Beyond The Taj: Development In The Rustic Heart Of India

By Sunil Kumar

The Taj Mahal is one of the most potent symbols of India around the world. It conjures up an idyllic vista; of an endlessly mysterious land; a timeless civilization. Was this a monument to love; or an Emperor’s megalomania? But like everything in the post-modern world; there’s a catch in the tale; white marble and black soot.

While we limp forward with abandon; the image of a lumbering elephant in comparison to a fire-breathing dragon; and the green fanatics on our western wing is coarse; and even demeaning.

The “Make In India” initiative has done some rebranding; but can a mere mechanical lion change legacy and clunky infrastructure overnight? Eight states in India have more poor people than most of sub-Saharan Africa; with social and economic development getting even more skewed. Economic development is a misnomer; although wealth is desirable; there still has to be a sea-change in perceptions.

Taj Mahal, Agra, India. Français : Taj Mahal, ...

Visit Taj Mahal, Agra, India. Français : Taj Mahal, Agra, Inde. हिन्दी: ताज महल, आगरा, भारत. پښتو: تاج محل, اګره, هند. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Aam Aadmi Party fracas has shown us that idealism is only a farce; the baser instincts of man and coarseness can never be completely subdued; the only hope for India’s development is a convenient compromise. Across the border; Chinese growth is slowing; and Chai Jing’s excellent documentary “Under The Dome” has startling revelations; showing the world the dark underbelly of “Communism” with Chinese characteristics.

For all the inspiration India’s Reds have derived from Maoist ideology; they would have served the nation better if they had focused not on subversion; but on development. Anger against a non-functional state apparatus and pathetic governance is justified; but can change really happen without overhauling the system; and not merely hooliganism. Endless debates on television channels; and coffee-table discussions have not changed the world; a demographic time-bomb is ticking; change is needed with a clear emphasis on relevant parameters.

A disservice has been done to the nation by the misappropriation of Gandhian ideology. Despite his numerous shortcomings; the wily bania from Porbandar was a unique individual; and his tenets; if followed properly; would have brought about concrete, sustainable change. Going to the Malwa region; a stone’s throw away from the legendary badlands of the Chambal; I was amazed by the curious mix of the new and the old that exists everywhere in our great nation.

Gleaming shopping complexes; broken roads; rivers that are now stinking cesspools; and big cars are present everywhere in the wonder that is now India. Ancient philosophy including the Bhagavad Gita; the Buddhists, the Sikhs, the Sufis and the Jains teach us tolerance; compassion, sensitivity and equanimity; but not inaction. What we have today seems to be exemplifying a singular problem in the Indian ethos; hypocrisy.

This is a country that has been a guiding force for the heathen, unenlightened, carnivorous mass of humanity with an emphasis on the higher moral ground; and really humane values. In some respects; it still remains in this hallowed position. For a country known for its other-worldly mysticism; there seems to be no spiritual core to the haphazard notion of urban development currently in place.

If politicians sell us dreams; which do not translate into reality; illusions are shattered and meaningless debate only displays horrendous lunacy. The PM is no messiah for the middle-classes and the poor; and Rahul Gandhi should not certainly con an already skeptical world that wearing kurta-pyjamas can give him the moral fibre to launch inane attacks on a marginally better political dispensation.

Apart from massive egos; the contribution of noted luminaries of the Indian political and legal scene seem to be only a perk-filled existence. Secure in their positions; they make our setup even more murkier; and have proved to be impeding real development.

Like every citizen in India; on a quest for individual and collective salvation; there’s a fundamental question? What’s in it for me? A simple answer; I want a change that is truly transformational. Something that gives us hope for the future. The rustic heart of India should be truly exceptional; without losing its intrinsic charm. Development with desi characteristics.


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