Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mixed feelings about India's future

Chetan Bhagat
By Chetan Bhagat

Indian man
'The present generation is more determined'

I have mixed feelings about India on the 61st anniversary of our independence.

The fact remains India became independent due to the efforts of the people two generations ago and we are lucky to be born in a free country.

The next generation has let the country down a little, but the current one seems more determined than ever, leading to this mixed feeling.

Economic statistics are cyclical and is one issue, but so much needs to be done.

We have to accommodate the hundreds of millions of ambitious young people who are going to become adults and deserve the best opportunities to bring out their talent.

Let's build roads first, castles in the air later

If that doesn't happen, ambition will turn to frustration. Yet, the country with the average age of 25 years continues to be run by 75-year-old people more interested in hoarding and keeping their power than understanding the country's needs.

New leadership

Yes, we need new leadership. We also need young people not to shy away from discussing politics in college canteens. If we can discuss Bollywood stars Katrina Kaif and Ashwariya Rai's dresses, we can discuss party ideologies. Yes, I know discussions won't change anything but it helps build consensus.

Politics is an option for me, but there is no point jumping in the fray without a support base. God has chosen my destiny and if it is part of the plan, I will join politics someday.

But I'm upbeat about the future too.

I am optimistic because the sheer numbers of the young population will make them an important voice in running the country eventually.

Young Indians at a rock concert
'The young will be an important voice in running the country eventually'
This generation is also more homogenous in their purpose. They more focused on their own and thereby, India's progress rather being lost in issues of religion, caste and regionalism which frankly have cost the country a lot.

The power of the internet will bring young people together, and don't be surprised if there is another social revolution in India in the next 20 years.

After all, China had one and only then it went on a path of true progress.

The biggest positive is that more and more people have tasted the benefits of economic growth and realise that it is the only way forward. This consensus is our biggest strength.

While money can't buy everything - it can buy India a lot.

Division between people

Imagine if India was a developed country, our biggest problems - poverty, healthcare, infrastructure, child labour- will be gone. Alongside, there will be lesser religious tension or caste differences. If you have a nice home and a Toyota Corolla, it is unlikely you will go and riot on the streets.

There are countries in the world where everyone has a car - and now for the first time in India's history, people are saying 'Why can't it be my country?'

The biggest negative is the division between people.

There is still a clinging on to one's caste, region and religion between people. The feeling of One India is there, but it doesn't override the other aspects of one's identity.

Politicians love this, as this gives neat little clubs to claim support from and people fall for it every time.

Indian street urchins
'India is not likely to be a superpower in near future'

Until all of us are ready to say "India first and the rest is secondary", not just in lip service but from the heart, things will not change. This is what depresses me.

We should also remember India is not a superpower and is not likely to be in the near future.

And we should stop putting these tags on India every time the stock market gives good returns because it reeks of low self-esteem.

Let's build roads first, castles in the air later.

Comparing India with the rest of the world is not a healthy exercise. We should put our heads down and work for a better country for the next 30 years.

Hopefully, we will no longer be one of the poorest countries in the world and become a developed one.

And if we can do that, we would have matched up to the coolest Indian generation who got us free.

Hopefully, we will have another 15 August sometime in the future, when not only India but Indians will become free.

When that happens, we will take our rightful place in the world which we have been denied for the last few centuries.

Chetan Bhagat, 34, is the biggest selling English author in India. His latest novel is The 3 Mistakes Of My Life.


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