to wait, wait, wait… I try complaining, the call never gets transferred to a supervisor; he or she is busy in a meeting, leave a number, the call is never returned. These manufacturers are so busy making, selling, who cares about after sales service? The TV repairman, I give him $5 once and waitlisted parts show up mysteriously next day; the problem never recurs. In my mind, a bulb flashes; I get it. I grease all others for a service already paid; it’s the system, yaar.
7. Oops, a Muslim: There are housing coops in Mumbai where a Muslim stands no chance of buying or renting an apartment. She won’t be refused; it’s illegal, at least in law books. She’ll be harassed; bring this or bring that document; she’ll go round and round until she’s tizzy and tire; give up. I am Muslim, but a US national (same Indian wheat skin color, black eyes, hair and looks, except for a slight tangy American accent, perhaps) so the going paradigm puts me above an Indian Muslim, so I get in; see how racist you have become, Jaan? Some exceptionally bright and talented Muslim students are denied admission to top schools just because of religion; this rarely mattered before, nai, Jaan? These are not my observations or findings; these are your own government statistics.
8. Cricket: You win the Cricket World Cup and rightfully go bananas; time for much fiesta and pride being Indian, more so that you beat arch rival Pakistan in the semi finals. Why, even the usually grumpy Prime Minister and usually unruffled Soniaji cannot contain their emotions. All good, no? Then, you dole out over US$3 million taxpayer’s money to the winning players; this, in addition to hefty compensation already earned by them. This payout is to some of your wealthiest citizens…makes sense to you? Your children have great successes in running very profitable companies in the West; why not have them come and drive some common sense and value of money to your politicians?
9. Finally: India Shining? India Raising? India the biggest democracy in the world? These slogans are pathetically so removed from reality, I want to laugh, but I am truly anguished about these illusions. Merely a front for the outside world or narcotics working overtime perhaps, to drown you off stark realities. You allow tons food to rot in storage but do nothing because of political pressure; young couples get hacked to death because they are of different castes yet you take lethargic or no action, just to appease vote banks? You kill innocents in Kashmir and Northeast and justify these to the world as self defense (hues of Israel?). India Sullied and India Sinking are more apt descriptions. These words from a well known but hated Indian activist: We have proved to the world – and to ourselves as well – that we are a third world banana republic which is sinking into a bottomless pit.
Not all is lost perhaps; there is a growing class of your children who are getting a decent education, those that can afford it. My fervent prayers and hope are for these to change the status quo, eventually, and vote for leaders out of rational, not Bollywood infected emotions. That votes will not be bought or coerced, rather, cast on basis of competency and logic.
So there, I am done ranting and raving. I am leaving you, Jaan, going back to the USA; my children deserve a better quality of life. I demand a divorce. I am not sure how long this process will take (who knows how much or who to bribe at this point?) but it must happen. I still love you, very much, and will surely miss you…
I heard you! Good riddance is not a nice thing to say to a former lover and departing guest. But I will not completely cut off my ties to you. I still want to come visit you, as a pardesi perhaps? We can recapture our lost affection this way? A Mutah…perhaps?