Growing up in Bombay, and then moving to Delhi, I’ve spent my whole life in India. I love being Indian. I learnt English as a first language, grew up in cosmopolitan Bombay, travelled to many places in India, and like some lucky Indians, have travelled throughout the world.
I don’t know if its cynicism that comes with age, or the fact that I travel more now. But India is becoming more and more difficult to live in.
I understand population. I understand that there are more people than can be easily taken care of. I understand how each state having its own personality makes it difficult to frame laws that work across the country. I understand that there is a generation of uneducated people who are forced to live on the peripheries of the society. I even understand that I am not the person that the laws are framed for. I am but an innocent bystander, living in a small part of India that can afford a decent lifestyle.
But what’s happening is unfair. I am not going into depth about rape and basic women’s safety, which should be a given. These have been publicized enough. I’m talking about how simple experiences, which should be a given, become a difficult task here.
For example, I spend anywhere from 2 and a half to 3 hours every day just to get to work and back. Work is 30 kms away from home, not so far by international standards. But the traffic easily makes it take double or triple the time it should. With so much time spent in my car, I often get asked why don’t I just shift closer to where I work. Well, because that isn’t a safe option. Where I live is safer.
When we had to move from Bombay to Delhi, most people said the same thing – “Oh Delhi’s great, you’ll get a larger home, and wider and better roads make travelling around a bit better, but be careful with timings and going out alone, make sure you choose a really safe area to live in”. I was confused, and I still am – why should I have to choose between safety and a better quality of life? These are basics that can be controlled by people.
Simple things like working weekends and working unreasonably long hours make me feel that we sacrifice our quality of life to make money. I have colleagues who take pride in never taking holidays from work. I don’t get it – you put in a whole year of work so that you could work some more? You earn more money, but have fewer ways to enjoy it?
The Indian mentality of saving money so that you have money leads us to sacrifice enjoying the best years of our life. And what for? To win the rat race of buying a home, keeping money for your children’s future, and your own? Its because the government doesn’t secure old age. You give up the best years so that you manage to survive old age!
And then there are larger issues, like corruption, which exists in every step of the system, from bribing cops to black money held by so many Indians just to avoid high taxation. Well, in spite of high taxation, we see limited results – potholes that never leave our roads, power and water shortage in the capital city, high inflation; so much so that trying to avoid taxation does seem to be the norm for many Indians.
It’s sad, considering how this country has so much to offer. A journey from North to South, or East to West, shows diverse people, vegetation, climate, food and culture. It’s a fascinating melting pot that could have easily been a number of different countries. We have cultural and tourism opportunities that can be multiplied. We have so much potential, there’s no reason not to use it.
I never wanted to leave the country. Till a couple of years ago, I couldn’t imagine a better life than being surrounded by friends and family, those I grew up with. With no language barrier, with people who looked like you and where you aren’t foreign. Now, I feel moving away wouldn’t be so bad.
The more I travel, the more I lose love for my own country. And this is not travelling to the USA or the UK alone. The rest of the world is advancing faster. Be it any nation in developing and semi-developing countries of South East Asia, South America or the former USSR.
Indians abroad do fantastically well. Growing up in a country with so many people, always saving and fighting to reach the top, Indians are naturally ‘jugadu’. We can think through difficult solutions, are usually successful communicators, and have talents, that once given an organized way of working, can be streamlined into making Indians some of the best people to run any global organization.
As I see more people choosing to move to Singapore, Thailand or Australia, I have only one thought – We need to be careful as a nation, lest we should continue to lose our preciousÂ resources!