Of India, Poverty, Slums, and News


Very recently, I happened to encountered a very queer duo online. Both of them were arguing about quality of life in India—one for and one against it, neither of them Indian. It seemed to me that one of them were bent upon two fundamental arguments. The age old argument of Indians siphoning jobs from US. I tried to follow the argument, and came to the conclusion that the reason for the siphoning is because people in India lives on slums.

I have some experience with Indians, and thus a few cents of my own. Dear, vast, net, allow me to voice my thoughts in your infinite emptiness.

Let’s just stop it, please. I’m really tired of this excessive importance Indians get. One movie called “Slum Dog Millionaire”, a low standard movie by all accounts, won the Oscar; at the cost of the reputation of a whole country. Before that movie came out, everyone knew Indians were poorer than the western world. After that movie materialised, people somehow started holding perturbed opinion that majority of the Indians also live in slums.

Let us believe that.
Let us believe that till the Indians overtake us.
Then perhaps that’ll be our only consolation.

Calcutta just won the global waste management award, along with Paris, Sydney, Melbourne or Copenhagen. Who cares? People still think Indians live in garbage dumps. We underestimate them by dangerous margins, you think they’ll just let us walk away?

Also, for our friends who may think that people living in slums are poor, I’d just say that is not true. I don’t blame anyone though, I didn’t have any idea either.
Reality knocks; most of the time, they’re WEALTHIER than those living in apartments, and just because they don’t do white collar jobs doesn’t mean they earn less. They’re involved in projects like construction or manufacturing and comfortably earn enough per year to buy the latest Royal Enfield and the Galaxy or iPhone every two years ( and at an elevated price; without the generous cuts ‘Muricans get via contract with the telecos ). They own big screen LED tv’s, refrigerators, sometimes even air conditioners, good smartphones, cheap internet; their children studying in good private schools. Whereas those living in apartments are burdened with home loans etc.

Honestly, why doesn’t our media reports those?

Why, man! Where’s your common sense? You think “Ho, look at them, they’re living well, and making good” would make a news? What’s new in that? That’d challenge everything people thought! People would obviously not believe it, there’d be a furor of refutations! The channel’s reputation would tarnish, and competitors would snatch viewers away. Of course not! It is not until they post pictures of poor, malnutrition-ed children inside a dilapidated shanty besides a garbage dump playing with stray dogs would we feel our superiority complex instantiated, and feel pity, and gossip, “Oh, how poor these children are. They really have no standards of living”, or “India! Humph! Don’t go there, it’s garbage all over the place” and go off to enjoy our sweet homes and pay our fifty grand home loan.

WHO/IMF numbers report Indian wage is very low compared to Western world. They are not incorrect. In fact, they’re the best sources one can find. But until and unless one sits down and reads them with a neutral mind, untarnished by the colours of media, does one really grasp it. But looking at numbers with a predisposition is dangerous. Unfortunately, men are brave and don’t squint in the face of danger. Just as an example, while the minimum wage is really low, the daily cost of feeding a family hovers at about 2$, and cost of living is also quite low. But no one reports that.

We say that Xiaomi is popular in India and China because its cheaper. Well, that may be true, but let us remind ourselves that it’s a smartphone and fast internet that improves living standards, irrespective of whether its Samsung or Xiaomi or Apple. And when you have to pay 5$ for a plan like 1GB 4G data daily for 30 days ( albeit LTE-A at 30mbps. But its fine, that’s high enough speed ), internet is not an issue.

There’s a reason Trump became President this year instead of Hillary. Trump had his ears to the ground. He listened to what people said. People were tired. Of Indians stealing American jobs, of Chinese stealing American production, of Japanese stealing American technology, of Germany stealing American quality, of Mexicans stealing American medicines. They were rightfully tired, and that was Trump’s card. And I agree to this sentiment. If you are jobless, you have right to demand a job. If you need money, you have right to earn it. If you want a good standard of living, you’re entitled to it by your country regardless of whether the foreigner who took your job has double the qualifications, double the determination, double the passion, equal strength, equal willpower and half the demands for it. I agree to it all. Indians should find jobs in their own country, not poach it from others just because some greedy corporation saw it fit to get better work at lesser pay. I’m perfectly honest, I agree to this American sentiment.

What I don’t agree to however is the hypocrisy of calling out an entire race poor, unequal, corrupt, dirty, superstitious without any thorough or prior knowledge of their situations, basing fiction over facts, when we’re not much better off, really. And worst of all is when the race in question really don’t bother about what they’re being called, and take advantage of it, poaching jobs, resources and wealth in a slow and steady stream, while we enjoy our unsustainable “standards of sustainable living”.

Imagine this, if Americans demanded half the pay for their work? Who’d hire an Indian for it? No one. Who’d manufacture in China? No one. We made our demands, and are paying for it. Until and unless, we acknowledge that we are in a similar lurch as they are, we are not going anywhere. Turning away from a problem and cursing at another is not going to get us anywhere. So our youth will be jobless, their children homeless, and while those well off may think, ” our homeless have better standards than their slums, there’s no comparison” we’ll be plundered in broad daylight.

I’m not trying to trigger an argument here. I’m not painting someone bad and another good. This is not a black and white argument. Just exposing a side of east that people in the west are either made unaware of by mass propaganda, or choose to willfully ignore because acknowledging it takes courage. It’d do us good if we look in the future; the demands the western ( especially American ) population maintains to sate their living standards are simply not rational in face of global competition. We present people with opportunities, through underestimation, greed and lethargy; and they take them. So why are we now blaming them for taking it?

Images from my dear Uncle (not by blood; and he’s an exceptional photgrapher. Checking out his flickr albums is highly recommended) and the-one-who-should-not-be-named.


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