India – just a mention of the word conjures up vivid images of a land so vast and diverse like no other, a land which is home to about 1/6th the world’s population, a nation which is still steeped in poverty, ignorance and blind faith; a place in which teeming metropolises bursting apart at their seams have their fair share of the super-rich, a rising middleclass and an abundance of the super-poor; a country that is so fraught with its traditions and colonial hangover still persists; a place where religion, creed, caste and language acts as the big divide. Sigh! I’m out of words even before I can start!
If current trends don’t lie, and in all certainty they don’t, the population on our terra-firma is likely to hit 7 billion by 2013. Six countries including the almighty US of A can credit themselves for half the annual increase in worldwide population. However; for once, the US can be exonerated since its Diaspora hail from all corners of the earth and unheard-of places in between. India accounts for 21 percent of this growth, China 12 percent, Pakistan 5 percent, and Bangladesh, Nigeria, and the United States 4 percent each. Shakira’s hip might lie but the figures don’t. India’s burgeoning population which is remarkably growing by 1.5 percent annually while China’s is on the decline. At this rate, India will take top-spot by 2035 and we can’t blame it on yet another CIA conspiracy and say that they made microscopic holes in our condoms. No sir! We can’t do it this time coz we love our numero uno pastime – procreating! Yes sir, that’s our no. 1 achievement! Just a thought – at some obscure World Meet, would the UN label us as serial procreators? Mad in India? Abundantly so!
A sizeable part of the Indians don’t have second thoughts about relieving themselves in public. Nope, I’m not talking about passing wind. That’s pretty much voluntary as it is involuntary and not much harm in it if you discount the upturned noses and its contribution to global warming. I’m talking about peeing and crapping in the open showing that dangler and/or brownish black buns to all and sundry, especially in India’s financial hub – Mumbai! Now, that’s not at all a pretty sight not to mention the stench that would even resurrect the dead! What on earth would visitors think? Wouldn’t they be inclined to think that the whole of India is one big stinking cesspool and all of us pervos or exhibitionists! And who could blame them? The exhibitionists would ask – what do we do if there are no toilets around. And so the buck passes! Whoever said – All that glitter’s is not gold must have had Mumbai in mind! Whoever coined the slogan ?India Shining’ must definitely have stepped on a pile en route to his ad agency! Mad in India? Shiningly so!
India’s erstwhile pride, Bombay or Mumbai as it called now has now turned out to be its biggest prejudice. Imagine the gall of some outfit, one that almost borders on a terrorist one, to say that Mumbai is only for the Maharashtrians! Oh yeah, those goons got it all wrong under the pretext of standing up for the “Marathi Manoos”. What – “standing up?” Is the Marathi Manoos such a spineless blunder that he can’t put up with some healthy competition from his very own countrymen? Hmmm, methinks that’s a pretty neat example of the phrase “first among equals” and “more equal than others” eh? What next – a visa for Indians from other states to visit Mumbai? Mad in India? The Marathi Manoos says so!
And then we have this new fad – carving out a new state from an existing one. Take for example the aspirations of Telangana in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Agreed, those chaps might have their reasons and grievances by the ton and I’m not presiding from the Judgment seat either. But come on, all you folks in Andhra speak the same language ? Telugu. Moreover, your state was the very first state in India that was formed on a linguistic basis! Isn’t that good enough? What next ? a separate state based on dialects/food habits/cultures/races/jatakas/gotras etc? Oh sure, there are quite a bit in the offing such as Mithilanchal, Coorg, Saurashtra, Bundelkhand, Bodoland, Gorkhaland, Purvanchal, Harit Pradesh, Kongu Nadu, Gondwana, Marathwada to name a few? There must be some logic in here and I guess the only irrefutable logic is that – if the US of A with about 300 million people can have 50 states, then why should India with a population of about 1.2 billion stick to a measly 28 states and 7 Union Territories? Hey, how about our own Tulunadu? We have our own lingo, our own tradition, customs etc. And then there is always the possibility that after a decade or so some brilliant liberated soul might decide to sub-divide Tulunadu State as say Bunderland, Kulshekarashtra, and Carstreenadu states based on religions. Mad in India? Dividedly so!
