I hope it’s just me and my rampant apophenia, but here’s a tale that smells more like the tale of two tales than A Tale of Two Indias.
Time’s latest story "India’s Lust for Luxe" caught my eye and I bookmarked it intending to come back to it later – fodder for a good rant, I thought, since I’d had had my share of launching "luxe" in India. It has a link to a November 29th 2004 cover story "A Tale of Two Indias" by Alex Perry. Hold this thought – I’m tee’d off because it too was going to be fodder for a post, instead it’s become Exhibit A, your honour.
Exhibit B is an April 5th 2006 story in The Guardian, titled, very originally, "A Tale of Two Indias", this time by Randeep Ramesh. So, you think, what’s she going on about, it’s just a title of an article.
But wait, there’s more – read them, or rather, perceive the framework, skeleton or outline of the story – they both start with a lavish description of a millionaire’s posh getaway in an Indian city, then both go on to commiserate about the utter poverty. Time’s story feels a little more balanced in it’s outlook surprisingly, while The Guardian weeps and wails about the exponential growth in the economy, implying in a sense that it is the motive power increasing the poverty levels in India. That’s not true. It was much much worse before the economy opened up and investments started pouring in. Jagdish Bhagwati is quoted by Time,
For now, the divisions that have come in the wake of India’s development seem a price the country is ready to pay. Columbia University economist Professor Jagdish Bhagwati says: "India always was a stratified society. And India has always been about poverty. The question has always been: How do you tackle it? Growth never trickles down evenly. But it’s only by opening up, by growing the economy and, yes, by producing the odd billionaire who creates thousands of jobs, that you can really pull people up."
While The Guardian’s depressingly mournful tone implies the very worst,
Globalisation in India has been a broad and brutal process, creating a
country in vital and vulgar flux. The bigger the gains in India from
open markets, the bigger the disorientating changes. And the Indians
who count themselves among the losers from this process easily
outnumber the winners. More than 400 million farm workers each earn
India just $375 (£230) a year in output. The comparable amount made by
the million or so software engineers is $25,000 (£16,000).
It is such inequalities, particularly in a culture that has come to promote assiduously the accumulation of wealth, that fuels predictions by the CIA and investment banks such as Goldman Sachs that India, along with China, will come to dominate the world economy in the next few decades. China is already the globe’s second-largest economy; India is on the verge of overtaking Japan to become the third biggest. A future of even greater wealth seems assured. But so does today’s reality that India remains a terrifying place to be poor.
Excuse me, but this is a logical conclusion? Inequalities will fuel economic growth? And the writer has got to be a brahmin, us banias have always had a culture that assiduously promoted the accumulation of wealth. /rant over
I don’t know if it’s a UK centric view versus a US centric view but certainly the odd echoes that the April 2006 article has of the November 2004 article makes me wonder whether there’s an extra twist in this tale of two Indias. For surely, things could not have detiorated so badly in just 17 months? Nor a global newsmagazine cover story overlooked?