India epilogue

The aftermath of India has had a greater effect on me than I anticipated.

Monday back at the BBC, I entered the new Media Centre building to which my department had finally moved. It was lovely to see everyone, but I spent the day in a surreal head space. Compared to the dirty and poverty stricken, sh#t covered, cow laden, teeming streets of India I had landed on the moon. The new building is all gleaming steel, hot-desking with swivel monitors, themed meeting rooms and relaxation couches. The wealth and excess is obscene in comparison. Nobody is trying to hassle me, nobody is going hungry (properly hungry), I don’t have to try and rationalise any injustices which occurred almost every moment in India.  While in India I switched off a part of me seeing such suffering almost everywhere right alongside those with wealth. Reading the Indian papers regarding climate change was eye opening.  America and many developed nations argue that developing nations must also fulfill their Kyoto obligations, but to see how simply living in India is a daily struggle for most of its inhabitants makes a mockery of hardship as known in the developed nations. There is no way that India can combat anything environmentally if developed nations cannot even bring themselves to doing it.

India is not one country, but many peoples jammed together due to the flow of history. Before travelling to India I believed that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi) was the founder of the modern Indian state. Having experienced the diversity and reading Sunil Khilnani’s ‘The Idea of India’, the real founder of modern India was Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Indian Prime Minister. He was elected for three terms and it is his legacy of a secular state, modern India, and cosmopolitan and pluralism (and of course cricket – many Indians know all of the New Zealand cricket team players by heart) which defines India today. There are twenty three official languages and over one thousand regional languages and dialects spoken within its borders. Nehru attempted to prevent one religious, ethnic or class group from dominating such a diverse populace, and the state attempted affirmative action programs, secularisation of government departments and the creation of a civil service. These of course have created rub within India, riots and killings over affirmative action for the ‘untouchables’, the lowest castes, have occurred. India is the largest democracy in the world and has a mixed economy with capitalist markets and strong socialist institutions. The government owns most of the banks, power and oil companies, the national railways is the largest employer in the world with 1.6 million employees. A regular sign outside businesses is how they match their relevant government regulations and are ‘official’ or ‘legitimate’ in the eyes of the government.

I have also lost four kilograms since leaving England, and all of that was due to India. I am currently a warmed up skeleton, and when my golden tan disappears because of another crap English summer I will look like one of the Mexican skeletons during their day of the dead festival.

Travelling to India has changed me forever. If you asked me if I enjoyed it I wouldn’t say yes. If you asked me if I hated it I wouldn’t say no. Given the opportunity again, would I take it? Definitely.


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