Not too long back, down in the south there used to be a quiet sleepy little city called Mangalore. Of late, it hustles and bustles as it grows at a frantic pace. But it is not so quiet anymore since the frenzied construction activity has left little living and breathing space for the creepy-crawlies who hitherto were contentedly burrowed beneath the woodwork. They have come out in the open and run amok. They have metamorphosed themselves into self-proclaimed ?Custodians of Indian Values’, pretty much like those Banana Republic generals. They say that celebrating Valentine’s Day is alien to ?Indian Culture’ and that they will marry-off any couples who are “caught” being in love. Wow! There I was under the impression that marriages were made in heaven and solemnized by the appropriately authorized religious authorities! How untrue! Pink Panther aka Pramod Muthalik will do it for you besides inciting a religious riot for a little moolah! Moreover, when one among so many self-styled Godmen in India was caught on tape with his pants down, Muthalik had the audacity to blame the Christian Missionaries/priests. What’s next? Blame BP’s oil spill and Yuvi’s loss of form on them too? Mad in India? Ha ha ha.. Religiously so!
Politics makes strange bedfellows they say. Nothing can be more apt especially in India. At one end of the spectrum we have the current incumbent Prime Minister who has academic degrees stretching many miles longer than his turban but looks like a nerd, speaks with a pipsqueak and is thrilled about Unc Sam’s paltry liability on the Nuclear deal. On the other, we have had and do have Chief Ministers whose maximum educational qualifications haven’t lasted beyond primary schooling. Members of Parliament (MP’s) are no better either. In 2009, about 153 MP’s had criminal records lodged against them. Throw in a couple of murders, a rape case or two and that’s definitely Chief Ministerial Material! I guess that political affiliations, boot-licking and criminal cases are the best substitutes for academic degrees in order to decide the fate of the nation. The unaccounted for riches that they amass while in power and garlands of cash are just incidental and come with the turf, I surmise! Mad in India? Incidentally so!
Around 40% of Indians thank their stars (Not the Cine stars or the IPL ones) if they get 3 square meals a day and make-do with almost anything that they can lay their hands on. Many others literally starve. Food inflation had touched a record 18%. Not even the most developed economy can carry that burden for long. Farmers complain that they don’t get enough for their production. What’s baffling is that prices continue to spiral all thanks to a phalanx of middle-men. Did the recent budget address the issue of food inflation to bring down prices? Ha! On the contrary, it did the contrary. It hiked up fuel prices which in turn have a cascading effect of increasing inflation. Mad in India? Increasingly so!
“In India, corruption is under the table. In China, it is over the table, while in Indonesia corruption includes the table,” goes a saying in the Orient. Of course, people might quibble about the relative placement of Asia’s three largest countries but that’s merely of academic interest. If the IPL offered plenty of action under the table and top of it too, politicians like Raju, Koda and Reddy literally take the cake, oops, I mean the table. Doesn’t India have the dubious distinction of having the max number of billions of greenbacks stashed away in Swiss Banks? Is there corruption in India? C’mon man, what corruption? It is a way of life or shall I say, a natural phenomenon like the monsoons, but much more predictable! Mad in India? Corruptibly so!
A nation of over a billion and not one of us have won a gold medal in some serious event such as running or jumping! I mean, we run – as in run to the loo and we jump – like lame ducks do! Probably, if Lalit Modi and Shashi Tharoor had used their bleats to convince the Olympic Committee to introduce games such as Carrom’s, 7 Tiles, Kabaddi etc, throw in the Duckworth-Lewis equivalent for some unforeseen circumstance and all of us got down on our knees offering our collective billion + (minus the players, of course since they have to concentrate on playing), we could have hoped for a bronze or two. However, given the fact that the Chinese are quick learners, a year or two of practice with some pronunciation classes to pronounce “kabaddi” properly, and by the next Olympics, they would beat us flatter than pancakes! But never mind that, you just can’t buck our tryst with destiny and gene pool! However, what baffles me is that our entourage for the Olympic Circus stretches for a mile and a half outside the stadium behind the so-called athletes! Mad in India? Sportingly so!
Latest reports show that India’s poor are about 800 million and not the 327 million as claimed by the government. But who cares about that? As far as the IPL is concerned, it means 800 million pairs of eyeballs that can be enticed to watch a tamasha like the IPL which is all about money ? black and white included, sex, sleaze, dope, corruption, cheerleaders, champagne, late-night parties, betting and match fixing. Where else but in India can a minister’s laadli pull out a scheduled flight of the national carrier and turn it into a chartered flight to fly out an IPL team? It is only in India that a concerted effort of netas, babus, mindless bimbos and beefcakes who pass themselves off as Bollywood stars, businessmen, players, pimps, industrialists, hanger-on’s and match-fixers that can degrade the game to the level of one of those never-ending K soaps on TV. Yet millions of people watch it. Those club-wielding Neanderthals are revered more than deities. Religion – move over. Cricket is the new opiate of the masses. Mad in India? Madly so!
