The Perils Of Opulence: It’s Time We Think About It

Posted on November 11, 2011 in Specials

By Mahalakshmi Ganapathy:

India is surely a land of contrasts. On the one hand you find poverty abound, people trying hard to live off on two square meals per day and on the other you find millionaires and billionaires, openings of new malls, five star restaurants, money clicking in for some .This contrast was once again highlighted the other day when I was called for an inauguration function of a polyurethane plant near Pune. I agreed to go as I wanted to know and experience first hand what happens in such functions .We drove off in a Scorpio and were en-route to Shirval, a village which does not look like one and instantly looked around me to find just industries and offices from all possible brands here. This quiet village has now been turned into an industrial haven, the agriculture and traditional livelihoods missing in action. All the agricultural land has been sold off by the farmers here and so one just cannot even spot a piece of farming activity in this area.

As soon as we reached the venue, I was ushered into the six —acre piece of land, now converted into a full-fledged industrial zone .We first took a tour of the whole area and the first thing is observed was fans and lights switched on everywhere, places where no one was inside, but still turned on. After having seen the plant, we sat down on the open space created for guests, something that looked like the events where charity dinners are held and I really started to wonder about the basis for this inauguration. No sooner did we sit than plates filled with starters promptly made their way. While offering starters is a norm for such events, what I don’t understand is the indiscriminate use of tissues for every starter that it accompanies. Why can’t people use their basic discretion and use the same tissue, which would save so much paper.

Secondly, bottled water was served every 15 minutes and people who did not even open their bottles, took in a second and another bottle, just sipping once and tossing it away in the bin later. The used bottle of water, even though just one or two sips have been taken becomes unusable and I just wondered why the organisers would not just keep filters of water cans nearby with recyclable glasses, which would have saved so much of water and plastic. Seeing such indiscriminate waste of resources really ticked me off and my mind was bogged down by all sorts of calculations of waste, which made me miss out on the dance performances with those shiny lights and huge sounds. While the performance was going on, even though it was meant for the guests that evening, the villagers that had gathered outside seemed to be enjoying and clapping more that the guests present and these song and music performances were loud enough which would have caused enough disturbances to the nearby households as they extended way beyond the stipulated time prescribed. I really wondered if the villagers were called in would have made better audience.

When it was time for dinner, all I could see was lots and lots of food which was ultimately going to be wasted, end up in the bins, later to be picked up by some beggar in some obscure garbage dump. It occurred to me that if even food was cooked judiciously, it would serve all and still not end up as waste .There are also organisations that collect left-over food and serve the needy. I do not think the organisers made note of this.

Bouquets and bouquets of flowers were lying around later to be picked and collected by the staff and taken home .It surmounts to huge wastage of flowers, only presented for show and glamour, later left to rot. Even the decorations had real flowers and some prudent thinking would have saved money and wastage, had people planned to use artificial flowers for purposes of presentation .

That night after coming back home ,I wondered and thought of all the things I had observed that day. Wastage of resources, unnecessary opulence and wastage of money, the politics of land grab, SEZ’s ,the idea of development and globalisation. I feel this is all on the rise. The rich do not think that their actions are encouraging wastage of resources, exploitation of poor .The government is apathetic to the needs of poor and under the guise of development lends more than a helping hand to industrialists and neglects the poor.

It’s time for us to wake up and analyse the meaning of globalisation and development, come up with alternatives to this dominant paradigm which is not going to stop and also grow ,snowball into bigger problems affecting the poor. We need to look within and ask ourselves whether this is what we want for ourselves and for our country. Is this what we call development and India shining ?

Let’s start thinking!