What is striking India is indifference

But what is really striking to me about India, much more than most other countries I have been to, is the indifference of privileged sectors to the misery of others. These words are an excerpt of a recent interview Noam Chomsky gave to a leading magazine. If one[ could do a word or rather thought search of the almost 1500 blogs I have written over the least 7 years, one would find this thought echoed a zillion times!

In the very same issue of the magazine there is another interview of an eminent sociologist. The book in question is Dipankar Gupta' s Revolution from Above. In his opinion the much needed social change can only come from above, from what he calls the 'citizen elite'. I guess people like you and me. And empathy is the condition of social change. I can but agree. I have just purchased the book and may share further thoughts when I finish reading it.

Turning Indifference to Empathy seems to be the way to change India. But the question is how do you do this. In the Chomsky interview there is a very telling incident that I would like to quote here. It speaks volumes about how indifferent we have become. But what is really striking to me about India, much more than most other countries I have been to, is the indifference of privileged sectors to the misery of others. You walk through Delhi and cannot miss it, but people just don’t seem to see it. Everyone is talking about ‘Shining India’ and yet people are starving. I had an interesting experience with this once. I was in a car in Delhi and with me was (activist) Aruna Roy, and we were driving towards a demonstration. And I noticed that she wasn’t looking outside the window of the car. I asked her why. She said, “If you live in India, you just can’t look outside the window. Because if you do, you’d rather commit suicide. It’s too horrible. So you just don’t look.” So people don’t look, they put themselves in a bubble and then don’t see it. And those words are from somebody who has devoted her life to the lives of the poor, and you can see why she said that — the misery and the oppression are so striking, much worse than in any country I have ever seen. And it is so dramatic.

When will we garner the courage to look outside the window and not feel like committing suicide, but feel like screaming, feel like getting out of comfort zone and do something, however small. I presume that will be the day when the 'citizen elite' Dipankar Gupta talks about will be born. As long as we hide inside gated communities, as long as we refuse to look outside the window as we zip towards our favourite mall, as long as we continue to 'shield' our children from children from the other side of the divide, as long as we waste food with impunity, as long as we continue believing that India is 'shining' or 'incredible' nothing will change in this country. Children will continue to die of malnutrition @ 3 per minute. Rights like the one to education, or health or dignity will only reach the chosen few. And the divide between rich and poor will deepen by the second.