We have our Indian’s who spend fortunes to complete vocational courses such as Hair Styling, Hospitality Management and such like in the hope of settling Down Under permanently. Often, they come from rural backgrounds and do all sorts of odd jobs and keep even more odd hours to keep afloat from sinking. A couple of them get bashed-up and well, there is a public hue and cry. The Big B refuses an honorary doctorate and his upwardly mobile popularity curve spills all over the Y-axis. His film breaks all records. Ditto for his sons movie. All said and done, who is to blame – the Good Lord alone knows? Anyway, my advice is ? if you’re not properly qualified; forget about hauling butt to those foreign shores in the hope of getting residency by completing some sissy courses! Instead, stick to plain old intercourse in your homeland! Do the Bhangra or the Disco Dandiya in your free time! Grow some sugarcane or wheat. Oye pappe, do anything you want, but for the love of God and thyself, don’t enroll yourself in those stupid courses! Mad in India? Of course so!
Besides that, we have our own quirks which to others might seem downright funny if not outright daft! One among such quirks is this habit of calling somebody who is not hanging down from your family tree “Uncle” or “Aunt”. The only prerequisite is that the other person to be older than you. He/she could be your neighbor, the local Dhobi or the grocer! No wonder Indians have the highest number of uncles and aunties per capita in the whole damned world and I guess we can file our claim in the Guinness Book of World Records! But hang on; the madness doesn’t stop at merely that. The Dhobi – let us call him Bala, is usually called “Bala Uncle” while the neighbor, Kamala, is “Kamala aunty”. Ok, ok, throw in Obama and Hillary Clinton in that Uncle/Aunt list and that’s no skin off my nose! However, call them Uncle Obama and Aunt Hillary if you please! Mad in India? Veritably so!
26 years of wait for the Bhopal Tragedy Verdict while Anderson is drooling spittle in his coffee cup in some mansion in the US, the 11th dossier of proof sent to Pakistan as proof of their hand in the 26/11 attacks even as they wipe their posterior orifices with the last sheets of the 401 pages of the first dossier while Kasab expects Kebab’s for dinner at the Indian taxpayers generosity, 17 years to compile the Babri Masjid demolition report and despite ample proof that it was meticulously planned and executed by the ruling party of the time it is trashed, years and years of wait for verdict of S. P. Rathore’s incarceration, Afzal Guru’s stay order, the inadequate response of the BJP government in Karnataka towards escalating attacks on minorities?.. sigh, the list is endless! It is getting to be a nightmare out there! Mad in India? You decide and say so!
At the end of it all, I ask myself – with so much madness, how does the world’s largest democracy keep ticking over? How did it remain afloat when the recession brought down nations to their knees and that even Unc Sam was forced to bend its ?holier-than-thou-kowtow-not’ knees. Surely, it wasn’t a reverse flow of the billions of $ stashed in offshore accounts that shored up India’s timbers. Is there a Method to India’s Madness? Darn! I’ll be damned if there is and damned again to hell and back if I don’t. Maybe I need a PHD in Economics to explain it. Maybe I need a new thinking cap! Maybe I need a break. Or of course, there is always the possibility that I have turned truly mad like my country-folks back home!
Until then, cheers coz it is truly Mad in India!
Sigh! What on earth compelled me to write about this topic when I could have written about other topics such as Global Warming, Unc Sam, the last 1,411 tigers in India or even about plain old nothing?
I don’t know, but all I know that I can write more volumes than Vedavyasa and Homer put together on this topic. I’m also aware that this topic is pretty much dicey and needs to be handled with kid gloves lest I draw flak from quarters near and far. That’s not all, I could be tarred and feathered and labeled an ungrateful wretch or truly unpatriotic or worse ? a traitor! But kid gloves, I have none. So no problem senor’s and senorita’s. Feel free with those brickbats. It is a free country and let us thank the Mahatma for it while you’ll take a breather. But when the last brick has been thrown remember that I’m Indian as much as you, you or you. And I’m rather proud of it!
P.S.: I started writing this article sometime in early Jan 2010. However, owing to paucity of time, I had to write a paragraph here and a para there with huge breaks in between. Often, I thought of scrapping the article (if at all this classifies as one). Somehow, something made me to resurrect it and pen in a few random thoughts. Hence, if this mindless random collection of sentences and paragraphs sounds out of sync – mea culpa. After all, I too am a part of the madness in India.
Author: Chris Rego- UAE